A prayerful Rosary protest outside a Manhattan abortion clinic drew about 400 pro-life supporters on the bitterly cold morning of Jan. 22, which marked the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.
The sidewalk procession to Second Avenue between 42nd and 43rd streets from St. Patrick’s Cathedral came after Cardinal Dolan had celebrated 7 a.m. Mass there for a congregation of some 800 people. It was the second Mass in three days in which he had advocated on behalf of the right to life while pointing out how far our nation as a whole still had to go to make it a reality for all.
He contrasted the pall cast over the annual observance of Supreme Court’s 1973 decision that legalized abortion throughout the United States with the fervor of the festivities just one day earlier that had paid tribute to the memory of the civil rights leader, the Rev. Martin Luther King, and celebrated the inauguration of President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C.
“Ah, what a difference a day makes,” the cardinal said during his brief homily at the early-morning Mass, which was organized by the archdiocese’s Pro-Life Commission.
“As the most innocent, tender, fragile human beings, the baby in the womb, are denied the most basic civil right of all, the right to life,” the cardinal said. Twenty-five priests joined him in concelebrating the Mass.
Afterward, the marchers lined up on 50th Street and commenced recitation of the Rosary facilitated by hand-held communications devices that carried the prayerful cadence of Hail Marys throughout the crowd that stretched to more than a block along Manhattan’s commuter-heavy streets. The marchers, who included young and old, religious and lay people, fell in behind images of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Msgr. Philip Reilly, a priest of the Brooklyn Diocese and founder of the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, was among the organizers. Near the end of the prayers, which were offered across the street from Parkmed abortion clinic, he led the pro-life supporters in reciting a refrain from the Divine Mercy chaplet as a bell was tolled 50 times to represent the millions of lives ended by abortion since the Roe v. Wade decision.
“It’s been 40 years. We’re winning but it’s a slow process,” said Kathleen O’Connell, an attorney who has served as counsel to the Helpers for 25 years, as the prayerful protest ended just after a few flakes of snow fell.
“Most young people realize that it’s a young person living in the womb,” she said.
Two days earlier, the cathedral’s pews were filled to overflowing for the annual Respect Life Mass sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. Many members of the fraternal order from the metropolitan area were present, judging by their jackets, and by the Fourth-degree Knights in ceremonial uniform that formed the honor guard. The cardinal expressed his sincere thanks to the Knights and to the Sisters of Life for their pro-life work and ministry, and called them both “ardent apostles” on behalf of life.
The cardinal spoke of the visit he had made last week to Molokai, Hawaii, where he joined in a local celebration honoring St. Marianne Cope, who was canonized in October for her work on behalf of the lepers there.
During the visit, the cardinal felt that there was “something missing” but he couldn’t quite grasp what it was until he realized that there were no children present. The presiding bishop had told him it was out of respect for the fact that the children born to the lepers who lived there were taken away from them at birth.
The loss of their children was “one of their greatest sorrows,” the cardinal said.
If instead of uniting in care for babies and defense of the family, the culture views children as a commodity and an accessory, then “we turn from a culture of life to a culture of death,” the cardinal said. “Our culture then becomes like Molokai.”
Fortunately, Catholics have the example of Jesus in Scripture to support their efforts for life, Cardinal Dolan said. Citing the day’s Gospel reading about the wedding at Cana, Jesus’ first miracle, he said that we should put our faith in a God who not only changed water into wine, but also sickness into health, storm into calm, sin into grace and, ultimately, death into life.
“Jesus is in the business of change,” he said.