Cardinal Dolan celebrated the Vigil Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children Jan. 22. That morning, he grieved with and offered his condolences to the family of an NYPD officer who had been killed in the line of duty the night before, and prayed over another policeman who was critically wounded during the same domestic disturbance call, and with his family.
“Our prayers are particularly fervent this evening,” said the cardinal in opening remarks at the 5:30 p.m. Mass, which was followed with a Prayer Vigil for Life in Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament at 6:30 p.m.
He was referring to “the noble intention…on this somber anniversary of Jan. 22 as we gather in repentance yet in hope and supplication for our beloved nation and the advance of the culture of life.”
He also somberly acknowledged “those two brave officers of the law—one who has succumbed to his wounds,” NYPD officer Jason Rivera, 22 and “the other who continues to struggle,” NYPD officer Wilbert Mora, 27, “and their families.”
On Jan. 25, Mora also died.
The Mass and Prayer Vigil were offered on the 49th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling by the Supreme Court that legalized bortion across the country. Three years ago on the same day, then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law New York’s so-called Reproductive Health Act, which grants nondoctors permission to perform abortions, removes protection for an infant accidentally born alive during an abortion, allows late-term abortions, and permits abortion for any reason, for all nine months of pregnancy, including up to the moment of birth.
Cardinal Dolan, in his homily, said “when this earthly phase of life ends naturally, while it’s sad for us left behind, it’s holy, it’s good, it’s the way God intends. But when this earthly life ends violently, it’s tragic, it’s not right, it’s not natural, it’s not the way the God of life intends.”
“So, when a nation founded on the right to life and the equal protection of law for all life, finds such violence to be legal, as it did 49 years ago today in legalizing abortion, that’s tragic, that’s not right, that’s not natural, that’s not the way God intended it, that’s not the way our country intended it.”
The cardinal said that while visiting Harlem Hospital that morning, he learned the man accused of shooting the two policemen was down the hall. “I became aware, as I prayed for him, that at that very place doctors were also working hard to save his life. Those surgeons knew,” the cardinal said, “they had no right to judge…they had no right to decide whether he lived or not, because all life deserves dignity and respect.”
The alleged assailant died Jan. 24.
The liturgy was sponsored by the archdiocesan Respect Life Office. Music was provided throughout by the Sisters of Life Schola, which was a welcome reprieve from the raucous crowd outside the cathedral who were protesting pro-life advocacy.
Sister Virginia Joy, S.V., director of the Respect Life Office, told CNY after the Mass that the presence of the protesters outside the cathedral “just strengthens our conviction in the dignity of every person. We’re moved with sorrow for them, that they don’t see the dignity and value of every human person.”
She described the stark contrast between “the spirit of peace and hope and light inside the cathedral” and that of “anger, darkness and deception” outside.
“More than ever, we need to be in solidarity with the women who are pregnant and in need,” Sister Virginia Joy said.
She noted the number of families who came to pray for the unborn on a cold winter’s night. “The witness of family is huge. The witness of parents bringing their kids to this is encouraging and hopeful. I’m grateful for their coming out tonight.”
As Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament began, and the solemness of the evening continued, Sister Virginia Joy observed among the faithful “a quiet reverence and openness of heart to be before the Lord.
“The purpose of prayer is to be transformed ourselves so that others will encounter His love and mercy through us.”
Among the congregants present were Lucy Liu, 22, of Ascension parish in Manhattan and Kevin Cortright, 22, of St. Elizabeth of Hungary parish in Wyckoff, N.J., Archdiocese of Newark. CNY spoke with both after the Mass.
“It’s very heartwarming,” Ms. Liu said, to see so many in society care about the cause. The evening also illustrated to her the impact of shared prayer. “If we don’t ever start with a prayer,” she added, “I don’t think we can ever start to actually take actions to make any changes.”
“The Mass itself was very solemn and loving and showed how much people really care and love both Jesus and those who are unborn,” Cortright said.
He directed his prayers “for the women who are potentially going to be inclined toward having an abortion,” that they would know of Christ’s love for them and ultimately decide to “keep their child” and “be supported by those around them.”