Archbishop Kurtz asks marchers to be ‘ambassadors for life’

Students from St. Anthony School in Washington hold signs during a pro-life youth rally at the Verizon Center in Washington Jan. 22. Thousands of young people gathered at the arena to rally and attend Mass before taking part in the annual March for Life, which this year marked the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the nation. (CNS photo)

Students from St. Anthony School in Washington hold signs during a pro-life youth rally at the Verizon Center in Washington Jan. 22. Thousands of young people gathered at the arena to rally and attend Mass before taking part in the annual March for Life, which this year marked the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the nation. (CNS photo)

By Mark Pattison, Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — The president of the U.S. bishops’ conference Jan. 22 exhorted the thousands of Catholics at the closing Mass for the National Prayer Vigil for Life to be “ambassadors for life.”

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., said to the worshippers, “Think of what an ambassador is … someone who represents to others a great case.”

In this instance, the archbishop said, the case is the “good news” of Jesus Christ.

“Today, you and I are being chosen as ambassadors for life, to stand up for life on the 42nd anniversary of the tragic decision of Roe v. Wade,” which permitted legalized abortion virtually on demand nationwide, Archbishop Kurtz said.

The Mass took place at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. The prayer vigil started at mid-afternoon Jan. 21 with confessions, followed by the opening Mass which attracted more than 11,000 people. After the Mass, activities continued overnight which included a rosary, night prayer, more opportunities for confession and a series of Holy Hours, followed by adoration with morning prayer and benediction before concluding with the morning Mass celebrated by Archbishop Kurtz.

In the Old Testament reading for the morning Mass, Samuel became a noted ambassador when God spoke to the young man three times one night while in the temple, where he was being raised. Once his mentor, Eli, figured out the source of the voice, he advised Samuel to respond if he heard the voice again. When he did, Samuel replied, “Here I am, Lord, send me.”

“Before we are sent out, Jesus always asks us to come and follow him,” Archbishop Kurtz said.

In many situations, the ambassador does not know what he or she will confront, he added. But what Jesus wants of his ambassadors is for them to be “holy and kind and brave.”

When Pope Francis was in the Philippines, “he called the encounter with Christ key,” Archbishop Kurtz said.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, according to the archbishop, was so moved with the pope’s remarks that he said, “We want to accompany you, Holy Father. We don’t all want to go to Rome with you. … We want to go to the Philippines” and accompany the people “who have no voice.”

Archbishop Kurtz spoke of his recent visit to Haiti to observe the fifth anniversary of the earthquake that devastated the principally Catholic, and extremely poor, nation.

Part of that visit included the rededication of St. Francis Hospital, which had been destroyed in the quake. He recalled that when workers came upon the rubble, “the image they couldn’t get out of their mind was the overturned incubators.”

The tragedy claimed 300,000 lives, including those of children, but to see the incubator-dependent babies fatally trapped in the incubators must have been heartbreaking to see, according to the archbishop.

In the same way, “something touches our hearts when a child in the womb dies,” he said.

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