Today is “Respect Life Sunday,” beginning “Respect Life Month,” in which the American Bishops call us to remember that over 3000 innocent American babies are killed every day by abortions, over 1 million a year, for a total of over 57 million dead since 1973. But even as horrible as that death toll is, as we mourn the death of all these babies, we can’t forget that abortion has other consequences as well. First and foremost we can never forget or fail to have compassion for those women who have had abortions. The toll it takes on them physically, emotionally and spiritually is devastating. And so I encourage you to help them in any way you can: showing them personal compassion, leading them to Christ and His mercy, keeping them in prayer, and continuing to fight to end abortion. And we must do everything we can, with charity, compassion, and patience, to help those women who are considering abortions, and to give them clear options to help them to carry their babies to term.
With all this in mind I invite you all to come and hear Melissa Ohden tell her story here at St. Raymond’s, this Thursday October 9th at 7 p.m. in the Parish Hall. She was aborted in her mother’s womb, but survived. Come and learn about Christ’s healing mercy even in the face of such a terrible evil. Learn about His love for babies and all their mothers.
Synod of Bishop. Last week I wrote about the upcoming Extraordinary Synod of Bishops gathering in the Vatican from October 5 to 19. Below are two quotations from papal writings that apply to this event.
The first is taken from the great St. John Paul II’s famous letter (“Apostolic Exhortation”) Familiaris Consortio, [art. 84], of Nov. 22, 1981, issued after the last Synod on the family in 1980:
Daily experience unfortunately shows that people who have obtained a divorce usually intend to enter into a new union, obviously not with a Catholic religious ceremony [and without annulment of the first]. Since this is an evil that like the others is affecting more and more Catholics as well, the problem must be faced with resolution and without delay. The synod fathers studied it expressly. The church, which was set up to lead to salvation all people and especially the baptized, cannot abandon to their own devices those who have been previously bound by sacramental marriage and who have attempted a second marriage. The church will therefore make untiring efforts to put at their disposal her means of salvation.
Pastors must know that for the sake of truth they are obliged to exercise careful discernment of situations. There is, in fact, a difference between those who have sincerely tried to save their first marriage and have been unjustly abandoned and those who, through their own grave fault, have destroyed a canonically valid marriage.
Finally, there are those who have entered into a second union for the sake of the children’s upbringing and who are sometimes subjectively certain in conscience that their previous and irreparably destroyed marriage had never been valid.
Together with the synod, I earnestly call upon pastors and the whole community of the faithful to help the divorced and with solicitous care to make sure that they do not consider themselves as separated from the church, for as baptized persons they can and indeed must share in her life. They should be encouraged to listen to the word of God, to attend the sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of charity and to community efforts in favor of justice, to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God’s grace. Let the church pray for them, encourage them and show herself a merciful mother and thus sustain them in faith and hope.
However, the church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon sacred scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this there is another special pastoral reason: If these people were admitted to the Eucharist the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.
Reconciliation in the sacrament of penance, which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage.
This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons such as, for example, the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they “take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples.”
Similarly, the respect due to the sacrament of matrimony, to the couples themselves and their families, and also to the community of the faithful forbids any pastor for whatever reason or pretext, even of a pastoral nature, to perform ceremonies of any kind for divorced people who remarry. Such ceremonies would give the impression of the celebration of a new, sacramentally valid marriage and would thus lead people into error concerning the indissolubility of a validly contracted marriage.
By acting in this way the church professes her own fidelity to Christ and to his truth. At the same time she shows motherly concern for these children of hers, especially those who, through no fault of their own, have been abandoned by their legitimate partner.
With firm confidence she believes that those who have rejected the Lord’s command and are still living in this state will be able to obtain from God the grace of conversion and salvation, provided that they have persevered in prayer, penance and charity.
The second papal “quotation” is a prayer Pope Francis has asked us to pray for the synod:
Prayer to the Holy Family for the Synod
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, / in you we contemplate / the splendor of true love, / to you we turn with trust.
Holy Family of Nazareth, / grant that our families too / may be places of communion and prayer, / authentic schools of the Gospel / and small domestic Churches.
Holy Family of Nazareth, / may families never again / experience violence, rejection and division: / may all who have been hurt or scandalized / find ready comfort and healing.
Holy Family of Nazareth, / may the approaching Synod of Bishops / make us once more mindful / of the sacredness and inviolability of the family, / and its beauty in God’s plan.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, / graciously hear our prayer. / Amen.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles