Many of us who have followed the media, as they have gushed over our new president ever since he announced his candidacy, realize that there is a great deal about the man that is anything but clear.
Today, President Obama is following a game plan that has been very carefully orchestrated by his team and which, some say, will cost $150 million. But after the celebrations, the balls, the streamers and the crowds, what will his presidency mean for this nation, the pro-life movement and the world in general?
Our new president has a golden opportunity to set the record straight about his views on a wide variety of things, including abortion, sex education and euthanasia. To my mind, these are fundamental matters that shape how a man is going to examine any challenge that comes his way.
For as surely as we are all human beings, we are capable of deceit, corruption and all manner of nastiness. It just depends on what we do with the free will God has entrusted to each of us.
In the specific case of our new president, I think this planned ongoing novena is one of the best projects I have seen. The intentions are these:
*For the triumph of the culture of life in the United States of America.
*For President-elect Obama and all of the leaders of the United States of America, that they will be led personally to Jesus Christ and His truth, and that they will lead our country in a positive direction.
*For the hearts, minds and SOULS of the American people, that they will be turned back towards Jesus Christ and “the least” of His brethren.
*For a renewal of the virtues of purity and self-control, especially among our youth.
*In reparation for the scourges of abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, cloning, artificial contraception and all manifestations of the culture of death, and especially in reparation for the support and/or complacency that we as American Catholics have shown toward these evils.
The thing that makes this novena so profoundly important during this particular time in America's history is that it puts the entire question of what could happen over the coming four years in the proper perspective.
Here are some examples of what I mean.
First and foremost, we pro-life Americans have a golden opportunity right now to work as never before to bring about a true culture of life in the United States. Pope John Paul II made this term immensely popular in his encyclical The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae). He used it carefully to express the distinct differences between those who embrace death and those who embrace life. Among his many statements, this one from section 50 seems to sum up the challenge/opportunity we currently have before us:
In the early afternoon of Good Friday, "there was darkness over the whole land ... while the sun's light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two" (Lk 23:44, 45). This is the symbol of a great cosmic disturbance and a massive conflict between the forces of good and the forces of evil, between life and death. Today we too find ourselves in the midst of a dramatic conflict between the "culture of death ever more radiantly and brightly, and is revealed as the centre, meaning and goal of all history and of every human life." and the "culture of life." But the glory of the Cross is not overcome by this darkness; rather, it shines ever more radiantly and brightly."
Praying that President Obama, as well as all politicians, will be led to encounter Christ and His truth – in every aspect of their personal and public lives – is a glorious intention that should be on each of our hearts, not only as we move from Inauguration Day to the March for Life memorial observance, but every day. Obviously, we cannot sit down with the president as individuals and pray with him, but each of us can and should pray for him, asking God to reveal the truth of what abortion really is and is not.
In that regard, I was inspired to read these words from Bishop Robert Vasa, written just this week:
Regardless of how many years have passed since the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court Decision and regardless of how prevalent and routine abortion has become in this country, the simple truth remains, it is an act of extreme violence to the pre-born child and to the distressed mother. Thus, if anyone says, "I love God" and still favors abortion, he is, to quote St. John, a liar. May we all live out faithfully what it means to love God.
Yes, we must each pray very specifically for our fellow Americans, including our new president, but it is also incumbent upon us to do more than that. We must act on our faith in a way that resonates with those who have grown accustomed to abortion, are comfortable with relegating it to the category of politics or have never really thought about it at all! After 36 years of decriminalized murder, which is what abortion truly and clearly is, far too many in our midst are in denial. The stream of consciousness that relegates abortion to being merely an "issue," starts with our new president, who said during the presidential debates,
This is an issue that – look, it divides us. And in some ways, it may be difficult to – to reconcile the two views. But there surely is some common ground when both those who believe in choice and those who are opposed to abortion can come together and say, "We should try to prevent unintended pregnancies by providing appropriate education to our youth, communicating that sexuality is sacred and that they should not be engaged in cavalier activity, and providing options for adoption, and helping single mothers if they want to choose to keep the baby." Those are all things that we put in the Democratic platform for the first time this year, and I think that's where we can find some common ground, because nobody's pro-abortion. I think it's always a tragic situation. We should try to reduce these circumstances.
Obama's personal view exposes the problem with America's perspective in a way that makes the novena’s third petition even more urgent. Each of us is tempted to say, "There is nothing I can do to change the way other people think about abortion." However, that is wrong.
Read Obama's words carefully. In an effort to deny the fact that abortion ends the life of an innocent human being, he seeks, in his own words "common ground." He wants the culture of life to sit down with the culture of death and find a space somewhere between them where agreement can be reached. He wants good and evil, Christ and Satan, to be buddies.
You think I am oversimplifying? Well, I am not. In Obama's words is the kernel of what it is that has caused such confusion in the body politic. The idea that abortion is an “issue” obfuscates what it does, who dies, and why it is always and in every case wrong.
Obama said, "Nobody is pro-abortion." If nobody is actually pro-abortion, then why did the man promise Planned Parenthood he would sign the Freedom of Choice Act into law? Why does he constantly advocate for "choice"? The truth is, Obama's rhetoric reflects the state of our thinking in America, and pro-lifers have to change that – one person at a time, one heart at a time, one mind at a time. And with the Lord's help, we can do that.
We can do that for our young people, our elected officials, our fallen-away Catholic brethren and for each other. And while we are praying, we are also obliged to reach out to them with the truth of God's mercy, His love and His fatherly concern.
The novena’s final intention addresses the biggest challenge we each have to face, every day of our lives. Making reparation for the sins that have desecrated God's gift of life, destroyed hope for so many and devastated their inherent ability to change and grow in Christ can be humbling concept. As we pray, asking God to forgive this nation and each of us, individually, for the tragedies that have befallen our children, we are spiritually making reparation for those who have yet to discern that they are debilitated by their personal choices.
The next four years are going to give us remarkable opportunities for growing this pro-life movement, strengthening it from within and expanding our efforts to convert the “mushy middle.” I believe we must include the president in that group as well. I do not believe Obama is an evil man; I do believe he is a man capable of change, capable of recognizing real hope in the cross of Christ and capable of acknowledging the fullness of truth.
May our prayers, our efforts and our desire for profound and positive change be that infusion of hope that this nation needs at this hour.