In today’s Church, most big pro-life efforts take place typically in January.
On or around Jan. 22 — the anniversary of the 1963 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion in the United States — Catholics and pro-life witnesses take to the streets in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere to protest the law and to stand up for the unborn. It’s always a powerful pro-life event centered on action and advocacy. But, as that is January and this is May, why am I bringing this up now? For two reasons: Because today, May 11, we celebrate Mother’s Day, and in less than three weeks, on May 31, we celebrate the feast of the Visitation.
Both of these days — perhaps, in particular, the feast celebrating Mary’s visit to Elizabeth — offer the Church a different kind of opportunity to affirm life apart from the January anniversary — one focused more on celebration than advocacy. The idea is simple, and one that we’ve mentioned in these pages before. In Luke’s Gospel account of the Visitation, the unborn John the Baptist, still in Elizabeth’s womb, “leaped for joy” at the sound of our Blessed Mother’s greeting.
As St. John Paul II says in his beloved work Evangelium Vitae (“The Gospel of Life”), John’s joy at the recognition of Jesus — still unborn in Mary’s womb — puts a spotlight on “the value of the person from the moment of conception.”
“It is precisely the children who reveal the advent of the Messianic age: in their meeting, the redemptive power of the presence of the Son of God among men first becomes operative,” he writes. “As St. Ambrose writes ... ‘Elizabeth was the first to hear the voice; but John was the first to experience grace. She heard according to the order of nature; he leaped because of the mystery. She recognized the arrival of Mary; he the arrival of the Lord. The woman recognized the woman’s arrival; the child, that of the child” (No.45).
That image of the unborn children greeting one another is incredibly powerful, and one that offers a real opportunity for the pro-life movement to set aside the feast of the Visitation for a celebration of life. Some parishes and dioceses have caught on, offering special blessings for pregnant women on May 31. But what if we, as a universal Church, used that day to really rejoice in life? Rare is the time in the Church when we simply celebrate the wonder of God’s greatest gift.
That’s what we tried to do this week with Christina Capecchi’s Faith story (Page 18), which is chock full of the wide-eyed wonder of new motherhood. It’s impossible to read her account of the first year of her daughter’s life without truly marveling along with her at the miracle of God’s most precious creation.
So this month, let’s truly celebrate the gift of life. Hug your mom; arrange a special celebration of life on the feast of the Visitation at your parish. It’s too good an opportunity to pass up.
Thoughts? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.