It was Jan. 22, 2009, the 36th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. Some 250,000 plus people were either on Constitution Avenue marching toward the Supreme Court, or had already arrived, or were at the National Mall waiting to begin marching in protest against that unfortunate decision that opened the doors to abortion on demand and contributed to some 50 million deaths of innocent unborn children to date.
Most of the protestors, including myself, felt glum, knowing that the few pro-life gains achieved since the infamous Supreme Court ruling were being severely threatened by a newly elected federal administration that promised to sign into law the Freedom of Choice Act, a bill that might among other things compel pro-life physicians and nurses, and Catholic hospitals, to kill preborn human beings against their will and in violation of their consciences and ethical values (cf., Campion, “The Root of It All” and Smith, “Conscience and Uncontroversial Truths,” The Priest, January 2009).
It was about three in the afternoon, the hour of redemption and great mercy, as the gloom-laden march proceeded, when a humble priest from Immaculate Conception Church in Scranton, Pa., my home parish, received a phone call from a local hospital. A premature baby, just five and a half months from conception, lay dying.
In the case of premature births the doctors can tell within 72 hours whether a baby will survive or not. This child had been studied carefully, and a decision had been arrived at that this baby was nonviable. It was an emergency. The parents wished to have their son baptized, so the priest should come at once because the baby had only about an hour to live. A nurse conveniently met the priest at the elevator and took him to the child’s bedside.
Atmosphere Was Somber
When the priest reached the neo-natal intensive care unit where the infant was, the atmosphere was somber. The parents and friends were despondent. The baby was dark red and listless. His breathing was shallow and irregular. His heartbeat was weak and erratic. The baby’s kidneys had shut down, and he had not urinated since before his birth a few days earlier.
The priest proceeded to baptize the baby and administer the sacrament of the anointing. He offered communion to the other people present. He tried as best he could to offer consolation to the grieving family and left.
He had not yet exited the hospital when it struck him that he should return to the neo-natal unit and, with the family present, “lift up” the child in heart and prayer and consecrate him to Our Lady, the mother of the Lord Jesus. He would place the child under the mantle of her protection and implore her to intercede on the baby’s behalf.
The priest immediately returned to the child’s incubator and gathered the family around the infant. Spiritually, the priest raised up the child to Mary and implored her intercession, saying something like this: ‘‘Dearest Lady, on this anniversary of Roe v. Wade, when so many children’s voices have been silenced, may this little one speak and praise our good Lord and God. Wrap your loving mantle around him and ask our sweet Jesus that he may live.”
When the priest finished praying, the baby began to stir in his incubator. He began to breathe more deeply and more regularly. His heartbeat became stronger and steadier. The room was suddenly filled with hopeful people.
After several days had passed, the father of the baby boy visited Immaculate Conception Parish and said: “It is a miracle. My child is alive. His kidneys began to function soon after the priest departed. He began to urinate.” The boy had never urinated outside the womb.
With the help of a student assistant at Marywood University, I checked the one Scranton newspaper for the names of the babies born locally during the four days that preceded Jan. 22, and compared them with the names of those that died within two weeks following Jan. 22. None of the deceased babies matched the ones born before Jan. 22.
We Have a Pro-life Mother
The priest who related the story of the inexplicable healing knew the name of the premature baby boy. He confirmed for me that the baby was still alive 19 days after his encounter with him. He had been carefully reading the obituaries himself. In addition, he returned to the hospital 19 days after anointing the baby to check on the child. The baby was doing well, and his mother was still there by his side, praying. Her prayer was: “Good Lord, let him live one more day.”
Although we pro-life Catholics may no longer have a friend in the White House, we have a pro-life Mother in Heaven. I suggest we place all unborn children under her maternal protection. I recommend that we lift them all up and place them under her mantle. There is no greater intercessor with the Son of God than she, and no mother who loves them more. TP
Dr. Decelles, Ph.D., is professor and chairman of the Department of Religious Studies at Marywood University in Scranton, Pa.