Twenty years ago today, St. Pope John Paul II published one of his best known encyclicals, Evangelium Vitae (or “Gospel of Life”). In it, he unflinchingly defended the dignity of human life particularly against the evils of abortion and euthanasia, although those were far from the only evils he addressed.
In Rome, they are making this into quite a big deal. Yesterday, the Pontifical Council for the Family organized prayer vigils all over the world. There were special masses and special prayers, paying particular attention to Mary, as the intercessor in the cause for Life.
If you, like me, missed all of the hubbub yesterday, do not fear. Here are my suggestions on how to celebrate today:
Read the Encyclical
At 90 pages, it isn’t the shortest encyclical, nor is it the longest. It isn’t the most intellectually dense either, so don’t feel like you have to be some sort of genius to get it. And no one says you have to finish it today, but if you are a pro-life Catholic, I highly recommend that you pick it up.
Donate your time, talent or treasure to a pro-life cause
- Help your nearest crisis pregnancy center. Just google “crisis pregnancy center” to find one or check out Lifecall.org.
- On the other end of the life-cycle, help your nearest hospice or other organization that helps people facing life-threatening illnesses (only major danger is donating money to groups that promote embryonic stem-cell research, the American Life League keeps track of stuff like that here).
- Help with a soup kitchen, food pantry, or homeless shelter.
- Just be wherever there is suffering and do what you can to help alleviate it and give dignity to those who are victims.
Pray the rosary
The Rosary was John Paul II’s favorite prayer. His entire life, he has a major devotion to our Lady. You see even in the end of his encyclicals such as the one celebrated today as you will see below.
Go to Eucharistic Adoration
If that image doesn’t inspire you to go, I don’t know what will. To find a chapel, look here although I’m not sure how up-to-date their info is. They would be a good place to start and then double-check the info you find there.
Pray to Mary using the Prayer found at the end of the Encyclical
bright dawn of the new world,
Mother of the living,
to you do we entrust the cause of life
Look down, O Mother,
upon the vast numbers
of babies not allowed to be born,
of the poor whose lives are made difficult,
of men and women
who are victims of brutal violence,
of the elderly and the sick killed
by indifference or out of misguided mercy.
Grant that all who believe in your Son
may proclaim the Gospel of life
with honesty and love
to the people of our time.
Obtain for them the grace
to accept that Gospel
as a gift ever new,
the joy of celebrating it with gratitude
throughout their lives
and the courage to bear witness to it
resolutely, in order to build,
together with all people of good will,
the civilization of truth and love,
to the praise and glory of God,
the Creator and lover of life. – St. John Paul II