Homily of Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York and Chairman of the USCCB Pro-Life Committee
5:30 p.m., Thursday, January 18, 2018
Opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington D.C.
"Letus give thanks to the Father,
who has made you fit to share
in the inheritance of the holy ones in
So does St. Paul praise God in our
first reading from God's Holy Word in the Bible this blessed evening;
So do we, your bishops, your pastors,
thank God for all of you, here in the home of our mother, jammed-packed - - look at this. Upstairs and down. Jam packed like the
seventh game of the World Series at Yankee Stadium. Something that happens a lot, by the way. With teeming numbers united
with us on EWTN and in so many varied churches throughout the our beloved country; a solidarity of
prayer and witness that will indeed persevere through this vigil and then flow through dozens
of Masses tomorrow. That will be so dramatic in our March for Life and then continue during
our "Nine Days of Life Novena," which we hope all of you will join!
friendly or not, remark that this annual event, which has now gone on forty-five
years, can you believe it? Reminds them of the peaceful, yet so effective protests for civil rights organized
by the prophetic pastor whose birthday we commemorated last Monday.
No surprise there, for, like the Reverend
Martin Luther King, our prayers and witness are about civil rights. The civil right
to life and to equal protection under the law guaranteed by our constitution
for the most fragile, marginalized, and threatened, - - the tiny, innocent baby
in the womb.
Like Pastor King, our belief in the
dignity of the human person and sacredness of human life propels us to concern
for human life wherever, whenever, and however it is threatened, from racial antagonism to justice for
immigrants, from the war torn to the hungry.
As Rev. King's niece often reminds us, her uncle would be marching with
us in the defense of unborn life were not the dignity of his own person and the
sanctity of his own life tragically violated fifty-years ago this spring.
Pastor King would often begin his
stirring speeches, which still move us, by asking his listeners, "Why are we
So do I pose that question to
you: Just why are we here? And can I anticipate your responses?
For one, we're here to advocate and give witness,
for those who cannot yet speak or walk with us, the preborn baby, whose future
is in jeopardy and can be ended by a so-called choice and to give witness
that millions, mostly young people, share a passion for the belief that that little baby has civil
We are here as well, my brothers and sisters, to fight the temptation we must admit, the
temptation to discouragement. See, as
noble as our cause is, we are still ridiculed, dismissed, harassed, and
snickered at by many in the media, considered unwashed by most of academia and
Hollywood, and ignored and criticized by many in our political system. Boy, in my state alone, abortion is legal
up to the moment of birth, and can be paid for by our tax-money; those whose
conscience will not allow them to do this can lose their job, and those who
wish to present a creative alternative are threatened with closure. I often think what a paradox and heavenly sign that the Sisters
of Life were founded in such a pro-abortion state! That's why we in New York come here, my brothers and
sisters, because occasionally, we get lonely and need encouragement. And do we ever get it on an evening like this.
A third reason we're here is
for life. Our elected
representatives, executive and legislative, and the judiciary they appoint,
need to see, and hear, and feel the grassroots power and sincere voices of millions
who lack the cash of the abortion industry, who can't find many in Hollywood to
support them, who can't seem to get a hearing on campus, and who are told not to even consider running for office in some places, we're here to say, we're not going to give-up. That reason and the
grand American tradition enshrined in our foundational documents are on our
side, and that our love for babies, their struggling moms and dads, our
passion for a society to assist and protect all vulnerable life will keep us at
it, because, to borrow my brother pastor's refrain, "We shall overcome!"
And then there's one final reason why we are here, everybody.
So tonight, we to turn to Jesus, once alive in His own
mother's womb, who, as St. Paul teaches us
"Delivered us from the power of darkness . . ."
Did you hear that?
"The power of darkness . . ."
Oh – oh! The forces we face are not just those we can
see; they're ominous enough! I'm afraid
we battle as well an axis we cannot see, whose powers are stronger than any in
creation, than any in creation, save one, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who called Himself "the
way, the truth, and the life."
That's why we come to this place of prayer to commence this project again. This place, a home the powers of darkness are scared of, a house where Mary is
our Mother, where Jesus dwells, and where we are with family. We come to admit realistically that there are
powers of darkness in a culture Pope Francis calls "throwaway" and St. John
Paul termed "of death."
As Pope Francis often reminds us, we
are fools if we dismiss the power of Satan.
So, you bet we are here to advocate, to be encouraged, to lobby
. . . but we're also here to pray, not as warriors but as apostles of life, apostles
armed not with money, not with hate, or destructive words, armed with, as our Holy Father
exhorts, with love and joy;
Apostles of life who, like those first twelve, as recalled in this evening's word, believe in the power
of Jesus, and who saw as recorded in the gospel, "Unclean spirits
fall down before him and shout, 'You are the Son of God'."
No wonder we say,
"Let us give thanks to the Father,
. . who delivered us from the power of darkness,
transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son."
Praise be Jesus Christ.