Mass, rally bring people together in support of life
By Enedelia J. Obregón
It was a full house at San José Parish in Austin for the annual Pro-Life Mass, celebrated by Bishop Joe Vásquez on Jan. 25.
Prior to the Mass, a living rosary was prayed by religious education students. Children pantomimed the Joyful Mysteries while older students led the congregation in prayer. The Knights of Columbus then processed in carrying a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of the Americas and of the unborn.
Various priests from the diocese concelebrated the Mass, which is sponsored by the diocesan Office of Pro-Life Activities and Chaste Living.
In his homily –– delivered in English and Spanish –– Bishop Vásquez noted the celebration was being held on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, a turning point in the history of the early church. A well-educated and observant Jew, Paul –– who never physically met Jesus –– was a persecutor of the early church who later became “an ardent follower of Jesus Christ” and eventually “a great apostle and teacher of the nations.”
“Paul’s conversion begins with a unique encounter with Jesus Christ,” the bishop said. “This is recounted in the Acts of the Apostles where Paul is literally knocked to the ground and blinded. His life was turned upside down.”
Paul’s heart was changed and he became an apostle for Christ and his church, Bishop Vásquez said. “Eventually, he not only dedicated his life to serve the church, but also shed his own blood for love of Christ … Christianity owes much to this great apostle.”
Bishop Vásquez said that at the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the legalization of abortion, “we gather once again to pray, asking God to move the hearts of those who do not share our understanding of the great value of human life.”
On Jan. 23, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision, affirmed the legality of a woman’s right to have an abortion under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees a person’s right to privacy. The ruling allowed for legal abortions during the entire pregnancy but set up conditions for states to regulate abortion during the second and third trimesters.
The Catholic Church teaches that all life is sacred from conception until natural death.
“Every human being is created by our loving God and entrusted at conception with a unique mission or vocation in life,” the bishop said. “That we are God’s children, made in his image and invited to have a role in bringing others to salvation, is our glory and honor.”
The bishop acknowledged that “we can be motivated by anger and even hatred against those who do not value life.”
“It can be frustrating,” he said. “Frustration accomplishes nothing and distracts us from two things, which are faith in God and the loving witness of our lives. If we possess these, then we are able to respond completely different without anger or hatred.
“Let us pray for our own conversion –– that we will witness to the supreme value of human life by respecting all persons, particularly the weak, the poor, the sick and the abandoned.”
Bishop Vásquez concluded with words from Pope Francis, “who has not only spoken about, but shown us through his actions, the great value” of each person.
“He warns us not to be enticed by the ‘culture of waste’ that treats persons as things to be discarded,” Bishop Vásquez said. “He says, ‘All life has inestimable value –– even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick and old, the unborn and the poor–– are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.’”
After Mass, the bishop blessed dozens of roses for those in attendance to take and share. Many at the Mass also attended the Pro-Life march and rally at the Texas Capitol.
Mary and Natividad Ruíz from Sacred Heart Parish in Elgin started attending two years ago after talking to the youth group about life issues.
“We are very much against abortion,” Mary Ruíz said. “We want people to see that so many people support life.”
Sisters Amy, 15, and Laura Pressman, 13, came from St. Louis Parish in Waco with friend Gigi López, 14.
“We’re walking because we’re pro-life and want to save babies,” López said.
“It’s important to support this,” Amy said. “We are witnesses to people who don’t know what it’s about. We want to support the unborn.”
“It’s a big deal to show people that life begins at conception,” Laura said. “Babies are helpless and we should protect them. I want to do this again next year.”
Bishop Vásquez gave the invocation for the rally at the Capitol.
“Today … we recommit ourselves in our efforts to change the law and provide protection for the most vulnerable in our society –– the unborn,” the bishop said. “We pray for all those who have been victimized by abortion. Bring about healing to those who suffer and help them recognize you as a God of mercy and compassion.”