Respect Life Mass engenders hope, determination

North Texas Catholic
(Jan 28, 2019) Local

Scarlett De Loera, left and her sister Leilany De Loera, 5, right, place roses inside a vase signifying the lives lost to abortion, during the Annual Respect Life Mass celebrated by Bishop Michael Olson at St. Patrick Cathedral in Fort Worth, Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (NTC/Ben Torres)

The dignified yet somber procession of parents and their children approaching the altar with 60 red and white roses from the back of St. Patrick Cathedral served as stark reminder of the estimated 60 million unborn babies lost to abortion since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision of Jan. 22, 1973.

They and others celebrated the diocese’s annual Respect Life Mass on Jan. 21.

Participants afterward said the Mass inspired optimism given recent political and cultural developments but, for the same reasons, said they remain pragmatic about the challenging work still to be done.

Several said recent appointments to the Supreme and federal courts, for example, bring hope that an end to legalized abortion may be in sight. On the other hand, they stressed that cultural norms harbored by many and the enactment of New York state legislation vastly broadening access to abortion make clear the battle for hearts and minds is far from over.

During his homily, Bishop Michael Olson discussed St. Agnes of Rome, whose feast day falls on Jan. 21.

“She understood her place as being created and wonderfully made by God,” Bishop Olson said. “And also saw each human being as being created and wonderfully made by God.”

Bishop Olson held in sharp relief the example of St. Agnes’ life against the court’s ruling 46 years ago.

“We mark in our life as a country another anniversary where the intolerable that is death and solving human problems by killing people was first introduced to us as being tolerable,” Bishop Olson said. “And not only tolerable but probably, in some cases, good for society.”

The ramifications of that decision reverberate still today, Bishop Olson said, encumbering society with a moral ethic that has “all the value of scientific alchemy.”

The decision in large part, he said, provoked a “gradual erosion of attitudes” toward our country’s relationships to God, family life, and the sanctity of life.

The Mass, Bishop Olson said, was a call for God’s help both for the voiceless victims of abortion and to seek encouragement for the faithful to remain resolute in their efforts to celebrate life as precious from conception to natural death.

“We can’t be complacent in matters of life,” Bishop Olson said after the Mass. “Abortion as a legalized option and even, in popular culture, a recommended option has made us a coarser and less compassionate society.”

Whether developments in the federal court system and some state legislatures bring positive change remains to be seen, he said.

“But law itself isn’t going to change hearts,” Bishop Olson said. “We have to start being mindful of other peoples’ needs, even those who aren’t already born.”

Bishop Michael Olson says the Eucharistic Prayer at the Annual Respect Life Mass at St. Patrick Cathedral in Fort Worth, Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (NTC/Ben Torres)

Terri Schauf, diocesan Respect for Life coordinator, said the situation in some ways appears more promising than in years past.

“Definitely we’ve seen gains legislatively in some states and nationally, which is hopeful,” Schauf said. “But there’s a lot more to do and we’re certainly not finished. Something people have to realize is that even if Roe vs. Wade is overturned on a national level, it would still go back to the states. There will still be abortion in some states that want it legal. So there would still be a battle to fight.”

Recent University of North Texas graduate Cody Barker tempered hope of change with realism.

“If I’m honest and direct it feels like we’re backsliding,” Barker said. “Not only as a people, but as a culture, we value death. But with prayer, faith, and persistence we’ll have to climb our way back to preserving and valuing life.”

UNT student Mary Brockenbush, who also attended the Mass, admitted that at times it feels like an end to legalized abortion is a long way off.

“But that doesn’t mean we’re going to stop praying and stop hoping,” Brockenbush said.

Another challenge, Schauf said, is that 46 years of legalized abortion has jaded many to the finality of abortion.

“It’s not as shocking as it should be,” Schauf said. “What’s different about this kind of inhumane situation toward another is that you can’t see the person. You’re not seeing the human life there. You’re just seeing the mother. So humanizing that child is something we strive to do.”

Schauf said it heartened her to see the former and current UNT students and other young Catholics at the Mass.

Most Blessed Sacrament parishioner Bernadette Gutierrez agreed. She joined her husband and four children in presenting roses at the altar during the Mass.

“An end to legalized abortion I think is possible,” Gutierrez said. “Because it seems the millennials and younger people, at least the people we know, hold more conservative values and so a lot of them are pro-life.”

St. Bartholomew Parish Director of Formation and Evangelization Joel de Loera, his wife, and five children also participated in the presentation of roses.

“My wife and I are firm believers in this,” Joel de Loera said of the fight to end abortion. “We want to instill that in our children, that life is precious from the moment of conception to natural death.

“It’s a challenge because, even though they go to St. John the Apostle Catholic School, everywhere around us in the world is this materialistic and relativist culture that basically mocks our faith.”

Bishop Olson said he prays for the day when political and cultural changes render the Respect Life Mass unnecessary.

“Then we can make this day a Mass of thanksgiving.”   

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