Today, January 22nd, marks the 40th Anniversary of the Supreme Court Decision, Roe vs. Wade, legalizing abortion on demand in the United States. This unfortunate decision has resulted in the planned deaths of tens of millions of human lives since 1973. Today is a sad anniversary and it is a time when we must remember in prayer all who have been affected by the tragedy that has resulted in the intervening years. We pray for the innocent unborn. We pray for the mothers and fathers who have been led to such a decision. We pray for our nation and our world that we might be led aright in the ways of truth and justice. We pray for healing and wholeness.
Over the last couple of days we have seen extensive coverage of the inaugural ceremonies in Washington D.C. It is estimated that between 700,000 and 1,000,000 people stood on the National Mall to witness the presidential inaugural. What is interesting is that while this event received almost nonstop coverage and much was made of the “huge” numbers of people, an equivelant number of people will be marching on the Mall on Friday in support and defense of the sacredness of human life and you will be hard-pressed to see any coverage at all on any mainstream media channels. I encourage everyone to watch the National Vigil Mass for Life on Thursday night at 8pm from the National Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington and also the National March for Life on Friday on EWTN which will carry the events live and extensively.
Below I offer to you portions of one of the most touching and meaningful writings I have ever seen on the issue of human life and its sacredness. It is from a letter written by Terence Cardinal Cooke who served as Archbishop of New York from 1968 until his death of cancer in 1983. The letter was written by the Cardinal just a couple of days before his death and was read at all Masses in the Archdiocese of New York the following Sunday (the day after died). The letter was transmitted virtually around the world. The words that Cardinal Cooke communicated then, over 30 years ago now, are as meaningful and rich today as they were then and should speak to the hearts of all people.
The letter reads in part:
Dear Friends in Christ:
How often we speak of “the gift of life,” God’s “gift of life” to us, His sons and daughters. What a beautiful phrase! How filled with meaning it is! In the Book of Genesis, we read of the origin of this gift: “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
It is at times when life is threatened – such as times of serious illness – that the Lord gives us a special grace to appreciate “the gift of life” more deeply as an irreplaceable blessing which only God can give and which God must guide at every step. From the beginning of human life, from conception until death and at every moment between, it is the Lord Our God who gives us life, and we, who are His creatures, should cry out with joy and thanksgiving for this precious gift.
We are made in God’s image and likeness, and this fact gives a unique dimension to “the gift of life.” We have even more reason to be grateful. It is tragic that in our time, concepts which are disastrous to the well-being of God’s human family – abortion, euthanasia, infanticide – are falsely presented as useful and even respectable solutions to human, family and social problems. Human life is sometimes narrowly viewed in terms of being inconvenient or unwanted, unproductive or lacking arbitrarily imposed human criteria.
From the depths of my being, I urge you to reject this anti-life, anti-child, anti-human view of life and to oppose with all your strength the deadly technologies of life destruction which daily result in the planned death of the innocent and the helpless. Together we must search for ways to demonstrate this conviction in our daily lives and in our public institutions. In doing so, we must never be discouraged or give up. Too much is at stake – “the gift of life” itself.
The “gift of life,” God’s special gift is no less beautiful when it is accompanied by illness or weakness, hunger or poverty, mental or physical handicaps, loneliness or old age. Indeed, at these times, human life gains extra spendor as it requires our special care, concern and reverence. It is in and through the weakest of human vessels that the Lord continues to reveal the power of His love…
…At this grace-filled time in my life, as I experience suffering in union with Jesus, Our Lord and Redeemer, I offer gratitude to Almighty God for giving me the opportunity to continue my apostolate on behalf of life. I thank each one of you, my brothers and sisters in the Archdiocese of New York and throughout our nation, for what you have done and will do on behalf of human life. May we never yield to indifference or claim helplessness when innocent human life is threatened or when human rights are denied.
With you, I entrust our efforts to the care of Our Lady who, from the moment of her Immaculate Conception to the present, has been the refuge for the poorest and most forgotten among God’s people. I assure you of a special share in the prayerful offerings of my sufferings to the Father, in union with Jesus and through the Spirit of Love Who is ours in abundance.
May God bless you always and give you His peace.
Devotedly yours in Christ,
+Terence Cardinal Cooke
Archbishop of New York
Terence Cardinal Cooke
Cardinal Cooke is entombed along with the other Bishops and Archbishops of New York as well as other notable catholic prelates in the crypt under the main Altar in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.
Cardinal Cooke’s resting place.
The interior of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral from above.