You responded, made a difference

'Let us continue to be people of hope...a leaven in society'

Karna Lozoya

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila gave credit for the pro-life victory in Colorado tonight to the people of Colorado “who listened to God’s call” and voiced their opposition to the abortion rights bill known as SB175.

Read the entire letter here

“You are the ones who made a difference!” he wrote in a statement released shortly after state senators killed the bill even before debating it in the Senate. The legislation sought to create an absolute right to abortion in Colorado, and possibly undo life-affirming laws already on the books.

Faith-filled citizens inundated state senators with phone calls, emails and personal requests to support mothers and the unborn by voting down the bill, touted as the “The Reproductive Health Freedom Act.”

On Tuesday, with less than a day’s notice, as estimated 1,000 Coloradans gathered at the state Capitol building at 3 p.m., the Hour of Mercy, to join Archbishop Samuel Aquila to pray for the defeat of SB175. He was joined by Father Ambrose Omayas, assistant administrator of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Denver.

“As I said yesterday after we prayed together on the steps of the state Capitol,” the archbishop wrote, “I had no idea how much impact my letter would have on the people of Colorado. In just a few days we are able to raise a united front in opposition to Senate Bill 175 and in defense of unborn children, the most innocent of all people.

“Congratulations to the people of good will throughout Colorado who listened to God’s call to be active in politics and to defend life at every stage!”

The archbishop then expressed gratitude towards all those who came together to pray at the state Capitol on Tuesday, including “families that came out in support of life, particularly mothers who came with their young children.”

He also thanked seminarians, priests, women religious, and those “of various faiths who work each and every day to be a leaven in society for the common good.”

“We need you!” he added. “Keep up the good work!”

Archbishop Aquila expressed “deep gratitude” to Father Omayas, “who joined me in a particularly moving way on the steps of the state Capitol to pray and bless the people present.”

He also thanked Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs and Bishop Stephen Berg of Pueblo, who joined him in writing a letter against SB175 to all the state senators, and Regis University president Father John Fitzgibbons, who released a public letter in opposition of SB175.

Our strength, our hope

Turning his attention to Holy Week, the archbishop noted that “these holiest days of the year are a very important moment of memory.”

“For the Catholic Christian,” he continued, “living the ‘memory’ of Christ is not like remembering some completed event that’s now relegated to history; rather, the memory of Christ is someone present in our midst – in the sacraments, in our communities – and is the same as remembering who we are, and whose we are.

“He is our strength and our hope and the one who brings joy to the human heart!”

“Our hope lies not in the powers of government,” he continued, “nor the laws of man, but in the Resurrected God-Man who conquers the grave and never ceases to be present among us, his followers.

“This is not the end of a political battle, but the beginning of a journey together in the Archdiocese of Denver. Let us continue to be people of hope. Let us continue to be a leaven in society. Let us continue to seek the kingdom of God, helping one another, particularly those who are most vulnerable.”

COMING UP: Strong temptations? Defeat them like the Desert Fathers

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The fact that we don’t do what we want but instead do what we hate is a problem as old as our first parents. Yet, we can interpret temptation either as that which is always keeping us away from God or as the very vehicle to grow closer to him.

The Desert Fathers believed it to be a necessary vehicle: “Whoever has not experienced temptation cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven,” St. Anthony of the Desert used to say. They saw the fight against these evil enticements as a step to love God in a deeper way.

Here’s how these radical followers of Christ – who fled to the Egyptian desert during the 3rd to 5th centuries to live a form of daily martyrdom in a land where being a Christian was no longer a risk – survived the strongest enticements of the flesh and the devil, as they sought to live out the Gospel and grow in perfection.

The sayings, teachings, maxims and stories they left behind, compiled and known as the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, show that a combination of three things: self-awareness, prayer and practicality, are key to battling the strongest disordered passions.

Alertness and action

“The early monks understood that temptations often come in the form of thoughts. We become attracted and have fantasies, whether that be in petty things, bodily appetites or social interactions,” explained Father Columba Stewart, O.S.B., expert on early monasticism, scholar and director of the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn.

The first disposition they considered to be key, was self-awareness, “knowing what happens in our minds and hearts… how to recognize [bad thoughts] before we actually do a sinful action,” he said.

After this base, which requires continuous self-examination and attention to the inner impulses of the heart, the importance of prayer and practicality follow.

A hermit of the desert said to a young monk suffering from strong temptations, “This is the way to be strong: when temptations start to speak in your mind do not answer them but get up, pray, do penance, and say, ‘Son of God, have mercy upon me.’”

Prayer is not isolated from action. The hermit tells him to “get up,” “do penance” and “pray.”

Practicality can take on different forms, such as going in the opposite direction of the temptation or seeking help from another, Father Stewart pointed out.

“For example, when you’re angry with someone… thoughts of anger start emerging, and you replay in your imagination what made you angry. Then that turns into a mental video of how you’re going to get revenge. This is when self-awareness comes in and you realize that the thoughts you’re having are inappropriate,” Father Stewart said.

A first practical action would be to step away instead of going to find that person, he continued. “Then to use your mind and imagination to instead remember the times when your relationship [with that person] was better or think about the future and how great it will be when this passes.”

Light overcomes darkness

Also, this “get up” practicality consists in bringing to light one’s sins or temptations to someone else and not fighting alone.

“A common exhortation, attributed to many different monks, was that the Enemy, the devil, rejoices in nothing so much as unmanifested thoughts… A sin which is hidden begins to multiply,” Father Stewart wrote in an article.

He then explained that “If the devil was delighted by a monk’s self-imposed isolation, surely this was because the opposite of isolation, encounter with another, was the way to salvation.”

According to Father Stewart, this understanding led the Fathers to break from “the illusion of self-sufficiency, a pose which encourages self-absorption,” and find spiritual fathers.

“The desert tradition is universally insistent upon the young monk’s need for a discerning elder,” he explained. “The basic insight of the desert… was that one cannot grow towards perfection through isolated, solitary effort: grace is mediated through one’s neighbor, especially one’s abba [spiritual father].”

The way these early hermits fought temptations is one of many treasures that Father Stewart says they left behind. In fact, he encourages readers to look at the Sayings of the Desert Fathers as a source that is still “amazingly relevant.”

“[The Sayings of the Desert Fathers] have been very popular sources of wisdom and inspiration throughout history,” he said. “What sets [them] apart… is that they speak from and to experience rather than text or theory.”

“The tradition of Christian wisdom is great,” he concluded. “People only need to know where to find it.”