A Holy Week miracle

Senate kills abortion rights bill; pro-lifers made voices heard

Nissa LaPoint

Remember this night; remember this bill.

Life won a victory over the culture of death tonight when state senators began to buckle in the pursuit of the “abortion rights” Senate Bill 175 and killed it shortly before 7 p.m.

Pro-lifers mobilized in less than a week to pray for the defeat of the destructive bill that threatened to create unfettered access to abortion and undo life-affirming laws in Colorado.

Faith-filled citizens inundated state senators with phone calls, emails and personal requests to vote down the bill in support of mothers and for the protection of the unborn.

Jenny Kraska of the Colorado Catholic Conference said this night, April 16, is proof that Catholics can make a difference.

“Whenever someone says that we can’t make a difference, just remember this night, just remember this bill,” she said.

The Senate moved to lay over the bill until May 8, one day after the legislative session is scheduled to end on May 7. This effectively killed the bill, and the Senate will not vote on it.

Sen. John Kefalas, D-Larimer, who belongs to the Orthodox Church, and Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, a parishioner at Spirit of Christ Church in Arvada, reportedly began to waver in their support of the bill as pro-lifers made their voices heard.

Without the majority vote of the Democrats, the bill would have failed.

Kraska thanked everyone for their witness that stopped the bill in its tracks.

“It is because of your willingness to engage the public square that we were able to defeat (Senate Bill 175),” she said in a statement. “Your voices matter and are needed in the public square now more than ever; please remember what we were able to accomplish and continue to be involved and make your voices heard.”

Some are calling it a Holy Week miracle.

“I cannot thank you all enough for what you did to make this possible—this is truly a miracle,” Kraska said.

The bill’s progress was stopped one day after nearly 1,000 Christians gathered with Archbishop Samuel Aquila and Greek Orthodox Father Ambrose Omayas at the state Capitol to pray for the protection of life.

Young and old; men, women and children; laity and religious; solemnly prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3 p.m. April 15.

The bill was scheduled for a vote that same evening and faithful from the gathering outside flooded the Senate chambers. However, the Senate moved to lay over the bill because one Democrat, Kefalas, a key supporter of the bill, reportedly went home sick.

Bill proponents believe the outside prayer gathering and the high volume of opposition and prayer led the Democrat-controlled Senate to move to end the bill April 16.

During that prayer rally, Archbishop Aquila told the crowd gathered on the Capitol steps that it’s important to participate in the political system. He said Catholics can no longer take the backseat.

“Some of the senators have said they have shut off their phones, some of them said they have never been contacted by so many,” the archbishop said during the gathering. “And you can make a difference. Too many times we have taken a backseat, and Catholics, Christians, and people of good will can no longer take a back seat.”

His statements echoed the words of Pope Francis, who said in September, “A good Catholic meddles in politics, offering the best of himself, so that those who govern can govern.”

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.”