15,000 babies saved since 40 Days for Life began

Moira Cullings

A few years ago at a 40 Days for Life prayer vigil in Madison, Wisconsin, Steve Karlen met a man passing by the abortion clinic who stopped when he noticed the group praying outside of it.

Curiously enough, the man began taking photos of families at the vigil. Karlen came to realize the man’s daughter was pregnant with a boy who had Down Syndrome, and she and her husband planned to abort the baby.

The man was taking photos of families who offered to adopt the child. He showed the photos to his daughter, and she and her husband ultimately chose life for their son.

The man who happened to pass by has now put in more than 200 hours praying at that same vigil.

“To me, that’s about as good as it gets,” said Karlen. “We talk about saving babies and, by the Grace of God, that’s exactly what we do.”

Karlen is the Campaign Director for 40 Days for Life, a campaign that encourages people to fast and pray for an end to abortion.

This fall, the campaign ran from Sept. 26 until Nov. 4 in 415 cities throughout the world. The success stories that came out of it were abundant.

“We’ve got former abortion workers who have reported that when there’s people out there praying in front of an abortion facility, the no-show rates for those abortion appointments can go up to as high as 75 percent,” said Karlen.

“Any given hour, you might not see anything happen, but the Lord tells us, ‘Blessed are those who have not seen but believed.’ When they hear some of those numbers from the abortion industry itself, it’s a great encouragement,” he said.

Karlen believes that along with the signs held by those who participate in vigils, prayer is a major force in the success of the 40 Days campaign.

“I think prayer is the engine that drives everything,” he said. “It gives energy and it gives life and it gives momentum to all of the other stuff — the community outreach, the signs, the witness, all of those things.”

Here in Denver, more than 350 people kicked off 40 Days with a Eucharistic procession, and hundreds of others have participated in Mass and prayer vigils in the parking lot across from Denver’s Planned Parenthood.

The Respect Life Office reports that they know of at least three babies saved during this campaign.

For Lynn Grandon, Program Director for the Respect Life Office, 40 Days brings great hope for the future of these babies and those they will encounter as they grow up.

“Each of us has gifts and talents given to us by our ancestors that God uses at precise moments in the time he chooses to place us here,” she said.

“Some day, in some way, these children will be surprised to learn that they were slated to die in 2018 but were spared. Just that knowledge alone can be a tremendous impetus to find their life purpose and make a difference with their lives.”

Grandon is grateful for the faithful in Colorado who participated in 40 Days for Life despite the angry retorts from counter-protesters.

“We love seeing the fervency of those who are praying and participating in the power of the Holy Masses that are offered right at the entrance of such a place of loss,” she said.

Karlen explained that a reason why many women who show up for an abortion appointment but decide to leave is because they are not fully convinced what they’re doing is the right choice.

“They know there’s something not quite right about it,” he said. “They’re not there because they’re pro-choice. The feel that they have no choice and they’re looking for some way out, and they’re praying for God to give them a sign.

“And they show up, and they meet somebody there praying for them, smiling, holding a sign, being there in their hour of need,” he continued. “And that’s the sign they were looking for.”

Karlen is grateful for those here in Colorado who participated in 40 Days vigils and offered prayers for women considering abortion.

“It’s heroic,” he said. “We just learned of the 15,000th saved baby through the prayers of 40 Days for Life volunteers. Those are just the ones that we can count.”

The campaign knows of nearly 200 abortion workers who have quit their jobs and become pro-life, and 99 abortion facilities have closed and gone out of business following a 40 Days campaign.

“It goes to show the power of prayer,” said Karlen, “which is the primary form of activism.”

From March 6 to April 14 there will be a spring 40 Days for Life campaign. For more information on the local campaigns within the Archdiocese of Denver, click the hyperlinked locations. Denver | Fort Collins | Greeley | Boulder  

COMING UP: Transforming quarantine into retreat

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This bruising Lent, in which “fasting” has assumed unprecedented new forms, seems likely to be followed by an Eastertide of further spiritual disruption. What is God’s purpose in all this? I would be reluctant to speculate. But at the very least, the dislocations we experience – whether aggravating inconvenience, grave illness, economic and financial loss, or Eucharistic deprivation – call us to a more profound realization of our dependence on the divine life given us in Baptism: the grace that enables us to live in solidarity with others and to make sense of the seemingly senseless.

If we cooperate with that grace rather than “kick against the goads” (Acts 26:14), it can enable us to transform quarantine, lockdown, and the interruption of normal life into an extended retreat, a time to deepen our appreciation of the riches of Catholic faith. Dioceses, Catholic centers, and parishes are offering many online opportunities for prayer, thereby maintaining the public worship of the Church. Here are other resources that can help redeem the rest of Lent and the upcoming Easter season.

* Shortly before the Wuhan virus sent America and much of the world reeling, I began watching Anthony Esolen’s Catholic Courses video-lectures on the Inferno, the first part of Dante’s Divine Comedy. I’ve long admired Tony Esolen’s Dante translation and his lucid explanation of the medieval Christian worldview from which Dante wrote; and there was something fitting about watching Esolen accompany Dante and Virgil through hell during a hellish Lent. Professor Esolen’s explication of Dante’s Purgatory and Paradise (also available from Catholic Courses) are just as appropriate these days, however. For the entire Comedy is a journey of conversion that leads to the vision of God; and that is precisely the itinerary the Church invites us to travel during Lent, as the Forty days prepare us to meet the Risen Lord at Easter and experience the power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

* Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was arguably the greatest papal homilist since Pope St. Gregory the Great in the sixth century. The March and April sermons in Seeking God’s Face: Meditations for the Church Year (Cluny Media), help put the trials of this Lent and Eastertide into proper Christian focus.

* I’ve often recommended the work of Anglican biblical scholar N.T. Wright. Two chapters (“The Crucified Messiah” and “Jesus and God”) in The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is (InterVarsity Press) make apt Lenten reading in plague time. The fifth chapter of that small book, “The Challenge of Easter,” neatly summarizes Dr. Wright’s far longer and more complex argument in The Resurrection of the Son of God (Fortress Press) and makes a powerful case for the historical reality of the Easter events. Like Wright, Pope Emeritus Benedict’s reflections on the empty tomb and the impact of meeting the Risen One in Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week (Ignatius Press) underscore the bottom of the bottom line of Christianity: no Resurrection, no Church.

* Bishop Robert Barron’s Catholicism series is the greatest audio-visual presentation of the faith ever created. If you’ve never watched it, why not now?  If you have, this may be the time to continue with Bishop Barron’s Catholicism: The New Evangelization (an exploration of how to put Catholic faith into action) and Catholicism: The Pivotal Players (portraits of seminal figures in Catholic history who did just that – St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Catherine of Siena, St. John Henry Newman, G.K. Chesterton, and Michelangelo).

* Pope St. John Paul II’s centenary is the Monday following the Fifth Sunday of Easter: an anniversary worth celebrating, whatever the circumstances. The first 75 years of this life of extraordinary consequence for the Church and the world are relived in the documentary film, Witness to Hope – The Life of John Paul II. Liberating a Continent, produced by the Knights of Columbus, is a stirring video evocation of John Paul’s role in the collapse of European communism – and a reminder, in this difficult moment, of the history-bending power of courage and solidarity.

* The Dominican House of Studies in Washington and its Thomistic Institute are intellectually energizing centers of the New Evangelization. The good friars are not downing tools because of a pandemic; rather, they’re ramping up. Go to thomisticinstitute.org to register for a series of online “Quarantine Lectures” and an online Holy Week retreat. At the same home page, you’ll find Aquinas 101, 52 brief videos that make one of Catholicism’s greatest thinkers accessible to everyone, free and online, through brilliant teaching and striking animation.

And may the divine assistance remain with us, always.