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: St. Benedict’s wisdom for our times 

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

“Let us get up then, at last, for the Scriptures rouse us,” the Rule of St. Benedict urges us. “Let us open our eyes to the light … and our ears to the voice from heaven that every day calls out. … ‘If you hear his voice today, do not harden your hearts’” (Ps 95:8). On July 11 the Church observes the memorial of St. Benedict, and his words from 1,500 years ago seem perfectly fitting for our challenging and changing times.

The Rule of St. Benedict was written some time around 530, a time when the Roman Empire had collapsed and Christianity’s existence in Europe was threatened. Given our current cultural situation and its parallels with his time, I believe we can find fruit in St. Benedict’s teachings.

Saint Benedict grew up surrounded by a culture that was morally corrupt but with the grace of God lived a virtuous life. After spending some time in Rome for studies, he fled its moral decadence to pursue a more solitary life. St. Benedict lived the life of a hermit for several years before he eventually founded several monasteries, which became centers of prayer, manual labor and learning.

St. Benedict begins his rule by urging the monks to “Listen carefully to the master’s instructions and attend to them with the ear of your heart” (Rule, Prologue 1). For us, this means establishing a daily time to listen to the Lord, both in reading the Scriptures and in conversational prayer and meditation.

Our sure foundation during these trying times should be God’s will for each of us, not the constantly changing messages that bombard us in the news or on social media. For some, every online trend has become a form of gospel that must be adhered to with religious conviction. But the faith handed down to us from the Apostles is the only true Gospel, and only it can save souls. Although the times and technology were different, St. Benedict understood the importance of listening to “the master’s instructions.”

In his book, The Holy Spirit in the Life of Jesus, the preacher of the Papal Household, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, addresses the need for priests to arm themselves for battle “with the world rulers of this present darkness” (cf. Jn 10:12). At the heart of his reflection is the insight that “Jesus freed himself from Satan by an act of total obedience to the Father’s will, once and for all handing over his free will to him, so that he could truly say, ‘My food is to do the will of the one who sent me’” (Jn 4:34, The Holy Spirit in the Life of Jesus, p. 36).

The question we must ask ourselves is, “Do I put the Father’s will first in my life in every decision I make and in all that I say and do?” If we place the Father’s will at the center of our lives and truly listen to him with “the ears of our hearts” as St. Benedict taught, we will be prepared for whatever happens and always give witness to the love of God and others. We live in a world that has removed God from culture. History, both salvation history and world history, shows clearly what happens when this occurs. When God is removed, something else becomes “god.” Societies decline and eventually fall and disappear unless they return to the true God and become cultures that promote a life of holiness and virtue.

There is at least one additional lesson from St. Benedict’s rule that is applicable in these times of societal disunity and division. The monks and sisters of the Benedictine spiritual family are known for their hospitality. The Rule teaches this virtue in this way: “All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me’ (Mt 25:35). Proper honor must be shown to all, especially to those who share our faith (Gal 6:10) and to pilgrims” (Rule, #53).

Let us make it our prayer to be able to see others as Christ himself coming to us, even if they are clothed in what St. Mother Teresa called, “the distressing disguise of the poor.” If we continually seek the will of the Father and ask in prayer for our hearts and will to be conformed to his, then we will be able to weather any challenge.