15,000 babies saved since 40 Days for Life began

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: Moral courage and the many cultures of death

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CRACOW. Thanks to the pandemic, it’s been two years since I was last in Cracow, where for three decades I’ve done extensive research and taught great students while forming friendships with many remarkable people. It was wonderful to be back in one of the world’s greatest cities, and soon after I arrived in late June, I took a long walk to see what had changed. The first major difference I noticed was that the plaza in front of the central railway station (named for my late friend Jan Nowak-Jeziorański, a World War II courier for the Polish Home Army and the man from whom the future John Paul II got real news via Radio Free Europe’s Polish service) has a new, strikingly modern memorial, dedicated to the memory of Colonel Ryszard Kukliński.

That name is not well-known throughout a western world that has largely forgotten the meaning and lessons of the Cold War. But if Jan Nowak-Jeziorański was right when he spoke about the Polish colonel in the mid-1990s, Ryszard Kuklinski was a genuine hero of the long, twilight struggle against communist totalitarianism — the man who helped prevent a bloody Soviet invasion of Poland to crush the nascent Solidarity movement.

An accomplished officer in the communist-era Polish Army, Ryszard Kukliński began to doubt the truth of what he had been told about the West when, as a member of an international commission, he met American military men in Vietnam in the mid-1960s. His doubts about communism and its purposes intensified by orders of magnitude in 1968, when the brutal Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia ground the Prague Spring to dust under the treads of Soviet tanks, and in 1970, when the Polish army shot Polish workers during labor strife. Privy to some of the Warsaw Pact’s most confidential strategic plans, he became convinced that, if the Cold War turned hot and the east bloc attacked the West, the Soviets would sacrifice Poland as retaliatory western tactical nuclear strikes hit the second wave of Warsaw Pact troops pushing west. So, in 1972, Kukliński, risking his life and his family’s safety, offered his services to the United States and for the next nine years was the West’s most important intelligence asset behind the iron curtain.

His greatest service to Poland and the cause of freedom came in the later months of 1980. Thanks to his efforts, the United States knew the entire order-of-battle the Soviet Union had organized to stamp out Solidarity, which had held its first formal congress in September 1980. With that information, and working in concert with the incoming Reagan administration, outgoing national security adviser Zbigniew Brzeziński, with the help of the AFL-CIO’s Lane Kirkland, was able to organize a comprehensive western response to a potential Soviet invasion of Poland: an international economic blockade that would have severely damaged the already-staggering Soviet economy. Faced with economic ruin, the Soviet leadership backed down and the Warsaw Pact divisions that had surrounded Poland withdrew.

Colonel Kukliński and his family were exfiltrated to the West; two of his sons later died under dubious circumstances that may have involved Russian retribution, and Kukliński lived out his life under an assumed name in the United States, dying in 2004. There was public controversy when he returned to his native Poland for a 1998 visit, with some charging that he had violated his officer’s oath by working for American intelligence for a decade. John Paul II, through various intermediaries, quietly passed the word that Kukliński was to be regarded in Poland as a national hero. Zbigniew Brzeziński, who held the exact same view, put it brilliantly, in a comment that appears on the Kukliński Memorial in Cracow: Colonel Kukliński was “the first Polish officer in NATO.” 

Communism was a distinctive form of the culture of death, for the effort to create “Homo Sovieticus” was a lethal assault on souls. Colonel Ryszard Kukliński took a courageous stand against that particular culture of death, knowing as he did that freedom is never cost-free: freedom lived nobly always requires sacrifice. His example should be pondered by Catholic citizens and Catholic public officials throughout the West today, who are called to resist, with similar moral courage and effect, that form of the culture of death that masquerades as the ideology of “choice.” May we and our elected officials be as principled and brave as the Polish officer who took what John Paul II described at the United Nations in 1995 as the “the risk of freedom.”