Our Lady, undoer of our abortion knot

Many of you would be shocked to learn that Colorado is one of only four states without health code standards for abortion clinics, or any sort of limit on when unborn children can be aborted. In response to this horrific situation, I am inviting Catholics and all people of good will to join in a prayer campaign focused on ending the grip of abortion on our state and country.

This past week, I learned that the Colorado Secretary of State’s office has a person whose job is to monitor nail salons’ conformance to a section of the state’s health code written just for them. When I Googled the regulations, they were lengthy and numerous, including requirements for ventilation systems, size of each working area, types of equipment which may or may not be used and the list went on.

And yet, when it comes to the facilities where women have a highly invasive medical procedure done—which it must be said involves the taking of an innocent, defenseless life—there are zero regulations to ensure that at least the mother’s health is protected.

Colorado is also home to one of only four abortionists in the country who still carry out late-term abortions. This is because our state does not place any legal limits on when an abortion can occur, even though the medical community considers an unborn child to be viable at 24 weeks of development.

Catholics, Christians and others of good will must do everything they can to push for a legislative solution to this tragedy. But we must also commit ourselves to the spiritual dimension of this fight for life.

Recently I learned from a woman at Holy Ghost Parish about a novena (nine-day prayer) to Our Lady Undoer of Knots that she and other pro-lifers organized this past June. Their intention was for progress to be made in closing the Planned Parenthood mega-clinic in Stapleton. Since the conclusion of the novena, this parishioner told me that a clinic worker has resigned and a lawsuit has been filed against the facility for allegedly covering up sexual abuse.

These prayerful, peaceful efforts to end abortion are an essential element of the fight to defend the defenseless. Therefore, between Sept. 28 and Oct. 6, I am asking the faithful of the Archdiocese of Denver and all people of good will to join me in praying a novena to Our Lady Undoer of Knots, asking her intercession to undo the knot of abortion in our state. Seminarians from St. John Vianney Theological Seminary will be joining the effort by writing reflections for the novena, which will be published at www.archden.org and made available to parishes.

The reason we are asking Mary to intercede with her son under the title of Our Lady Undoer of Knots has an interesting history and a connection to Pope Francis, who brought the devotion from Germany to Argentina in the 1980s, when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires.

The devotion comes from the life of a 17th-century German nobleman, Wolfgang Langenmantel, whose marriage was on the brink of collapse. After a series of meetings with Jesuit Father Jakob Rem, who was counseling him on how to restore his marriage, he brought his wedding ribbon to a chapel of Our Lady of the Snows near Augsburg, Germany. Father Rem was waiting for him and took the ribbon—used to symbolize the unbreakable bond of marriage—raised it up to the image of Mary, while at the same time symbolically untying its knots. As he smoothed out the ribbon, it became intensely white, a sign of Mary’s intercession for the resolution of the seemingly impossible issues plaguing the nobleman’s marriage.

The Blessed Mother’s role in helping people overcome problems is rooted in her being the “new Eve,” the woman whom God said immediately after the fall would defeat Satan. As St. Irenaus put it, “Eve, by her disobedience, tied the knot of disgrace for the human race; whereas Mary, by her obedience, undid it.”

We are turning to Our Lady Undoer of Knots because the “knot” of abortion on-demand in Colorado requires divine intervention, as well as human effort.

During this same timeframe, we are blessed to have a second spiritual tool at our disposal in the form of a copy of the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa visiting the archdiocese. This image is traveling around the world as part of the “From Ocean to Ocean” initiative and will be here during Respect Life month.

The initiative is an act of entrustment of the civilization of love and life into the hands of the Mother of God, at a time when marriage and life at all stages are under attack.

The icon will visit several locations in the archdiocese between Sept. 27 and Oct. 5, including Lighthouse Women’s Center, which is located across the street from Planned Parenthood’s abortion clinic.

This particular image of Our Lady is known as the “Black Madonna” because her face was blackened by anti-Catholic, Hussite raiders in 1430 who slashed it and attempted to burn the icon. Like those who experience the consequences of abortion, she is scarred, but Our Lady wishes to bring healing to those who seek it.

Mother Mary, you who protected the life of Jesus in your womb and protected him from Herod’s soldiers, we turn to you to help undo the knot of abortion in our state and to bring healing to all those harmed by it.

COMING UP: Father and son, deacon and priest: Deacon dads and priest sons share special bond as both serve God’s people

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The bond between a father and son is one of God’s greatest designs; however, when father and son are both called to serve the Church as deacon and priest, that bond takes on a whole new meaning. Just ask these two dads and their sons, all of whom answered the call to serve the people of God at the altar.

Deacon Michael Magee serves at Our Lady of Loreto Parish in Foxfield, while his son Father Matthew Magee has worked as the priest secretary to Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila for the past several years and will soon be moved to a new assignment as parochial vicar at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Boulder. Deacon Darrell Nepil serves at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Denver, and his son, Father John Nepil, served at several parishes within the archdiocese before his current assignment as a professor at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary.

However different their journeys may have been, all four have something in common; mainly, that far from seeing their vocations as a reward from God, they have received them as an uncommon gift of grace that has blessed their families and individual relationships with each other abundantly, knowing that God acts in different ways to help us all get to Heaven.

Interwoven journeys

Deacon Michael Magee was ordained in May 2009, at the end of Father Matt’s first year of seminary. Little did they know that God would use both of their callings to encourage each other along the journey.

Deacon Michael’s journey began when a man from his parish was ordained a deacon.

“I simply felt like God was calling me to do something more than I was doing at the present time,” he said. “I had been volunteering for a number of different things and was involved in some ministry activities and in the Knights of Columbus. And I thought the idea of being a deacon would be simply another activity for which I could volunteer.”

He didn’t know what it entailed at the time. In fact, he believed it was something a man could simply sign up for. To his surprise, the diaconate was more serious – and it required five years of formation and discernment. Yet he was so drawn to it, that he decided to do it anyway. But as he learned more about the nature of the diaconate during his formation, he became more nervous and unsure about whether God was really calling him to that vocation. 

While his doubts remained all the way up to his ordination, Deacon Michael was faithful to his studies, trusting that God would lead him in the right path. 

And God did — through the calling of his own son to the priesthood.

Deacon Michael didn’t realize that his son Matthew had paid close attention to his father’s faith journey and had found in it a light that gave him courage to discern the priesthood.

Father Matthew Magee (left) and his dad, Deacon Michael Magee (right), were both encouraging to one another as they each pursued their respective vocations. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic)

“Seeing my dad, as a father, growing in his relationship with the Lord was really influential for me on my own desire to follow Christ,” said Father Matt. “Looking at his courage to discern his own vocation and follow God’s plan in his life gave me the strength and courage to be open to the same thing in my life… He played a very important role, whether he knew it or not at the time, and whether I knew it or not at the time.”

On the other hand, Father Matt didn’t know that his dad was in turn encouraged by his own response to God’s calling. 

“As I went through all those doubts, I watched Matthew’s journey in seminary and listened to how he was dealing with that in his life. And, as he just articulated very well, I also saw those same qualities in him,” Deacon Michael said. “Seeing a young man in his 20s willing to consider following God for the rest of his life also gave me the courage to continue on in my own journey, to see it through.”

God’s way of uplifting them in their vocations through each other’s journey is something they are very grateful for. 

This unusual grace impacted Father Matt during his first Mass, when his dad, as deacon, approached him before the Gospel reading and asked for the traditional blessing by calling him “father.”

“It was a really special moment for me. He’s certainly my biological father and raised me. But then there’s something different when we’re at the altar in a clerical capacity — there’s a strange reversal of roles when we’re giving spiritual nourishment to the people — a father asks the new father for the blessing,” he said.

In both of their vocations, Deacon Michael and Father Matt see God’s Providence and the unique plan he has for all of us.

“We all have a vocation, even if it’s something we may not expect,” Deacon Michael concluded. “You may feel anxiety or worry about what it’s going to look like, but trust in God. He will take care of things as he always does.”

A bribe for Heaven

For Deacon Darell and Father John Nepil, the journey was different, but not any less providential.

While he grew up Catholic, Father John wasn’t interested in setting foot on any Church activity during his teenage years. His saving grace was perhaps what many parents have to do to get their teenagers to Church: bribe them.

“His mom and I basically bribed him to go to the Steubenville of the Rockies Conference,” Deacon Darell said with a laugh. “He didn’t want to go, but we’d heard so many good things about it, that we said, ‘We’re going to make this happen, whatever it takes.’”

So the Nepils came up with a creative idea.

“He owed me some money for a uniform that he had needed for a job in the summer. So, I said, ‘Listen, if you go to the Steubenville of the Rockies Conference, I’ll forgive your debt. And he did, he and his brother went. And John especially came back a different boy. He literally was converted with a lightning bolt at that retreat.”

To this day, Father John marks his conversion to Christ from the summer before his senior year in high school when he attended that conference. 

As it happens with stories worth telling, the details of how much money he owed his father have varied over the years, and it’s a matter of debate among them, but Father John remembers it was close to $500.

“That’s subject to each one,” Father John said laughingly. “But what matters is that they offered to forgive my debt if I went to this retreat – it was money well spent.”

Besides this important event, Father John said that his dad influenced him in many ways by the simple fact of who he was as a father.

“My dad’s faith and moral character were a rock for me during some difficult teenage years,” he said. “He’s a great example of a man who was always faithful and lived a really outstanding moral life, but then as he deepened in love with Christ, he decided to give of himself in a more profound service.”

Father John Nepil (left) and Deacon Darrell Nepil (right) both had rather roundabout ways to their respective vocations, but they both say serving God’s people together as brothers in Holy Orders is a great joy. (Photo provided)

Besides his desire to serve and follow God, the seed that would eventually lead Deacon Darell to the diaconate was planted by a coworker, who would also take holy orders: Deacon Joe Donohoe.

“One day he said to me, ‘You should be a deacon.’ And, of course, I laughed at him and said, ‘I don’t have time for that. My life is too busy.’ But it only took him to suggest it for the idea to keep coming back to my head, and God kept nudging me. Eventually I decided I really wanted to do that,” Deacon Darell said.

The ability to share at the altar during the Mass has deepened the natural relationship of father and son and given Deacon Darell and Father John new opportunities to grow closer to God. 

One of the most meaningful times came when Deacon Darell had a massive stroke in 2018. While he was in the hospital, Father John was able to visit and celebrate Mass at his bed and pray the rosary with him every day, as he had come back from Rome and was working on his dissertation.

“It was probably the most privileged and intimate time I’ve ever had with my father,” Father John said. “It was an amazing gift that really changed our relationship.”

“I feel like that’s a huge reason why I healed and why I am here today,” Deacon Darell added.

“It’s a real gift to have my dad as a deacon and a brother. It’s a tremendous honor. It’s one of the great joys of my life.” Father John concluded. “That’s really what has bonded our relationship together: the sheer desire to serve Jesus, especially in holy orders.”