The unborn need our prayer and fasting

All of us are aware of the devastating floods that have occurred in Colorado. The loss of life, homes and property have impacted many of our parishes and many of our fellow citizens.  Catholic Charities in Denver is reaching out to those in need.  I urge all of us to pray for those who have been affected by the flood.

At the end of August, 160 people from throughout the archdiocese experienced the power of prayer first-hand during the archdiocesan pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe near Mexico City.  As the Year of Faith pilgrimage, the faith of those who went grew.  Many spoke of the graces they received from the pilgrimage, the Masses and the time in prayer.

I urge everyone in the archdiocese to turn to Our Lady as we cope with the aftermath of the floods; pray to her for protection and peace, because as she told St. Juan Diego, she is our mother.

There is another event that will soon be taking place in the archdiocese that Our Lady of Guadalupe is connected to as patroness of the unborn, and we should entrust it to her intercession. On Sept. 25, people committed to ending the scourge of abortion will begin holding vigil outside the Planned Parenthood facility at 38th Avenue and Pontiac Street in Denver as part of the 40 Days For Life fall campaign.
As this vigil launches, I believe we can learn about the power of prayer from an encounter that Jesus had just after he was transfigured before Peter, James and John.

“Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a dumb spirit … and I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” When the father brought his son to Jesus, the Lord rebuked the evil spirit and it left him. Later, the disciples asked Jesus, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting” (Mark 9: 17-18, 29).

As Jesus taught us, when he encountered the deaf and dumb spirit, prayer and fasting are powerful tools against evil and we must recognize that the fight for life takes place at the spiritual level as well as the physical. For this reason, the vigil will last 40 days and will involve prayer, fasting, peaceful protest and community outreach.

When a pregnant mother walks into an abortion facility, there are two souls entering those doors, there are two people who will be eternally impacted by the decisions that are made. If her boyfriend, husband, parents or friends are with her, then there are more souls in the balance—and that is not even including the clinic workers.
But there is something else Jesus said that I think is valuable for us as we work to protect the innocent unborn children who are in danger of being aborted.

The father approached Jesus and said, “‘If you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘If you can! All things are possible to him who believes’” (Mark 2:22-23).

“All things are possible to him who believes.” This should be our attitude as we work to show God’s mercy to those mothers who are contemplating abortion, as we strive to carry the peace of Jesus to a society where the culture of death and a culture of self-centered isolation are spreading.

And if we find ourselves despairing or not believing in God’s power as we talk to a mother thinking about an abortion or as we stand vigil for hours on end, we can cry out with the father of the boy, “I believe; help my unbelief!”  This is a poignant prayer for every Christian in this Year of Faith and beyond.

I plan to participate in this important event myself, as I did when I was bishop of Fargo, and I encourage all Catholics in the archdiocese to get involved in the work of building a culture of life.

Within the archdiocese, 40 Days For Life events are taking place in Boulder, Denver, Fort Collins, Greeley and Vail. There are also campaigns being held in the Colorado Springs and Pueblo dioceses. You can find out more info by visiting the website and selecting the appropriate location.

COMING UP: Collegiality and eucharistic integrity

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The concept of the “collegiality” of bishops has been sharply contested since the Second Vatican Council debated it in 1962, 1963, and 1964. That discussion was sufficiently contentious that a personal intervention from Pope Paul VI was required to incorporate the concept of episcopal collegiality within the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church in such a way that the pope’s primacy and universal jurisdiction were safeguarded. The debate about collegiality has continued ever since. Now, however, it’s focused more on what kind of collegiality exists within national conferences of bishops. Is it an “affective collegiality” of mutual support and encouragement? Or is episcopal collegiality within bishops’ conferences “effective,” such that a conference has real teaching and legislative authority?  

Whether collegiality is “affective,” “effective,” or some combination of the two, it ought to be clear what truly “collegial” behavior isn’t.   

It isn’t individual bishops attempting end-runs around their national conference, appealing for Roman interventions that would forestall debates that their brother bishops wish to engage. It isn’t bishops trying to browbeat the conference chairman into changing an agenda to suit the tastes of a distinct minority — and misleading their brother bishops as to what they’re about when soliciting support for such a gambit. And it isn’t trying to filibuster a conference meeting so that no action is possible on an agenda item that the great majority of bishops wish to consider and act upon. 

If any of those three maneuvers qualifies as collegial, then “collegiality” has no more meaning than the claim that my poor Baltimore Orioles have a great starting rotation. 

For years now — and by “years,” I mean long before the idea of a “President Biden” entered the stream of national consciousness — the bishops of the United States have been concerned that ours is becoming less of a eucharistic Church than Vatican II called us to be when it taught that the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of the Church’s life. Pope St. John Paul II reaffirmed that conciliar summons when, in his final encyclical, he taught that “the Church draws her life from the Eucharist,” which “recapitulates the heart and mystery of the Church.” Yet all around us we see declining Sunday Mass attendance: a sadness that preceded the pandemic but has been further exacerbated by it.  Moreover, surveys suggest that too many Catholics think of Sunday Mass as essentially a social occasion, rather than an encounter with the living God in which Christ is offered to the Father and is given back to his people in holy communion — a communion in and through the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ, received under the forms of bread and wine.

If the Church lives from the Eucharist and yet the people of the Church don’t participate in the Eucharist as often as they should, or don’t understand what they’re celebrating and receiving when they do, then the Church suffers from a serious eucharistic deficit. Those ordained to leadership in the Church are obliged to do something about that. 

That is why the U.S. bishops have been determined for some time to undertake a comprehensive program of eucharistic education throughout the Church. For the great majority of bishops, that determination has been intensified by the fact that our eucharistic deficit is being compounded by the eucharistic incoherence of public officials who, rejecting authoritative Catholic teaching based on both revelation and reason, nonetheless present themselves for holy communion as if they were in full communion with the Church. The longstanding episcopal failure to address this incoherence exacerbates the eucharistic deficit in American Catholicism by implying that the Church really doesn’t mean what it teaches about the sacred nature of the Eucharist. 

Those suggesting that this is all about “politics” are either ill-informed or deliberately misleading the Church and the gullible parts of the media. Concern for the eucharistic integrity of the Church includes, but goes much deeper than, concerns about the eucharistic incoherence of Catholic public officials who act as if the Church’s settled convictions on the life issues and on worthiness to receive holy communion don’t exist. That is why the U.S. bishops are forging ahead with developing a teaching document that will clarify for the whole Church why we are a Eucharistic community, what the Eucharist truly is, what reception of the Eucharist means, and why everyone in the Church should examine conscience before receiving Christ in the sacrament. 

The wheels of collegiality may grind slowly. In this case, however, they are grinding truly, and for the sake of the Gospel.

George Weigel is an independent columnist whose weekly column is syndicated by the Archdiocese of Denver. The opinions and viewpoints expressed by Mr. Weigel therein are his alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the Archdiocese of Denver or the bishops of Denver.