Thoughts on a pro-life picket line

George Weigel

One of Dr. LeRoy Carhart’s “Clinics for Abortion & Reproductive Excellence” – named to yield the Orwellian acronym CARE – is located about a mile away from my parish in Bethesda, Maryland. Earlier this year, 40 Days for Life prayed daily outside Carhart’s abortuary, which specializes in late-term “terminations.” Parishioners from a number of local churches participated in the 40 Days program, hoping to save some innocent lives and to help women in crisis pregnancies find genuine care.  

Forty Days’ presence at the Carhart facility evidently did not sit well with some of the students at a nearby county-run high school. So a “pro-choice drive-by” of Carhart’s clinic was organized in mid-December: perhaps 15 cars, festooned with posters, circled the parking lot of the office complex in which Carhart conducts his abattoir. Participants in the drive-by may have been surprised that 40 Days for Life, on learning of the plans for this vehicular demonstration, invited pro-life people to conduct a rosary vigil on a sidewalk outside the parking lot, so that the “drive-by” couldn’t avoid people with a different point of view – people who were also marking the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, depicted as pregnant on St. Juan Diego’s miraculous tilma.  

My wife and I participated in the rosary vigil, along with friends from our parish, other Catholics, and a stalwart if small contingent of Democrats for Life whose presence may have shocked the Carhart supporters. It was an instructive hour, giving me the opportunity to ponder the placards and posters displayed by the drive-by people, their slogans, and the chants of a man and a woman holding up a large banner – “Reproductive Rights = Human Rights” – amidst our rosary-praying group. 

To begin with the last: it was striking that, while the 20 or so people in our group were relaxed and as cheerful as the circumstances permitted, the two banner holders were all angry, all the time. Both indulged in Che Guevara-style clenched fist salutes. Both kept hollering the inane slogan, “Keep your Bible off my body,” although it was not clear how that injunction applied to the male half of the team. (He later switched to “Keep your Bible off my Constitution,” a chant suggesting a sad ignorance of the reason-based natural law arguments against abortion.)

Then there was the content of that banner. Whatever else might be said about angry pro-abortion people (whose aggravations seem not to have been soothed by the prospect of the most radically pro-abortion administration in history), they don’t seem to have any sense of irony – or of Newspeak. For how can they claim to be defending “reproductive rights” when their entire enterprise is aimed at stopping reproduction, lethally? 

As for the student-participants in the drive-by, their behavior did not reassure me that my tax dollars were being well-spent on their education, and in a county that prides itself on the alleged excellence of its state schools. More than a few of them flipped the finger at us (and thus at the icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe that one of our number carried). Others made a point of taking cellphone videos, perhaps imagining that their new friends in federal power would ship us off to Guantanamo come January 21. One car featured a crude, homemade poster declaring “Never Going Back!” and illustrated by the hoariest of “pro-choice” symbols: a coat hanger crossed out within a circle. Their high school, I surmised, did not acquaint its students with some relevant American history, i.e., Bernard Nathanson’s testimony that, in his days as a pre-Roe v. Wade pro-abortion activist, he and others exaggerated the number of “coat hanger” abortions by many orders of magnitude. 

There was no opportunity to engage the drive-by folks. One would have liked to ask the students if they were taught in sophomore biology that the product of human conception is a human being with a unique genetic identity. Or whether they had ever discussed in class that first principle of justice, enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, which tells us that innocent human life deserves legal protection in a just society. Or if they knew exactly what Dr. Carhart did in a late third-term abortion. 

Reason rarely persuades angry people, alas. In the tough years ahead for the culture of life, compassionate witness is going to be ever more important: especially the witness of caring for women in crisis pregnancies, too often abandoned by the men who created their crises. No woman in America has to have an abortion; humane, life-affirming alternatives are available. Pro-life people must make those alternatives more visible in 2021.

COMING UP: ‘I have seen the Lord’: St. Vincent de Paul’s new adoration chapel honors St. Mary Magdelene’s witness

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“I have seen the Lord.” (John 20:18). 

One couple from St. Vincent de Paul parish took these words to heart with urgency last year during the pandemic and decided to build a Eucharistic Adoration chapel for their fellow faithful to be in the Lord’s presence themselves. 

Mike and Shari Sullivan donated design and construction of the new Eucharistic Adoration Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene adjacent to their parish church to make a space for prayer and adoration that they felt needed to be reinstated, especially during the difficult days of COVID-19. 

The chapel was completed this spring and dedicated during Divine Mercy weekend with a special blessing from Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila. 

“It was invigorating to have the archbishop bless the chapel,” Mike said. “The church has been buzzing.” 

Mike has been a Catholic and a member of St. Vincent de Paul since his baptism, which he jokes was around the time the cornerstone was placed in 1951. The Sullivans’ five children all attended the attached school and had their sacraments completed at St. Vincent de Paul too. 

Archbishop Samuel Aquila dedicated the St. Mary Magdalene adoration chapel with a prayer and blessing at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church on April 9, 2021, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic)

The 26-by 40-foot chapel is a gift to fellow parishioners of a church that has meant so much to their family for decades, and to all who want to participate in prayer and adoration. 

The architect and contractor are both Catholic, which helped in the design of Catholic structure and the construction crew broke ground in mid-December. The Sullivans wanted to reclaim any Catholic artifacts or structural pieces they could for the new chapel. Some of the most striking features of the chapel are the six stained glass windows Mike was able to secure from a demolished church in New York. 

The windows were created by Franz Xaver Zettler who was among a handful of artists known for the Munich style of stained glass from the 19th century.  The Munich style is accomplished by painting detailed pictures on large pieces of glass unlike other stained-glass methods, which use smaller pieces of colored glass to make an image. 

The two primary stained-glass windows depict St. Augustine and St. Mary Magdalene, the chapel’s namesake, and they frame either side of the altar which holds the tabernacle and monstrance — both reused from St.  Vincent De Paul church.  

The Sullivans wanted to design a cloistered feel for the space and included the traditional grill and archway that opens into the pews and kneelers with woodwork from St. Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana. 

The chapel was generously donated by Mike and Shari Sullivan. The stained glass windows, which depict St. Augustine and St. Mary Magdalene, were created by Franz Xaver Zettler, who was among a handful of artists known for the Munich style of stained glass from the 19th century. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic)

Shari is a convert to Catholicism and didn’t grow up with the practice of Eucharistic adoration, but St. Vincent de Paul pastor Father John Hilton told her to watch how adoration will transform the parish. She said she knows it will, because of what regular Eucharistic adoration has done for her personally. 

The Sullivans are excited that the teachers at St. Vincent de Paul school plan to bring their classes to the warm and inviting chapel to learn about the practice of adoration and reflect on the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. 

The words of St. Mary Magdalene “I have seen the Lord,” have become the motto of the chapel, Mike said, and they are emblazoned on a brass plaque to remind those who enter the holy space of Christ’s presence and the personal transformation offered to those inside.

The St. Vincent de Paul  Church and The Eucharistic Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene is located at 2375 E. Arizona Ave. Denver 80210 on the corner of Arizona and Josephine Street. The chapel is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. Visit https://saintvincents.org/adorationchapel1 for more information about the chapel and to look for updates on expanded hours as they occur.