This past Saturday was a first for me. I was asked to give a short pro-life speech on the steps of the New Hampshire State House. The occasion was the New Hampshire March for Life, an annual event sponsored by New Hampshire Right to Life that always precedes the big march of the same name in Washington, D.C.
This Ad Rem will be a written reconstruction of that speech based on the threefold outline I had settled upon that morning while praying before Holy Mass.
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I would like to speak about three things today: (1) the Light, (2) the Law, and (3) the Weapon.
The Light. I know a lot of people are discouraged now. There are reasons to be discouraged. Darkness seems to be ascendant, victorious, triumphant. But it’s always darkest just before the dawn. Which brings me to my first subject, “the Light.” What light am I talking about? The Light of Christ, of course! We Catholics are in the middle of the octave of the Epiphany, a liturgical celebration of eight days. It goes from Epiphany day — January 6 — to the eighth day of the Epiphany, January 13. This feast gives us the second part of the Christmas season, which is called “Epiphanytide.” On the Epiphany and for its octave and its season, the Church celebrates three great mysteries: (1) The Visit of the Magi, (2) the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, and (3) the Wedding Feast at Cana. All three mysteries are mysteries of Light. They are all mysteries of “showing-forth” — which is what epipháneia means in Greek: a showing forth or manifestation.
We in the West emphasize the Visit of the Magi on the Epiphany. They were led to Jesus by that star that was revealed all the way back in the book of Numbers, when Balaam prophesied that “a star shall rise out of Jacob.” The traditions of that star were kept alive in the East. When these Wise Men saw it from their home in modern-day Iraq, they were enlightened by grace more than by their astrology to know that this was the sign foretold of the Promised One. They were astrologers, yes, but they also believed in one true God. They followed that light, and it led them to “THE LIGHT.”
This is the Light spoken of by Saint John in the prologue to his Gospel:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
That’s the saddest verse of Scripture: “The darkness did not comprehend it.”
Saint John goes on:
That was the true light, which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
How does the life that is the light of men enlighten every man that comes into this world? By two lights. All men have the light of human reason. This comes to us by that divine Logos by whom we were all created. It is a reflection of Him in whose image we were made. The light of natural reason is very important, but there is a higher light, the light of faith. This is a supernatural light that comes to us through the gift of divine grace. Because receiving the gift of faith is considered an “enlightenment,” “Illumination” is the ancient Christian name for the sacrament of Baptism. Some of our Eastern brethren still use this expression for holy Baptism.
What does all this have to do with the Pro-Life cause and ridding our society of that abomination we call abortion?
A lot. Both lights — the light of natural reason itself as well as the light of faith — reveal this horrible deed to be darkness, to be wicked; these two lights reveal two laws that we need. And, that brings me to my second point.
The Law. The light of natural reason reveals to us the Natural Law. The light of supernatural revelation imparts to us the Law of Grace, which comes to us through Holy Scripture and Tradition. The Natural Law is what the Apostle Saint Paul describes as written on the hearts of the Gentiles who did not have the benefit of the supernaturally revealed Law of Moses:
For when the Gentiles, who have not the law, do by nature those things that are of the law; these having not the law are a law to themselves: Who shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness to them, and their thoughts between themselves accusing, or also defending one another (Rom. 2:14-15).
All men have been enlightened by the Logos, “the light of men” (John 1:4), to know the Natural Law; and that is why all men have consciences. It’s why we all know when we do wrong and why we consequently feel guilty. Even the pro-aborts know that murder is a sin; they know — many of them — that what they are doing is wrong. The Supreme Court Justices who gave us that horrible decision known as “Roe v. Wade” egregiously violated the Natural Law. They closed their eyes to the Logos, to light of natural reason, and they consequently violated that Divine Law that was written on their hearts.
To be saved, we need the two lights emanating from the Logos as well as the laws that they reveal to us. To be a just civil society, we need at least the Natural Law. To be a Christian civil society — which is what we all here want — we need also the supernatural Law of Grace as well as the Natural Law to enlighten those who govern society.
There is something I want to say about the Natural Law before I move on to my third part, “the Weapon.” I’m going to say something that perhaps some here will disagree with. But, I ask you all to examine your hearts and see if you are on the right side here. There is an “evil twin” that always accompanies the sin of abortion. You might say that it is abortion’s dark mirror of John the Baptist; this evil is the forerunner of abortion. What am I talking about? Contraception. Historically, ethically, medically, and legally, contraception and abortion are always together. The same herbs used in antiquity to commit the one sin also caused the other to happen, just as modern-day chemical contraceptives are often abortifacient. Legally, Roe v. Wade was heralded by Griswold v. Connecticut.
Contraception is a violation of the Natural Law written by God on the heart of man. God had a very powerful way of telling the faithful of the Old Testament what He thought of this abomination. In Genesis chapter 38, a man named Onan commits this sin and was struck dead by God for it: “And therefore the Lord slew him, because he did a detestable thing” (Genesis 38:10).
We will never win the abortion battle until we get the issue of birth control right. You may say, “That’s hard. It’s one thing to convince people of the evil of abortion; that’s murder — but how can you convince people that contraception is wrong? Nobody believes that!” Ladies and Gentlemen, look at a Crucifix. That was hard, too. Convincing the pagan world that this Jew who died on a Roman instrument of capital punishment is the One True God was “difficult.” This, too, was a hard pill to swallow. But eleven million martyrs later, and the Roman Empire was Christianized. We need to witness to this truth concerning the “evil twins” of contraception and abortion. We simply will not win this war against baby killing if we don’t.
The Weapon. Speaking of war brings me to “the Weapon.” I’m going to show you my weapon. Don’t worry, it won’t go “bang,” but it will make a much bigger bang in eternity than weapons that make sensible noise. Do you see this? This is my weapon. It’s the Rosary. Do you know why friars in the Middle Ages wore these on their left-hand side, where I just had mine hanging on my belt? Because that’s where knights wore their swords! This is a spiritual sword.
In the high Middle Ages, there was a Pro-Death heresy called Albigensianism or Catharism. It was primarily in southern France and Northern Italy. The sectarians of this dualistic heresy believed that there were two gods who had equal power. The good god made spirits, but the evil god made matter. Therefore, all matter is evil. Therefore, marriage is evil because it is all about procreation, which traps good souls in evil matter. Sex was evil to them for this reason, but so were Christian sacraments because the sacraments require matter. The Alibgensians were pro-death because they raised suicide and even murder to the status of what we would call sacraments.
God raised up a great saint to battle this particular heresy. His name was Saint Dominic de Guzman, and he was the founder of the Order of Preachers. Besides his preaching and the preaching of his brethren, what was his weapon to defeat this heresy? It was this — THE ROSARY, with its fifteen mysteries and its 150 Hail Marys, symbolizing the 150 Psalms in the Old Testament. There is something both life-affirming and lightsome about each one of these mysteries. They were, in so many ways, diametrically opposed to the anti-Incarnational, anti-material heresy of the Albigensians: The Joyful mysteries — the Annunciation of Saint Gabriel to Mary, the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, the Nativity of Our Lord, the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, and His Finding in the Temple — these are all mysteries of light. They are the mysteries we contemplate the most in this part of the Church’s liturgical calendar. They are full of the beautiful light of Christ, born as He was on the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year, and on the Jewish feast of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights.
The Sorrowful Mysteries speak to us of the Light, too. But they show us the contrast of Light and Darkness. These are the mysteries of Our Lord’s Passion — the Agony in the Garden, the Scourging at the Pillar, the Crowning with Thorns, the Carrying of the Cross, and finally the Crucifixion. Remember: “the darkness did not comprehend it”! Saint John also wrote that, “Men loved darkness rather than the light: for their works were evil” (John 3:19). What happens when the Darkness does not want to be enlightened? It reaches out to extinguish the light — to kill the Light of the World! But the divine irony is that when the Darkness finally killed the Light, the Darkness lost and man’s salvation was won.
Then we have the Glorious Mysteries: the Resurrection of Our Lord, His glorious Ascension into Heaven, the Descent of the Holy Ghost, the Assumption of Our Lady, and Her Coronation. These mysteries point us toward the full light of glory in Heaven. Our Lady here in Her Assumption is an example of what the Church is to be: holy, perfect, saved, assumed into Heaven. She is the great achievement of the Church, the holiest of all human persons. Saint Augustine said that Mary conceived the Word in Her mind before She conceived Him in Her womb. As for Her Coronation, Saint Augustine also tells us that when God crowns our good works, He is only crowning His gifts. We must cooperate with these gifts of grace — we must cooperate as Mary did.
All of these mysteries are full of life and light. You might say they are all “luminous” mysteries. This isn’t just a sword — it’s a “light saber”!
Let us all open ourselves to the two-fold Light of Christ; let us embrace His two-fold Law, and let each one of us wield this lightsome sword of the Rosary to fight the enemies of our salvation and to extend the Kingdom of God on earth.
Thank you very much for listening.