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BOSTON -- The Cathedral of the Holy Cross hosted two televised events coinciding with the virtual March for Life on Jan. 29: a Holy Hour for Life, held in coordination with other dioceses across the country, and a Mass for Giving Thanks to God for the Gift of Human Life.
The National Prayer Vigil for Life normally takes place in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., the night before the March for Life. This year, due to local restrictions on attendance sizes during the coronavirus pandemic, the vigil took place virtually, with bishops across the country leading livestreamed Holy Hours throughout the night of Jan. 28-29. The vigil began at the basilica at 8 p.m. on Jan. 28 with the praying of the rosary, followed by Mass and the first Holy Hour.
Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley presided over the final Holy Hour, which took place from 7 to 8 a.m. on Jan. 29, in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. During this hour, the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth took turns leading the decades of the rosary, and Dr. Kerry Pound, a member of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, gave a reflection on her work as a pro-life physician.
Dr. Pound described various ways that the pro-life worldview is at odds with secular culture, which promotes abortion, physician-assisted suicide, and casual sex. She said she often feels as though she is living in the wrong time, doing the wrong work, living in the wrong society.
Yet, she said, this feeling should not be surprising, since Jesus forewarned his followers.
"Jesus explained that this is exactly how we would feel if we were following close at his feet. He told us that 'Narrow is the Gate and difficult is the way that leads to life.'He made it clear that we would feel as foreigners and be persecuted in our own culture," Dr. Pound said.
She said that God provides the Eucharist, the Church, and the Scriptures so people can remain close to him. However, she said, "for those who do not know the Lord, the way is very different."
Dr. Pound described the scenario of a woman raised in the secular culture who becomes pregnant and is presented the "solution" of abortion.
"The solution of darkness and death looks appealing when you have never met the source of light and life," she said.
Dr. Pound said that woman must be introduced to the source of life.
"Committing ourselves to work for life, helping at pregnancy centers, praying at abortion facilities, we must walk with scared, lonely women in unplanned pregnancies and offer them solutions of love and hope -- caring for both spiritual and real physical and practical needs," Dr. Pound said.
She then described the situation of an elderly person with dementia, to whom "the world" would like to offer death as an escape. She insisted that we must offer "love and companionship" and "share life with him and others suffering near the end of life."
"To these lonely, confused, suffering souls, we can offer them exactly what Christ offers us -- himself.Because into our messy world, came a baby," Dr. Pound said.
She spoke of the wonder of the Incarnation and the sacrificial love that it demonstrates.
"We live this same sacrificial love when we give of ourselves -- often uncomfortably -- entering the woundedness and confusion of another; introducing others to Christ; praying with them, reading Scripture with them and understanding and providing for their very real practical needs to meet them where they are -- showing them a different way -- a way that embraces life," she said.
Dr. Pound said that those who stand up for life can expect persecution and loneliness.
"We are not made for this world -- but we are indeed made for 'a time such as this!'" she said, quoting Esther 4:14.
In addition to presiding over the Holy Hour, Cardinal O'Malley also celebrated a "Mass for Giving Thanks to God for the Gift of Human Life," which aired on Jan. 29 on The CatholicTV Network at 11 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. The video of this Mass was shared with parish and school groups so they could view it together, creating a sense of unity despite being apart due to the pandemic.
In his homily, Cardinal O'Malley reflected on the Gospel reading of the Visitation. He noted that both Mary and Elizabeth experienced pregnancies "fraught with challenges."
"In both cases, the children about to be born are being born into a hostile world, but their births will change the course of history," the cardinal said.
He spoke about Nellie Gray, the founder of the March for Life. Cardinal O'Malley worked with her when she organized the first march just a year after Roe v. Wade was passed, and he has participated in every march since.
He noted that in the 48 years since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in the U.S., over 61 million babies have been aborted, making abortion the number one cause of death in the country.
"The pro-life movement is very much about working to change laws, but even more it must be about changing hearts," he said.
Cardinal O'Malley said he hopes that many of the young people participating in the virtual march will aspire to be leaders and public servants.
"You must be artisans of a more just society based on an unswerving defense of human life when it is most vulnerable," he said.
To this end, he encouraged them to pursue holiness, as Pope Francis has said, through prayer and community.
"Nurturing your spiritual life through prayer and sacraments and learning more about the Catholic faith and our rich social doctrine are the best preparation that you can have to fulfill your mission," Cardinal O'Malley said.