FRAMINGHAM — Beginning a tradition it hopes to continue, the West Region of the Archdiocese of Boston coordinated a Mass in honor of unborn children to be held on March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation, which commemorates the Incarnation of Jesus. The Knights of Columbus initiated the practice of marking the feast with a Mass for the unborn three years ago.
According to Marianne Luthin, director of the Pro-Life Office in the archdiocese, it was the first time the archdiocese celebrated a Mass for the unborn on the Feast of the Annunciation. The idea, she said, was borrowed from the Knights of Columbus.
Msgr. Francis V. Strahan, VF, offered his parish, St. Bridget in Framingham, as the site of the Mass. Several members of the Knights of Columbus attended the Mass.
"Hopefully, it is a tradition that has begun and will expand," Luthin said. "The beauty of the Feast of the Annunciation brings home the teachings of the Church on the sanctity of life."
Bishop Walter J. Edyvean, regional bishop of the West Region, celebrated the Vigil Mass. In his homily, Bishop Edyvean touched upon the significance of the Feast of the Annunciation in history. In the Julian calendar, March 25 is the first day of spring, he said, and was considered the beginning of the year by others.
"But the striking symbolic associations with this day, in the tradition which goes beyond the Bible, are that this day was thought to mark the birth of Adam, the first man, and also the conception of Christ, the second Adam in whom all of humanity is taken up," Bishop Edyvean said.
Bishop Edyvean went on to state that human life in all its stages is sacred. The act of conceiving of a child is even more hallowed than human life itself, because God intervenes in the creation of new life, he continued. God so esteemed humanity that He allowed His Son to become man, Bishop Edyvean said.
"The Annunciation shows that God has elevated to a yet higher plan parenthood and the conception of a new human life," he told the congregation. "The Annunciation means as well that human life was elevated to the state that it was fully shared in by God in the person of His Son Jesus Christ."
Because we live in a culture of death, we often do not realize that life is a gift given by God, Bishop Edyvean said. However, it is the responsibility of Christians to defend the sanctity of life at all costs.
"When this sacredness is threatened as it is by a philosophy of weak thought, selfishness, a false sense of personal dominion over life, laws, governments and advocates of a culture of death, we must awaken to the mystery celebrated in the liturgy of this day," he declared. "Life belongs to God in creation and to Christ in the work of redemption and in His own full participation in the realities of conception and natural death, albeit at the violent hands of others."
Speaking after Mass, Msgr. Strahan thanked members of the pro-life movement for their dedication to preserving life.
"You will always be welcomed back here" to St. Bridget's, he said. "I hope that this tradition continues in the West Region [of the archdiocese]. There is nothing more precious than human life."
State Deputy of the Massachusetts Knights of Columbus, Thomas Ledbetter, proclaimed one of the readings at the Mass. He was pleased that the archdiocese decided to follow the Knights’ lead in holding a Mass for the unborn on the Feast of the Annunciation.
"This is a spiritual refreshment for people who participate in the pro-life movement," said Ledbetter, who hopes the Mass will be held next year as well.
People from all corners of the archdiocese attended the Mass. Agnes McHugh, a parishioner at St. Mary Parish in Franklin involved in parish pro-life activities, came to the Mass with her sisters.
"We try to attend anything that brings to light the fact that life itself is precious," she said. "We want to see that life is preserved."
"The unborn deserve our prayers and recognition as do their mothers who may have decided to terminate their pregnancies," said Lisa Keaveney of St. Bridget Parish. Having the Mass for the unborn on the Feast of the Annunciation is "very symbolic," she said.
Lori Duggan attended the Mass with her mother and her two young sons. Duggan was injured in a car accident after college and said that her health and her life were “dramatically improved” by the birth of her children.
"There is nothing better than babies," she said as she rocked her seven-month-old son Joseph. "They are a wonderful blessing."