“Get right in there!”

Lobbying’s behind me, but civic engagement isn’t. I keep track of what my state legislature is doing and not doing on things like the right to life. A few days hence – when I’ll be away, as it happens – there will be seven hearings over two days on relevant bills.

Part of the work I do is to inform and encourage people who are concerned about human dignity, but who are still learning how to put that concern into public policy action. I sat down yesterday to write about the seven hearings – seven, when it can be a challenge to get people to turn out for even one.

Should I bother? I’m called to say Yes, whether I see results or not.

I keep in mind something Pope Francis said in 2015 in one of his unscripted moments. He was speaking to Catholic laity in Rome for a conference. From Carol Glatz of NCR Online:

Catholics must get involved in politics even if it may be “dirty,” frustrating and fraught with failure, Pope Francis said. Given today’s “throwaway” culture and so many problems unfolding in the world, “Do I as a Catholic watch from my balcony? No, you can’t watch from the balcony. Get right in there!” he said.

One man asked how to keep strong the link between faith in Jesus and the responsibility of building a more just and caring world.

Christians have a duty to work for the common good in the world of politics, the pope said, adding that that does not mean forming a Catholic political party.

“That is not the way. The church is the community of Christians who adore the Father, follow the way of the Son and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is not a political party,” he said.

However, individual Catholics must get involved and “embroiled” in politics, he said, because it is one of the “highest forms of charity” since it seeks the common good.

NCR Online, 5/1/15, accessed 2/4/23

Embroiled. Perfect term for how it sometimes feels for a lay Catholic to step up and testify in front of people who just don’t want to hear it, even though they were elected to listen.

So yes, I’ll write about seven hearings for the readers who ask me what’s happening at the State House. Those are the people who’ll take the information and “get right in there,” urging representatives to do the right things, in season and out of season.

9 Days for Life: join the novena

Beginning today, you can join others in a focused nine-day program of prayer and reading for the protection of human life at all its stages. 9 Days for Life is about praying and reflecting together, even when we’re not gathered in one place.

I won’t be in Washington for this week’s March for Life, even though the march marks two significant events: the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and last June’s Dobbs decision that overturned Roe. The bishop in my diocese decided some weeks ago not to sponsor buses to the 2023 march, despite having done so in earlier years, in order to underscore the Supreme Court’s decision to return abortion policy to the states.

Parishes are instead holding events of their own: specially-scheduled Masses, Eucharistic Adoration, life-issue films, and so forth. Our state march for life, held last weekend, was preceded by a Mass and followed by a reception and conference at the church hall. It’s safe to say that the local Catholics aren’t making the mistake of thinking that abortion is some kind of settled issue.

Still, there’s something missing as I skip this year’s trip to Washington: the overwhelming mutual support and combined voices of my sisters and brothers in faith from all over the country. The March for Life claims no religious affiliation, and all who come in peace are welcomed to it. All I have to do is look around the National Mall and the march route, though, to find students from Catholic colleges and parishioners from many states. I’ve been to pre-March Masses at different churches in D.C., packed with travelers fresh off their chartered buses. There’s a unity and common faith that overcomes – for awhile, anyway – the sense of dislocation that can go along with being pro-life in an abortion-friendly community.

9 Days for Life can remind us of that unity and faith. I don’t need to travel to Washington to participate.

I’ll miss the trip to D.C., the interesting company, even the Washington street vendors with their hot pretzels that have always sustained me on cold mornings before marches in past years. That’s okay. I can probably find hot pretzels here in New Hampshire if I put my mind to it.

I’ll go find the pretzels after I register via text for the novena, which will result in my getting a daily text with a theme and prayer. Text 9DAYS (no spaces) to 84576 to sign up. You can also find all the information about the novena at the 9 Days for Life website.

A week of observances

Today is a federal holiday, honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.

Later this week will be the 50th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.

This is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, an ecumenical project promoted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The year’s theme is “Do Good; Seek Justice.” We included prayers for that intention at Mass at my parish over the weekend.

I perceive a common theme.

Dr. King strove for the recognition – not the creation, but recognition – of the inherent rights of all human beings. Whatever civil rights might mean to the politicians making speeches today, I can’t see that any rights make sense unless the right to life is recognized first.

I couldn’t look anyone in the eye and say that I support that human being’s right to vote but only after someone else allows that human being to live.

Honoring Dr. King, recalling Roe, seeking justice: defending the right to life does all three.