by Ed Harpring
This year, with our unusually warm weather, we have been prematurely catapulted forward into spring. As much as I am enjoying the early warm weather, I almost feel like I am getting my dessert before dinner. In other words, I feel a little guilty, that I haven’t properly journeyed through the cold winter’s days to earn the joy of springtime. A famous quote that leads us to the same place is “Remember, there is no Resurrection without the Crucifixion; No Easter Sunday without Good Friday; No empty tomb without the Cross.”
So, as much as my weak human constitution would like to, we can’t just skip over Lent and fast forward ourselves to Easter Sunday. In general terms, most of us think of Lent as the preparation for Easter, the highest Feast Days in our Catholic faith, through prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
In the past, as Lent would approach, I would struggle to decide what I should give up. So many times it came down to “fasting” from some type of snack food. And while there is growth in terms of self-mastery and proper focus, it always felt somewhat shallow to simply give up chocolate and think that I was going to really grow spiritually.
Certainly, I thought, there must be other ways I could enter into Lent to gain a more profound experience as to the real meaning of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
Around 2009, I heard about 40 Days for Life, a Life-affirming Ministry that began originally in 2004 by a local group of college students in Bryan-College Station, Texas, led by David Bereit. The 40 Days name refers to a pattern of several events lasting for 40 days repeated in the Bible, such as in Noah’s Ark, Moses’s 40 days on Mount Sinai, and Jesus’ 40 days in the desert.
The founders prayed and asked what could God accomplish if one community pulled out all the stops and united together for 40 days to end the violence of abortion?
- How would believers and parishioners be transformed?
- How would the lives of mothers and their babies be saved from abortion?
- How would faith communities be transformed?
- What effect would that transformation have across the rest of our nation?
Now, in 2017, we know the incredible impact 40 Days for Life has had in transforming our country:
12,668 Lives Saved
143 Abortion Workers Quit
307 Cities Worldwide Participate
83 Abortion Centers Closed
40 Countries Affected
Now, 40 Days for Life is well entrenched into the Archdiocese of Louisville and across many faith communities in the Louisville area. It aligns well with the tenets of Lent with the 3 pillars of:
40 days of Ongoing Prayer Vigil
40 days of Fasting
40 days of Public Witness
As I learned in 2009, 40 Days for Life is an ideal way to prepare for the joy of Easter. I encourage all of our parishioners to join with others across our city to pray and fast for an end to abortion, and for healing of the many men and women who have been mortally wounded by abortion.
Over the years I have received comments from many parishioners who had a very powerful spiritual experience and a better awareness of the sanctity of life after they spent an hour in prayer at the abortion site. Tragically, in 2016 over 3000 mothers entered the local abortion facility. And yet, like the lost sheep, through prayer fasting and public witness, nearly 100 women and men changed their minds and hearts about abortion and decided for Life! As St. John Paul II so fittingly stated, “Prayer joined to sacrifice constitutes the most powerful force in human history.”