Rebuilding a Culture of Life #prolife


In John Paul II’s encyclical, Familiaris Consortio, (On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World), he states (p. 45) “The Church is called upon to manifest anew to everyone, with clear and stronger conviction, her will to promote human life by every means and to defend it against all attacks, in whatever condition or state of development it is found.

Our society has become a culture of death. This is most obvious now that several states in the USA allow for abortion up to the moment of delivery.  In January, Gov. Cuomo signed into law the Reproductive Health Act, which expands abortion rights and essentially allows abortion up to the moment of delivery.  In the photo of the signing, every person is smiling joyfully. Crowds cheered when the news came that New York would allow abortion up to the moment of birth. World Trade Center 1 was lit in pink to “celebrate.”

I’ve been pregnant eleven times with twelve babies (five living sons), and I just cannot comprehend how anyone could be elated and happy that a baby can be killed up to the moment of delivery.   Just 20 years ago, President Bill Clinton said that abortion should be, “safe, legal and rare.”   What happened to that attitude?

Since 1969, Canada has had no restrictions or law regarding abortion. Killing an unborn child is legal right up to the moment of delivery.

Until recently, the movie “Unplanned,” was banned in Canada. Based on Abby Johnson’s compelling book , theaters here in Canada initially “claimed” that it was too controversial. However, these same theaters also regularly show movies with graphic sexuality, language and violence. Thankfully, Landmark and others have overturned this decision and we will be seeing Unplanned at theaters in Canada beginning July 12.

Our own grandchild is currently weeks away from being born and yet here in Canada, my daughter-in-law could legally walk into any clinic or hospital and kill her baby. Thankfully, she and my son are staunchly pro-life.  But thinking about the innocence and defenselessness of a small baby being murdered at any point in pregnancy breaks my heart.  How has our world gotten to this point where such an evil act can be considered a good thing and something to rejoice about?  And can anything be done to turn the tide back to embracing all life from conception to natural death?

“The ultimate test of your greatness is the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenseless. If you want equal justice for all and true freedom and lasting peace, then defend life.” St. John Paul II

What about cases of rape?  That’s what my husband and I are always asked when we talk to high school students about the evil of abortion.  First, pregnancy from rape is rare.  Yes, it happens, but it’s less than one percent of all abortions. Second, seventy percent of women who are raped and become pregnant decide to continue the pregnancy. Some keep their babies; others give their babies up for adoption.  The innocent baby does not deserve the death penalty for the sin of his father.  For a compelling story, watch this beautiful testimony from Jennifer Christie.

We must do more to fight against the culture of death by rebuilding a culture of life. Here are a few ways to do so:

Prayer and Fasting
Never underestimate the power of prayer and fasting. Daily Mass, the daily Rosary, a weekly fast (especially on Fridays) and other forms of prayer have more effect than we can possibly realize. Spiritually adopting a baby in danger of abortion is a beautiful way we can build the culture of life. Try to recite the Litany of the Saints daily. We can never know the effect that our prayers have had (until we die), but be assured this is one of the most important ways to rebuild a culture of life.

Chastity, NFP and Openness to Life
All Christians (not just Catholics) are called to practice chastity and be open to life. Being chaste before marriage and practicing marital chastity (faithfulness) is essential for building a culture of life. Contraception is “intrinsically evil,” (CCC 2370) it harms marriages and separates couples physically and spiritually. Natural Family Planning (www.ccli.org) is a safe, moral and effective way to avoid and plan pregnancies.

Some contraceptives are actually abortifacient (cause early abortions), rather than preventing conception. In certain parts of the world, abortion is used as a contraceptive and pre-born baby girls are being killed by the thousands simply because they are female.

This also includes treating children as blessings rather than burdens.  Children are a gift from God.  Is parenthood hard work?  You bet it is.  But these little human beings deserve our attention, love and respect.

Vote Pro-Life
Make sure that your voice heard. Register to vote and vote often and whenever the opportunity arises. This can be no more evident than in our upcoming presidential election. Although I have been living in Canada for 37 years, I remain a US citizen and I have continued to vote in US Federal Elections.

Corporal/Spiritual Works of Mercy
Performing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy will also help to rebuild a culture of life because these works will help build spiritual character. When we are closer to Christ, we are closer to a culture of life.

The corporal works of mercy, based on Matthew 25:31-36, are: 1. feed the hungry 2. give drink to the thirsty 3. clothe the naked 4. shelter the homeless 5. visit the imprisoned 6. care for the sick 7. bury the dead.

Being pro-life doesn’t mean that we stop support for women with unplanned pregnancies when they have their babies. Donating clothes and food to crisis pregnancy centers and spiritual support are essential in rebuilding a culture of life.

And being pro-life also doesn’t just mean being against abortion; it also means respecting and defending life at all stages. Donating blood (if you’re able to), visiting the elderly, the sick and those who are confined to their homes are all wonderful ways to rebuild the culture of life.

The spiritual works of mercy, commanded or encouraged in many places Scripture, are: 1. admonish the sinner 2. instruct the ignorant 3. counsel the doubtful 4. comfort the afflicted 5. bear wrongs patiently 6. forgive all injuries 7. pray for the living and dead.

Peaceful Pro-Life Events
Attend peaceful pro-life events like the National March for Life (in the USA it is held every January; in Canada, it is held every May around Mother’s Day), the Hike for Life and other Pro-Life rallies.

Patience and Charity
It’s important to be patient and charitable when speaking to, interacting with, or debating with, those who are pro-abortion. Many of these fiercely pro-choice women have had abortions.

St. Teresa of Calcutta said, “If you judge someone, you have no time to love them.” Try not to be judgmental of the person (always separate the person from the sin). In some cases, these women were coerced by their partners or parents (those who should’ve been protecting them) into having an abortion.

Be a Good Example
Being a good example of Christian virtue is another great way to rebuild a culture of life. Volunteer at or support a pro-life crisis pregnancy center, embrace faithful Catholicism and donate money to causes that will rebuild the culture a life.

Helpful Pro-Life Resources:

Familiaris Consortio by John Paul II

Persuasive Pro-Life: How to Talk About Our Culture’s Toughest Issue by Trent Horn and Fr. Frank Pavone (foreword)

Abolishing Abortion: How You Can Play a Part in Ending the Greatest Evil of Our Day by Fr. Frank Pavone

Pro-Life Answers to Pro-Choice Questions by Randy Alcorn 

Pregnant from Rape: Jennifer Christie

EWTN Pro-Life Weekly

Unplanned by Abby Johnson

If each of us does our own part, we can rebuild a culture of life, one in which every life is respected and valued from conception to natural death.

Copyright 2019 Ellen Gable Hrkach

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Strengthen Your Lenten Journey Through #Fasting

When you hear the word “fasting,” do you automatically cringe? Do you dread Ash Wednesday or Good Friday? Or do you embrace the self-denial of fasting on those days? If you’re like most people, you might not look forward to Ash Wednesday or Good Friday, the Church’s compulsory days of fasting. However, when you become accustomed to the regular practice of fasting throughout the year, these “compulsory” days are opportunities for abundant graces and spiritual growth.

Many people mistakenly believe that fasting belongs only in the Penitential Season of Lent. However, the regular self-denial of fasting is a positive and generous act that we can do all year round. After all, Jesus fasted — and He fasted before every major event in His life — and His apostles fasted. In Scripture, fasting is mentioned numerous times in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.” Matthew 6:16-18

“But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up. After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why couldn’t we drive it (demon) out?’ He replied, ‘This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.’” Mark 9:27-29

Peter said to Jesus, “You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68

Eternal life…isn’t that our goal? How do we get there? A virtuous life, one that is sacrificial, one that is obedient to God’s laws, this is the way to eternal life. Lent is an ideal time to embrace the practice of fasting. And not just on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday! Fasting can happen on every Wednesday and Friday throughout the year. The regular self-denial of fasting is definitely one of the ways to get to heaven and eternal life. Why?

Fasting opens our hearts to conversion, gives weight to our prayer intentions. Fasting strengthens us in resisting temptations, promotes peace in our hearts and peace with one another. Fasting teaches us the difference between wanting and needing. Fasting reminds us of the plight of the poor and those who are perpetually hungry. Fasting and prayer can free us from addictive behavior. Fasting invites the Holy Spirit in to heal our hearts, our relationship with God and our relationship with others. Fr. Slavko Barbaric said, “Fasting will lead us to a new freedom of heart and mind.”

St. Jean Vianney once said, “The devil is not greatly afraid of the discipline and other instruments of penance. That which beats him is the curtailment of one’s food, drink and sleep. There is nothing the devil fears more, consequently, nothing is more pleasing to God.”

I usually try to follow the Ash Wednesday/Good Friday rules for fasting. I eat two small meals and one larger meal that is equal to the two smaller meals together (and no meat, of course.)

There are so many great reasons to fast and Lent is an ideal time to begin this regular practice of self-denial. For the elderly and those who cannot fast from food, they can fast from TV, social networking, treats or coffee on Wednesday and Friday.

Lent is a time for change and sacrifice. If you can do penitential acts during Lent, you can do them all year round! To get started with fasting, please check out the graphic below. And always check with your physician before beginning any fasting routine.

 

Fasting, Peace and Forgiveness

0225-EGHrkach-sunset-c-Josh-Hrkach-w-permission

Copyright Josh Hrkach, used with permission

Lent is a time of change and sacrifice. In his Lenten Message of 2009, Pope Benedict XVI said, “The faithful practice of fasting contributes, moreover, to conferring unity to the whole person, body and soul, helping to avoid sin and grow in intimacy with the Lord.”

As we approach Lent this year, perhaps we can take some time to consider the spiritual practice of fasting and how it can cultivate peace in our hearts.

Everyone wants peace: no wars, no terrorism, no slavery, no abortion, no oppression. However, when we start arguing with someone about an insignificant topic, or when we don’t want to admit we’re wrong, or when we have a hard time forgiving someone, it can be difficult to find that peace within ourselves.

How can we foster this peace in our hearts?

Regular fasting (together with prayer) cultivates peace in our hearts. Fasting invites the Holy Spirit in to heal our hearts, our relationship with God, and our relationship with others. Fasting helps us to be selfless instead of selfish.

Let’s take for example, forgiving someone. We are all called to be merciful and forgive those who have hurt or offended us.

But what if the offense is grievous? Say, like torture, abuse, rape, or murder? And what if the person we must forgive is not repentant?

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Jesus didn’t give any exceptions to this rule. We will be forgiven as we forgive those who trespass against us. We are still called to be merciful and to forgive regardless of the offense. We are all called to have peace in our hearts. Forgiveness and showing mercy to others helps heal our hearts and souls. However, forgiving someone, especially those who have grievously harmed us, is not easy and it is impossible without God’s grace. Fasting opens our hearts to this beautiful grace and peace.

Throughout my life, a relative of mine was verbally abusive to me and to others in our family. Eventually, she was diagnosed with a mental illness and, with medication, she was able to stop being verbally abusive. When she got older and began exhibiting signs of dementia, however, it seemed like she was falling back into her former caustic, abusive self.  I had thought that I had forgiven her but realized that I never did forgive her for all the cruel things she had said and done to me. At that point, I had already been fasting for several months, and my confessor suggested that I fast and pray for this relative to help me to forgive her. So I fasted and prayed for her and eventually, I realized that I had been given the grace to forgive her and to speak about and treat her with the utmost love and kindness. I don’t think I could have done that without praying and fasting for her.

Lent is a time of change and sacrifice. Fasting and prayer together will help to cultivate peace and forgiveness in our hearts. Fasting will invite the Holy Spirit in to heal our hearts, our relationship with God and our relationship with others.

Fasting is not an easy practice with our society’s current tendency to overindulge. However, if you can do penitential acts during Lent, if you can fast during Lent, then you can fast all year round!

What I try to do throughout the year is to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays (using the Ash Wednesday/Good Friday fast of no meat and eating two small meals, then one meal that is no larger than the two small meals combined).  I’m 59 years old, so fasting is not obligatory for me, but I fast because I’ve experienced many great spiritual, emotional, and physical benefits.

Always check with your physician before beginning any fasting routine.

Copyright 2019 Ellen Gable Hrkach

When You Fast by Andrew LaVallee #VBT

8X5-WHEN_YOU_FAST-frontI’m taking part in a Virtual Blog Tour for Andy LaVallee’s new book, When You Fast: Jesus Has Provided the Solution.

Available from Live the Fast (11.99 includes shipping)

Paperback on Amazon (9.99)

Kindle Edition  (2.99)

Synopsis:  Published on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe December 12, 2017

There are many references to fasting in Scripture. In Saint Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 5, Jesus puts the solution in front of us when he says, “When you fast.” He doesn’t say “If you fast,” but “When you fast.” As Christians, we’re supposed to imitate Jesus. Jesus fasted before every major event in His life.

Jesus also tells us that “nothing is impossible for us.”

Fasting was so important that Jesus taught it to His disciples to be used as a special deterrent against evil. These are the same evils that plague our world today: the attack on life, the attack on the family, the attack on our religious freedoms, and the attack on Christianity as a whole. It’s especially important to recognize that our actions and our participation can change all of this evil. This is why we are being told by Jesus that “nothing is impossible for us.”

In this short booklet, you’ll learn how fasting is a spiritual weapon. You’ll also learn the basics of fasting, what saints, prophets and popes have had to say about fasting, and testimonials of people whose lives have been changed through fasting.

Reviews:

“The power of fasting with prayer is biblical (Matthew 17:20 from the St. Joseph Bible, New Edition). Jesus said that there are certain demons that cannot be cast out but through prayer and fasting. The two are a powerful team and Andy LaVallee, through his book, provides us with means to accomplish this goal.” Kerri and Jim Caviezel

When You Fast isn’t just one of the best and most thorough books on fasting. In a word, it’s inspiring. Author Andrew LaVallee shares both the physical and spiritual benefits of fasting, from calming our own anxieties to bringing peace to our troubled world. From healing family rifts to opening another’s heart, mind, and soul to the idea of conversion. When You Fast can be a key—can be your key—to a closer relationship with God.”    Susan Tassone, Author of St. Faustina Prayer Book for the Conversion of Sinners

“Andy LaVallee has provided the method, the motive and the means for the spiritual discipline of fasting. His book explains why fasting is important and encourages many to take part in this vital aspect of spiritual warfare in the world today.”
Fr. Dwight Longenecker, Pastor, Speaker, Blogger and Author of Mystery of the Magi: the Quest to Identify the Three Wise Men

Andy’s First Book:  From the Hub to the Heart

Andy’s Bio: Since 1969, Andy LaVallee, has been working in the bakery industry and in 1977, he started LaVallee’s Bakery Distributors. LaVallee’s is New England’s premier provider of artisan breads and other bakery offerings to clients such as the InterContinental Boston, the Four Seasons, Boston College, and the Chateau Restaurants.

LaVallee’s is known by their customers and colleagues for their excellent product mix, legendary customer service and business model based on servant leadership. With Live the fast Breads, Andy brings his knowledge of top-end; highly-nutritious artisan breads and applies them to the ancient practice of prayer and fasting. We have selected multigrain rolls for this endeavor. These breads are made with no GMO, unbleached and untreated flour, with no additives and preservatives and with flavorful, nourishing ingredients that will help one maintain and finish a bread and water fast. He and his team desire to spread this practice — so beneficial on a number of levels — to greater New England and across the United States.

In recent years, during trips to Medjugorje, Andy grew to a deeper understanding of the practice of prayer and fasting, a practice that is common in this small village. He realized that he had a unique role, perhaps even a duty, to provide high quality breads to those in America who were interested in prayer and fasting. Andy has consulted with Sister Emmanuel Maillard who wrote “Freed and Healed by Fasting,” Fr. Charles Murphy author of “The Spirituality of Fasting” and others knowledgeable about the practices of a healthy fast and the ingredients of fasting breads. He has also steeped himself in the teachings of the late Father Slavko Barbaric, who integrated into his many noble works, was his role as a humble practitioner and educator of prayer and fasting.

Along with our educational resources and opportunities to build community, we are excited to invite you to Live the Fast!

100 Years – The Miracle of the Sun at Fatima

Today is the 100th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima. It is a wonderful occasion for celebration.  But it is also an occasion to examine our lives and examine whether we are following the many messages of Our Lady throughout the 20th century and continuing into this century. Our Lady of Fatima predicted many of the horrible events of the 20th century and her message is even more important today.  In many of the Church-approved apparitions, Our Lady has always encouraged — and begged — us to pray the Rosary and to fast.

You can read about Our Lady of Fatima’s apparitions as well as the Miracle of the Sun here at this link.

There are many eyewitness accounts of this miracle recorded here.

In Scripture, we see many examples of fasting. Jesus fasted. Fasting was encouraged in times of great temptation or severe trials. Certain demons, “can be cast out in no other way except by prayer and fasting,” said Jesus. (Mark 9:29)

Our world needs us to fast. Our world needs us to pray the daily Rosary.

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

 

Strengthen Your Lenten Journey Through Fasting

When you hear the word “fasting,” do you automatically cringe? Do you dread Ash Wednesday or Good Friday? Or do you embrace the self-denial of fasting on those days? If you’re like most people, you might not look forward to Ash Wednesday or Good Friday, the Church’s compulsory days of fasting. However, when you become accustomed to the regular practice of fasting throughout the year, these “compulsory” days are opportunities for abundant graces and spiritual growth.

Many people mistakenly believe that fasting belongs only in the Penitential Season of Lent. However, the regular self-denial of fasting is a positive and generous act that we can do all year round. After all, Jesus fasted — and He fasted before every major event in His life — and His apostles fasted. In Scripture, fasting is mentioned numerous times in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.” Matthew 6:16-18

“But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up. After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why couldn’t we drive it (demon) out?’ He replied, ‘This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.’” Mark 9:27-29

Peter said to Jesus, “You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68

Eternal life…isn’t that our goal? How do we get there? A virtuous life, one that is sacrificial, one that is obedient to God’s laws, this is the way to eternal life. Lent is an ideal time to embrace the practice of fasting. And not just on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday! Fasting can happen on every Wednesday and Friday throughout the year. The regular self-denial of fasting is definitely one of the ways to get to heaven and eternal life. Why?

Fasting opens our hearts to conversion, gives weight to our prayer intentions. Fasting strengthens us in resisting temptations, promotes peace in our hearts and peace with one another. Fasting teaches us the difference between wanting and needing. Fasting reminds us of the plight of the poor and those who are perpetually hungry. Fasting and prayer can free us from addictive behavior. Fasting invites the Holy Spirit in to heal our hearts, our relationship with God and our relationship with others. Fr. Slavko Barbaric said, “Fasting will lead us to a new freedom of heart and mind.”

St. Jean Vianney once said, “The devil is not greatly afraid of the discipline and other instruments of penance. That which beats him is the curtailment of one’s food, drink and sleep. There is nothing the devil fears more, consequently, nothing is more pleasing to God.”

There are so many great reasons to fast and Lent is an ideal time to begin this regular practice of self-denial. For the elderly and those who cannot fast from food, they can fast from TV, social networking, treats or coffee on Wednesday and Friday.

Lent is a time for change and sacrifice. If you can do penitential acts during Lent, you can do them all year round! To get started with fasting, please check out the graphic below. And always check with your physician before beginning any fasting routine.

For testimonies, prayers and more information about fasting, check out the Live the Fast website at www.livethefast.org or contact us at info@livethefast.org if you have any questions.

Live the Fast is a Roman Catholic Apostolate that is focused on bringing more awareness to the discipline of fasting by offering educational resources on prayer and fasting, a prayer community that will inspire one to live the fast and providing nutritious fasting breads. (Priests and religious receive fasting breads and resources free of charge.)

Fasting graphic by Darcie Nielsen

Fasting graphic by Darcie Nielsen

Ash Wednesday #ashtag

ash wednesdayToday begins the Holy Season of Lent! This is a joyful season, a positive time for new life to appear, bad habits to disappear, a time of preparing with our minds and hearts renewed.

Pope Francis in this year’s Lenten message, “The Word is a Gift, Other Persons Are Gifts,” writes, “Lent is a new beginning, a path leading to the certain goal of Easter, Christ’s victory over death. This season urgently calls us to conversion. Christians are asked to return to God “with all their hearts” (Joel 2:12), to refuse to settle for mediocrity and to grow in friendship with the Lord. Jesus is the faithful friend who never abandons us. Even when we sin, he patiently awaits our return; by that patient expectation, he shows us his readiness to forgive (cf. Homily, 8 January 2016).”  He also references the parable of Lazarus and the rich man and that, “Lazarus teaches us that other persons are a gift.”

In Pope Benedict XVI’s papal Lenten message (2009), he wrote: “The Sacred Scriptures and the entire Christian tradition teach that fasting is a great help to avoid sin and all that leads to it. For this reason, the history of salvation is replete with occasions that invite fasting.”

The self-denial of fasting helps us to appreciate and embrace what Lent is all about: a time to return to the Lord with our whole hearts, a time of penance to prepare our hearts for the Risen Lord.  Since we have already been fasting throughout the year on Wednesdays and Fridays, what can we do to make Lent even more penitential? What can we do to “step it up a notch?” What other practices can we take part in over the next six weeks to prepare our hearts and souls for the Risen Lord?

Daily Mass, Adoration, reading/reflecting on Scripture, reciting the Rosary, the Seven Sorrows Chaplet, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, the Stations of the Cross, and almsgiving are all excellent ways to journey with Christ through Lent.  In keeping with the Holy Father’s Lenten message that “other persons are a gift,” we could also visit the elderly, sick and imprisoned.  The gift of our time during this penitential season is something that can be priceless to those who are lonely and shut-in.

As we begin Lent in earnest, let us pray that the self-denial of fasting will help to prepare our hearts for the Risen Lord. Let us joyfully attend Mass as often as we can, read Scripture, recite the Rosary and other chaplets as well as visit the elderly and sick.

As Pope Francis says, “…refuse to settle for mediocrity.”