What a beautiful and spiritually uplifting occasion this year’s Mass for Life was, though naturally tinged with sadness as we were still reeling under the shock of the then anticipated “Yes” vote in the Republic of Ireland, approving the implementation of abortion on demand. Early in the day, Guardian Andrew had received a message and donation from Carmel Walsh in County Wexford, Ireland. Carmel asked that those attending the Mass for Life light a candle of forgiveness for the “People of Ireland” and add the “Hail, Holy Queen” to that night’s prayer to encourage the Bishops of Ireland to launch an appeal to have the “Yes” decision overturned.
This year’s Mass had also taken on even more significance: aligned with the Irish referendum was Ealing Council’s vote to use a controversial legal mechanism, a Public Space Protection Order, to prevent members of the public from praying and offering support to pregnant women entering the Marie Stopes abortion clinic. As a direct result of Ealing’s decision, councils throughout the country are considering the introduction of buffer zones in areas where pro-life vigils take place.
The Shrine congregation were joined by pro-life supporters from far and wide, including groups and individuals coming from Luton, Milton Keynes, Eastbourne, Coventry, Nottingham and London. Father Jeremy Davies, the Guardians’ Spiritual Advisor, internationally known for his pro-life work, was our Principal Celebrant assisted, as Co-Celebrants, by Father Wayne (our Presbyter and a Guardian), and Father Christopher (Chaplain to the Knights of Saint Columba). Brother Pat Martin, Provincial Grand Knight Province 38, represented the senior members and directors of the Knights of St Columba, as well as giving practical assistance on the day.
Guardian Donna, Shrine Coordinator, welcomed visitors and parishioners to the Shrine and outlined the circumstances which had led to the Mass being held on Saturday, 26th May 2018 and the programme for the afternoon.
As the procession entered, Guardians and Knights joined the crowded church in singing the hymn to Our Lady Of Guadalupe. Music for the Mass was led by our young persons’ music group, AMDG, under the direction of Clare Moubarak. Guardians, Knights and members of the pro-life organisations led the readings, prayers of the faithful, and the offertory procession.
All listened attentively to Father Jeremy telling us during his thought-provoking homily, “the day was one for crying, not laughing or joy.” He stressed that unless we took a stand and set an example of “being in the world not of the world” we only had ourselves to blame for outcomes which opposed Christ’s message. “We are in a spiritual battle,” Father Jeremy said, “with child killing at its centre.”
Before the final blessing, Guardian Teresa gave a reflection on our role as Catholics in the pro-life movement. She told a hushed audience that, as Catholics, we are called to bring the light of Jesus Christ and his Church to illuminate the darkness of our culture that, in so many ways, fails to realise the value of every human life, and emphasised that the pro-life movement in the Catholic Church is about overcoming indifference in our secular society: the indifference to the suffering of a woman in a difficult pregnancy; and the indifference to the voiceless child, who is destined to be part of the statistics of millions killed in the womb each year. Teresa’s powerful message and her delivery from the heart drew many of us to reflect deeply on how we could help in the fight against the culture of death. She ended the reflection to sustained applause by telling us to be persistent and, “Pray, pray, pray! Fight, fight, fight!” and, “Keep on keeping on!”
Guardian Andrew thanked our priests and all who had taken part in arranging or playing some role in the Mass for Life and said he hoped we could all meet again on the evening of the Feast Day Mass on Wednesday, 12th December 2018. A large group met afterwards for refreshments in the Guild Room.