Last month, the Supreme Court overturned the 1973 decision of Roe v. Wade which granted legal access to abortion in our country. In the years following that decision, it is estimated that more than 63 million abortions have taken place in our country alone, a staggering statistic to consider. While this Supreme Court decision was a welcome step in the right direction for the protection of human life, there is much work to be done. To some extent, changing laws is easy (though it may not seem that way), but the work of changing hearts and changing the culture is FAR more difficult. But this is where the most important work of the Pro-Life movement lies. To be sure, every effort, including working for a change in legislation, is necessary when it comes to building a culture of life. But the work of converting hearts is where we have the most hope for lasting success. Jesus Himself makes the call to conversion a central theme in His preaching, and it continues to be at the heart of the Church’s work in our world.
In that regard, a new grassroots effort has begun which is inviting the people of Illinois to undertake a campaign of prayer and fasting for the conversion of those in our state. Central to this effort is the recognition that Illinois is one of the states where the legal access to abortion continues, and our state is becoming a place where others will come in order to obtain an abortion. Even though the recent Supreme Court decision promises to reduce abortions in many places in our country, the opposite will be true for our state. As Catholics in this state, we cannot be unmoved by this sad situation, thus the invitation to turn to our two most powerful tools in combatting evil and sin – prayer and fasting.
This campaign is asking the faithful to pray and fast every Friday on bread and water, offering up these acts for the conversion of Illinois. To be sure, we hope that one day the laws of our state will reflect our beliefs in the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death. And while our primary focus with this campaign is protecting innocent life in the womb, it must extend to other areas of life as well, including proper care for the poor, mentally ill, prisoners, etc. Perhaps as important as anything to pray for is the conversion of heart that is necessary with regards to how we consider one another. Division has never felt so strong and people on every side of every issue seem more ready to attack those who oppose them, verbally and physically. While some division is to be expected as we seek to pursue truth and justice, the type of division that is becoming more common in how we speak of and treat others is nothing short of demonic. That may sound strong, but consider that the primary work of the devil is to divide us, and he will never cease to find ways of making us see others as the enemy and worthy of our fiercest reactions. The Lord invites us, however, to see others as our neighbors, as brothers and sisters. Sometimes siblings and neighbors disagree, and there can be a place for that, but we must never lose sight of the necessity of always approaching others with charity, which is to will the good of the other. And one of the greatest goods we can will for another is their conversion to truth according to God’s will, which will bring about the unity the Lord desires for us as His beloved children.
So let us join in praying and fasting for the conversion of those in our state, recognizing that the first ones for whom we offer our prayers for conversion is ourselves. Only from that place of being converted ourselves will we be able to work for the conversion of others, motivated always by charity, and never by bitterness, anger, or hatred.