Washington D.C., Jan 15, 2013 / 11:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. bishops are inviting the faithful to participate in “Nine Days of Prayer, Penance and Pilgrimage” surrounding the 40th anniversary of legalized abortion throughout America.
“In addition to our current everyday pro-life efforts, a nation-wide commitment to prayer and penance is essential to ushering in a culture of life,” said Tom Grenchik, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.
In a Jan. 4 post on the website for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, he emphasized the need to “respond to 40 years of the culture of death with great confidence and hope.”
The bishops have announced a call to prayer, penance and pilgrimage for life on Jan. 19-27 this year. Materials have been published on the bishops’ conference website for those who want to participate in the campaign.
Jan. 22 marks 40 years since the Supreme Court legalized abortion throughout the nation with its decision in Roe v. Wade.
More than 55 million unborn children have been killed through abortion since that ruling. Hundreds of thousands of pro-life supporters are expected to flood Washington, D.C., on Jan. 25 for the annual March for Life.
The bishops are asking Catholics to pray and fast for a renewed respect for life in America during the days surrounding the anniversary and the march.
The initiative is part of a larger movement by the bishops to encourage prayer for the defense of life, marriage and religious liberty in the United States.
The nine-day campaign focuses on the theme of pilgrimage, particularly for those who will be making trips to commemorate four decades of legalized abortion in America.
As hundreds of thousands prepare to travel to the nation’s capital in support of life, the bishops’ conference has published both English and Spanish blessings for pro-life pilgrims before their journey. Other prayers and materials are also included to help transform the trip into a pilgrimage.
The Jan. 19-27 call to prayer features a youth-friendly novena with daily intercessions, reflections and acts of reparation, as well as facts about abortions.
Over the course of nine days, participants will pray for the conversion and healing of all parents, medical professionals and politicians who have been involved in abortion in America.
The initiative also includes a Pro-life Profile activity for young people. It encourages them to take photos of themselves holding signs with a simple explanation of why they are pro-life and to use these photos as their profile pictures, or default pictures, on Facebook, from Jan. 19-27.
In addition, the bishops’ conference is holding a video contest for high school students throughout America. Students can submit videos of less than a minute in length from a pilgrimage, rally or other pro-life event surrounding the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
The videos should illustrate “what it means personally for that student to take part in the pro-life pilgrimage” and to support the pro-life movement and the dignity of human life, as well as “why their participation has special meaning for them during this Year of Faith,” the contest instructions said.
The conference has also issued prayers for a Eucharistic Holy Hour for Reparation and Healing for parishes to use to conclude the novena.
Prayers during the holy hour ask God to “awaken in every heart new reverence for the least of your children, and renew among your people a readiness to nurture and sustain your precious gift of human life.”
Recognizing that God alone has “the power to forgive sins against human life, and to heal the wounds caused by these sins,” the prayers also profess trust in the Lord and ask “that the world and all its inhabitants may be saved.”