Today at 3:00 PM, Manhattan’s St. Vincent Ferrer Church on 66th and Lexington is hosting a “Holy Hour with Eucharistic Exposition for Mercy, Healing and Reparation.” Following the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, attendees will pray a Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Those who can’t attend in person can join in the prayers from wherever they are.
The Archdiocese of New York’s Pro-Life Commission is sponsoring the event. Though its stated purpose is fairly open-ended, Kathryn Jean Lopez of Patheos and The National Review, who belongs to the commission, attempts to pin it down when she writes of “the need for all religious believers to be praying right about now for all who are suffering on account of the culture in death in America.“ Among other things, she means Planned Parenthood, whose representatives, captured on video, created a teachable moment on just how comfy with death our culture has become.
I’ll be praying along. Prayer is always good. Save, perhaps, for the Our Father, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy speaks from a place closer to the heart of Christianity than any other. For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and the whole world. If we didn’t believe we needed mercy, a mercy bought with Christ’s blood, we wouldn’t be Christians. We’d be Utopians, or something worse.
As God works in the fullness of time, it’s hard to gauge the effectiveness of any single prayer vigil. The effectiveness of hashtag activism is limited by nature – as Malcolm Gladwell observed, it works chiefly with “low-risk” projects. More than one million babies were aborted last year. We can talk and pray about reparation and healing and changing cultures till we’re blue in the face, but if we really mean to welcome more than a million extra children into our society every year, then someone, at some point, is going to have to take a risk.
It’s a no-brainer who that will be: the million-plus mothers (the fathers being better equipped by nature to moderate their investment according to their wills). Thanks to the Guttmacher Institute, we know a few facts about these women. For example, 40% are younger than 25. Sixty percent already have at least one child. About 40% have incomes below the poverty line.Most end their pregnancies for a combination of reasons. Three-quarters say they can’t afford a[nother] child. Three-quarters say having a baby will interfere with their ability to work or care for the children they have already. More than half are single or are having problems with their boyfriend or husband. For such people, risk is more than a board game.
Listen to me, talking about “such people” as though they lived far off in the Amazon basin. For a couple of years, I dated a woman who matched that description in nearly every particular. She differed only in age – she was in her early 30s – and in the fact that her troublesome partner was, fortunately, an ex-husband locked safely away in prison. Her kids numbered two; the younger one had a speech impediment that doctors thought might signify brain damage. Neither of us was at the poverty line, but neither of us was very far away.
One day, she informed me her period was late. Ever the gallant, I said, “Let’s get married.” She said, “Hell, no.” I said, “Okay,” feeling not a little relieved. As it happened, her monthly check came shortly afterward, so neither of us has blood on his hands. There but for the grace of God, etc.
At a great enough distance, there are all sorts of improvements we could suggest – higher wages, more sexual restraint, a general lowering of expectations regarding material comfort and social mobility. Any way you slice it, that’s a lot of culture that needs changing. It is perhaps not so difficult to understand why most Americans would prefer not to think too hard about how Dr. Mary Gatter comes by her sweet rides.
Still, life is life, killing is killing, and God is always listening. I’ll be on my mark, beads in hand, at 12:00 Pacific. As we are not charged with building Utopia, divine mercy is one thing we could all use more of.