As we witness suffering in the world around us, we know that many do not have carefree, merry Christmases. With this awareness, one Christmas song, “O, Holy Night,” particularly stands out to me:
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
‘Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
The world is broken. There is suffering. And God Himself comes into that suffering to be with us. This is the true nature of compassion – to suffer with. But awareness of the brokenhearted and God’s great gift of Himself could easily become just another insight that comes and goes. So in the New Year, how do we carry the message of Christmas in our hearts? How do we live its truth in our lives, rather than pack it away with the ornaments?
We are called to love one another as Christ has loved us, to enter compassionately into the suffering of others, and to share Jesus’ love with them. One important way we can do this is through prayer.
A specific invitation to prayer surrounds January 22, when our nation will mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal in the U.S. throughout the nine months of pregnancy. Since that tragic decision, more than 57 million children’s lives have been lost to abortion, and many women and men experience – often in silence – deep and lasting suffering due to their involvement.
The U.S. Catholic bishops are inviting the faithful to participate in 9 Days for Life, a period of prayer, penance and pilgrimage set aside from January 18-26 to observe this anniversary by taking part in local events and by joining Catholics across the country united in prayer. Each day of the novena includes simple prayers and different brief intentions, reflections and actions. Along with prayers for the end to abortion, the novena also includes prayers for other intentions related to human dignity, such as the end to the use of the death penalty, for those nearing the end of their lives, and for all who are on the path of adoption.
Visit www.9daysforlife.com to download a free app for your Android or iPhone or to sign up for daily emails or text messages. Printable versions of each day’s content will also be available from there. To receive daily text updates, send 9DAYS to 55000* (9DIAS for Spanish speakers). You can even download a special cover photo and profile picture for Facebook to stand in solidarity and raise awareness, which are also available at www.9daysforlife.com. Flyers, web ads, and other promotional and planning resources are available on the leaders’ resources page (www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/january-roe-events/9-days-for-life-resources-for-leaders.cfm).
The daily intentions will be posted on social media with the hashtag #9DaysForLife. Follow People of Life at www.facebook.com/peopleoflife, and join the event (www.goo.gl/xbCBYU ) to be notified of the daily postings.
As we begin the New Year, let us remember the brokenhearted and the suffering in our prayers and, remembering Christ’s own love for each of us, reach out to be with others in support and in love. Though we may not see the immediate effects of our prayers and good works, we can trust in God’s power to work through us.
Anne McGuire is Assistant Director of Education and Outreach for the USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. Join tens of thousands praying the “9 Days for Life” novena! Visit www.9daysforlife.com – or text 9DAYS (or 9DIAS) to 55000.