February 9, 2018


Pope Francis and living out our ‘40-day’ Lenten journey

It’s not too early to begin thinking about Lent and the “40 days” of opportunities it will present us.

This penitential season of prayer, fasting and almsgiving begins on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14, and continues for 40 days, leading us to Holy Week and Christ’s passion, death and resurrection.

While many of us will add more prayer time to our daily routine, abstain from a favorite food or desert, or volunteer at a food pantry or homeless shelter, we believe Pope Francis recently planted seeds about specific ways to assist us in living out our Lenten journey in 2018.

After reciting the Angelus on Feb. 4 at St. Peter’s Square, the pope marked Italy’s Pro-Life Sunday, whose theme was “the Gospel of life, joy for the world,” and also called for a day of prayer and fasting for peace on Feb. 23, with special prayers for Congo and South Sudan.

For those of us in the U.S., the pope’s words after the Angelus about direct attacks on human life through abortion and war were especially providential because we, sadly, commemorated the 45th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions on Jan. 22, which legalized abortion on demand.

Thanking all the “different Church realities that promote and support life in many ways,” Pope Francis said he was surprised there were not more people involved.

“This worries me,” the pope said. “There aren’t many who fight on behalf of life in a world where, every day, more weapons are made; where, every day, more laws against life are passed; where, every day, this throwaway culture expands, throwing away what isn’t useful, what is bothersome” to too many people.

The Holy Father added, “Please, let us pray that our people may be more aware of the defense of life in this moment of destruction and of the discarding of humanity.”

With a defense of life in mind, members of parishes in central and southern Indiana and people of all faith traditions are invited to take part in the upcoming “40 Days for Life” campaign that kicks off on Feb. 14 and runs through March 25. It will be held in 354 cities—including Indianapolis and Bloomington in the archdiocese—and 25 countries.

40 Days for Life is an international campaign that seeks to end abortion through peaceful prayer vigils at abortion centers, and to raise community awareness of the consequences of abortion.

The campaign runs twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. During the 40-day campaigns, individuals silently pray during one-hour time slots in front of abortion centers around the world.

Since the national campaign was launched in 2007, the peaceful prayer vigil has resulted in many answered prayers. According to Shawn Carney, 40 Days for Life president and CEO, 13,998 lives have been spared from abortion, 170 abortion workers had conversions and quit their jobs, and 94 abortion centers where 40 Days for Life vigils have been held have closed their doors forever.

The Central Indiana (Indianapolis) 40 Days for Life campaign takes place on the public right-of-way outside of the Planned Parenthood facility at 8590 Georgetown Road. A kickoff rally will be held at 3 p.m. on Feb. 11 at St. Luke the Evangelist Church, 7575 Holliday Dr., E. Indianapolis. For more information, contact Debra Minott at 317-709-1502 or debra@goangels.org.

The peaceful prayer vigil in Bloomington takes place on the public right-of-way outside of the Planned Parenthood facility at 421 S. College Ave. For more information, contact Monica Siefker at 812-330-1535, 812‑345-7988 or monica.siefker@gmail.com. More information on the campaign can also be found at 40daysforlife.com.

With conflict continuing in many parts of the world, the pope announced a special day of prayer and fasting for peace on Feb. 23, especially for our brothers and sisters in the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

Fighting between government troops and rebel forces and between militias continue in Congo, especially in the east, but tensions also have erupted as protests grow against President Joseph Kabila, whose term of office ended in 2016. New elections have yet to be scheduled.

South Sudan became independent from Sudan in 2011 after decades of war. But, just two years after independence, political tensions erupted into violence.

Lent is an opportune time to pray for peace—in our hearts, in our homes, and as Pope Francis noted, in countries where God’s children “cry to him in pain and in anguish.”

—Mike Krokos

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