As the year comes to an end I had better post something - I have not had a chance to do so over the Octave. Actually it has been a difficult Christmas, it was so busy, I was behind in everything (didn't get a chance to get Christmas cards out - sorry!), funerals and to top it all my father fell seriously ill on Christmas Eve. So Christmas was spent en route from parish to hospital with a muted family dinner in between. Thankfully Dad is doing fine - he had a minor heart attack which, we found out later, warned of a fatal one which was on the way - thankfully we got him to hospital in time. He is undergoing tests and treatment at the moment, so I would ask you to please remember him in your prayers.
We are so thankful to God for his mercy in all of this: though we were initially distraught at his illness, when we were told it was a warning, we fell on our knees in gratitude: Dad could have actually died on Christmas Eve. So we were given a Christmas grace in the midst of it all.
Life is so precious, and in all the trauma of the last week we are confirmed in our convictions that life is sacred and we have a duty to preserve it. That is a good conviction to have in these days as we struggle for life. And that struggle is going to intensify in the months to come. I was delighted to hear the Cardinal's Christmas message in which he reiterated the Church's committment to the pro-life cause and his call for the citizens of Ireland to do what they can in a respectful but forthright manner to presuade our TDs not to legislate for abortion. That will be a hard task given that the party whip is so strong.
If you can get a copy of January's Alive newspaper, my friend Fr Owen Gorman has an excellent article on conscience. He points out, correctly, that the Taoiseach, in imposing the party whip on this issue, is expecting his TDs to relinquish their conscience in order to "vote in accordance with party decisions". Yet, Fr Owen points out, "Each person owes greater allegiance to conscience than to any political party, yet this government says no accommodation will be given to conscience." This "highlights the sickness and dysfunction at the heart of Irish political life". This is, of course, ironic, given that Enda Kenny accused the Vatican of being sick and dysfunctional - at least the Vatican recognises the importance of conscience even in those who disagree with Church teaching.
It needs to be said that, regardless of what the media and pro-abortion groups say, abortion is an evil act - intrinsically evil - nothing can justify the direct killing of a baby in the womb no matter what his or her stage of development. The ruse of "limited abortion" versus "abortion on demand" is just that: a ruse: in both cases an innocent child dies. If Irish TDs and senators support legislation that introduces abortion, they are cooperating with evil and are responsible for their actions. Conforming to the party whip is no justification and will not be a defence when they stand before God - indeed they will be judged all the harsher, for they resigned their consciences and did evil at the bidding of another. So in this campaign we must pray for our TDs and sentors so they will not put their souls at risk. Yes, people may not have heard it in a long time, but it is possible to be lost, we can put our souls at risk of eternal damnation, and working for the introduction of abortion is one way of earning a bus pass to hell...unless they repent, of course. But let's pray they won't need to repent - that they will do the right thing.
The next pro-life vigil is due to take place in Merrion Square, Dublin, on the 19th January 2013 at 4.30pm - I would urge as many as possible to attend. At this stage we need to make our views known, and indeed support our pro-life TDs and senators who are trying to persude their leaders not to legislate. We have a small number of TDs who may well defy the party whip in order to be true to their conscience, and they need our support. I believe numbers will be important. Unfortunately the pro-abortion brigade can turn politicians by their small rallies of a few hundred - though we can get thousands we do not have the same effect. However a massive crowd might just catch their attention.
In the US our friends are preparing for the annual March for Life in Washington on the 25th January. Well over a million people attend the march and it is usually ignored by the media: we need only look to the US to see how things may pan out here in Ireland. But we can pick up a few tips too. One interesting thing in the pro-life movement Stateside is the huge numbers of young people who are pro-life. They describe themselves as survivors - given the prevalent abortion culture in the US, they know they were lucky to have escaped being aborted - it may well be the case for Irish babies in the future.
Anyway, have a Happy New Year. If you are heading out for celebrations tonight, enjoy them. May 2013 bring us all many blessings!