Thursday, February 26, 2015

Stolen Moments #1 - Pro-Life Texas

Saturday, February 21, 2015

another song affirming life

A Tale of Two Men

Wisdom - Chapter 3


But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, 
and no torment will ever touch them.
In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, 
and their departure was thought to be an affliction,

and their going from us to be their destruction; 
but they are at peace.

For though in the sight of men they were punished, 
their hope is full of immortality.

Having been disciplined a little, 
they will receive great good, 
because God tested them 
and found them worthy of himself;

like gold in the furnace he tried them, 
and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them.

In the time of their visitation they will shine forth, 
and will run like sparks through the stubble.

They will govern nations and rule over peoples, 
and the Lord will reign over them for ever.

Those who trust in him will understand truth, 
and the faithful will abide with him in love, 
because grace and mercy are upon his elect, 
and he watches over his holy ones.


Two men died in the last two days. Both were giants in their own right, having served the pro-life community for most of their respective lives.  They were good men and I had the privilege and pleasure of calling them friends.

I will speak of Brother Paul O'Donnell first because his passing was unexpected. The shock and surprise at his death was underscored by the fact that so many of us had just seen him at the March for Life this past January. But Thursday night he died in his sleep, so we deal with the loss of a friend, a brother, a mentor, a leader - but mostly a humble servant of God.

Paul and his close friend Mike Gaworski accepted the call from the Holy Spirit in 1982 to start another Franciscan order of brothers understanding that the special charism was to support of the gospel of life. Having been involved in the pro-life movement prior to starting the brotherhood, they knew what had to be done to save the lives of the unborn children. They also knew that in their role people might be more presupposed to do the right thing.  Helping the poor, protecting the unborn and addressing the important end of life issues became Brother Paul's life work. He was involved deeply in assisting the Schindler family in their efforts to secure the life of their daughter Terri Schiavo. And while tragically unsuccessful as to Terri, they nevertheless have been instrumental in saving and protecting other lives who were threatened with death. 

The shock of Brother Paul's death is only softened by our trust in the Lord who has called him home. He shall be greatly missed.

Dr John C Willke, M.D. was one of the original founders of the pro-life movement. An obstetrician married to Barbara Willke, they founded Ohio Right to Life  of Cincinnati, Ohio Right to Life and later with Dr. Carolyn Gerster,  Dr. Mildred Jefferson and others started the National Right ot life Committee. He served as president following  Dr. Gerster and later started the international Right to Life Federation. He co-founded the life Issues Institute and was a world wide speaker and writer.

But the Jack Willke I knew when I first got involved in the pro life effort back in 1975 was someone approachable and always ready to help make things happen.  As a college student and later poor law student, I would show up at the NRLC conference and ask the good doctor if there was anything I could do to help and was there an extra couch or bed to rest my weary bones. On both counts Jack was ready to help and thus did this pro life activist begin his calling in the movement. 

After I became a lawyer, Jack was one of the first to appreciate what this next generation of pro-life activists could do. He always encouraged us to be engaged and creative in our efforts. Not always appreciated by some in the movement, the activists could always look to encouragement from Jack.  And though we sometimes differed on strategy, we never let differences cloud that fact that we wanted the same thing - an end to the killing. 

Both Brother Paul and Dr. Willke were men of tremendous generosity.  They were never too busy to help at a moment's notice. and both were extremely modest in their work, willing to share or defer the credit when things went right.

One last story about Dr. Willke.  In 1985 after a rescue in Washington, DC during on the the NRLC conventions,  a number of por-life activists were arrested. A few of the lawyers were attempting to secure their release without great success. We learned that one woman had been injured by DC police and we were especially concerned with her well-being. Drs. Gerster and Willke were the only doctors who would come out to the jail so that we could demand the woman';s release to medical personnel.  At first the jail guards would have none of it. But persistence and the physical presence of two practicing physicians at 3:00 a.m. finally wore them down ( plus the threat of a lawsuit) and the woman was released.

We will miss these two pro-life heroes. May God grant them eternal rest and may perpetual light shine upon them. Amen.


Monday, February 16, 2015

Random comments on President's Day

So I noticed that I had not posted in a while. In fact I had not posted since before Christmas. There were many reasons. The most obvious was that I just had hip replacement surgery in December. I've been recovering from the surgery and between the physical therapy and trying to get the practice back up and running, there was not been a lot of time to think about writing about current pro-life events happening around the country and the world.

I did attend the March for Life in late January. I also spoke at the Life and Law Summit while in DC.  I very much enjoyed seeing some great friends and making new acquaintances.

The size of the March was amazing. Over 650,000 people attended and marched according to reliable estimates. The media and press of course ignored it for the most part. Fortunately for us the alternative media, social media, Facebook, Twitter all took account of what was happening. Various websites that track the bias of the establishment media took them to task for ignoring a march of this magnitude. Still when I returned to Arizona, I learned that most people did not know the march took place or had absolutely no idea how many people marched on January 22, 2015.

One can say that with great certainty the movement is growing. It is younger than ever and more vibrant and than ever before. If there is any criticism it is that most of the next generation of pro-lifers have absolutely no idea what the last 40 years have been like. Those that are getting involved for the first time had no idea what this country has been through. Understandably so as it is next to impossible to put one's mind around the fact that Americans using abortion have killed over 55 million people. Indeed when I think about how many have died, I am tempted to think that perhaps the movement has been a total failure.

Of course I cannot live in that moment. I understand the reality of what has happened over the last 42 years. I accept the fact that most Americans are law-abiding citizens, and that if their government tells them they can or cannot act, they will listen. I also recognize that the movement is fighting not only the government, not only the media establishment, not only the judges, is not only the courts of law, but also the inertia that comes from an individual's unwillingness to act because of the cost involved.

And yet we have kept abortion a dirty word. We have educated hundreds of thousands of people over the years and have saved millions of children. So we cannot dwell on that our failures in the past but we can learn from them. The important lessons include
1) no longer fighting among ourselves or at least reducing the amount of fighting we do;
2) focusing on helping women avoid the abortion situation and reaching out to those involved in the abortion industry;
3) continuing to press on with both legal and political efforts to make abortion unthinkable, keep it an ugly word, change the mentality of those who promote it; change the law.

So I encourage everyone to continue to stay the course, do not quit, remain involved.

If you have not been involved, seriously think about getting involved. Pray about it. If you are a believer, ask God what you can do to advance the cause of life to protect his little ones. Consider how we applaud the firefighter who runs into a burning building to save a life. Imagine you being that firefighter. Now imagine you being in front of an abortion mill and offering to a woman help, hope, a chance to not have a lifetime of guilt hanging over her head because of an action that she's taken due to the pressures and problems of the particular moment. Imagine yourself helping that woman to save her baby. Imagine if she continues to raise the child and looks at the child every day, she will know that you were responsible for this child being alive.  Imagine that she places the child for adoption and there's a couple who every day thanks God that you were there to save their child from being killed. These are the reasons why we must be involved. These are the reasons why we cannot ignore the situation. These are the reasons why we have to encourage our brothers and sisters to stand up and defend life. And finally these are the reasons why we have to instill in our political leaders the courage to defend life without reservation, and without compromise. I will write more as the Spirit moves me. I appreciate all of you who are involved in the cause.

 God bless you.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE - REVISITED


Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?"

My thirteen year old son Anthony asked to watch "It's a Wonderful Life" the other night as he claimed never to have seen it start to finish. Of course I happily obliged.  While watching it I thought about how much has been written about the Frank Capra's classic.  I thought about my own ideas - especially with a pro-life angle, but the idea that I could add something new might be a challenge. But the next day there was a post with this picture of Clarence sitting on the log and George Bailey looking at the angel second class. My friend Sue Joan had shared her thoughts similar to mine about what Clarence said, that is,  how many children are lost who could have made such a difference in the world.  With that came the notion that "It's a Wonderful Life" may be the most powerful pro-life movie ever made.

We all know the story about George Bailey, the fellow who time and again sacrifices for the sake of others, who at times is miserable wishing he could do the things he always wanted to do and yet happy in having helped so many realize the dignity of their humanity. Many have written on the dark side of the film, the frustrations, the angst, the disappointments and the selfish side of human nature. At the same time the film conveys a realism especially in the dream sequence when George Bailey is given a vision of the town had he not been born.

This impact one person's life can have upon a family, a community, a society is universally recognized both in art and literature.  So why in today's upscale and ever expanding society, is this concept ignored or missed by so many at every age level?  Have we become so myopic to miss the amazing perspective that each of us has an effect on those around us and that for the most part that effect is a good thing?  Have we tuned out this message?  Why are we not realizing this on an everyday level?

Clarence points out to George, "Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?"

Those of us committed to the pro-life movement have seen this little scene played out so many different times in so many different situations.  Yet there are still so many good people who simply do not connect the dots and see how this fundamental respect for the human person must be the cornerstone of our moral foundation.  Whether one is a politician or a voter,  a minister or a union steward, a lack of respect for the human person is the cancer that destroys a culture. And the concern we wish others to show toward the immigrant, the refugee, the elderly or poor must be rooted in something transcendent that starts with the unborn child.  How can we then ask people to care about someone half way around the globe, if we do not respect the unborn child? How can we call upon people to look beyond the color of another person's skin, if aborting them is a part of a government population control philosophy?

How can we teach restraint in the exercise of power, if there is no universal moral code?
What the movie can remind us to do is to look deep within ourselves and imagine a world without someone dear to us? Then realize that there are thousands of children every day denied the opportunity to make a difference.  There are thousands of mothers every day who will live with the regret of their actions because we as a society did not reach out to help. 
Fortunately most of us do identify with George Bailey.  We like to think of ourselves as caring and generous.  Watching the movie allows us to claim that mantle.  We really want to  be that friend who will be there to help our neighbor.  So let us make a resolution for 2015. Let us be George Bailey in our world.  Let us reach out an help the unwed mother and child by supporting the local pregnancy resource center. Let us demand our priests, ministers, pastors and religious leaders speak clearly on the moral imperative to act in justice and mercy.  Let us pick one thing within this pro-life work that will make a real difference - for example - how many beds are available in your community to house homeless pregnant mothers.  Perhaps if each church or parish could support a location with four beds, there would be "room at the Inn."

In a similar vein, the need to educate at the local level is so critical. Perhaps a series of presentations would instill greater understanding of the issue at all different levels. Just as George Bailey had to explain to the customers during  the run on the bank where their money was and how it was being use, so too both clergy and politician need to understand the primary role of a pro-life position and how to influence others.

Ultimately we need to take that pro-life message contained in "It's a Wonderful Life" and apply it to our own lives.  As  George remarked about his father's beliefs,  "People were human beings to him," we need to live this mantra. From the womb to the tomb,  all human life is sacred.   Every human being has a reason and purpose for being.  We must remind our neighbors of this notion.  Using a film such as It's a Wonderful Life" is one such way.