Washington D.C., Oct 12, 2016 / 05:26 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In the closing weeks of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Catholics should pray and fast for “a culture of life,” one Catholic member of Congress has said.
“Like in the time of Queen Esther, the faithful and faith-filled need to pray and fast for God’s mercy, healing, justice, humane laws and policies and conversion. An outpouring of the Holy Spirit,” Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), co-chair of the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, told pilgrims on the International Day of Prayer and Fasting on Monday.
“For a time such as this, the urgency now is for persevering prayer including the Rosary and Chaplet of Mercy, asking God in Jesus’ name for protection for the weakest and most vulnerable – unborn children, persons with disabilities, and the frail elderly,” he continued.
The 24th International Week of Prayer and Fasting took place from Oct. 2-10. It culminated in an all-day prayer vigil on Monday at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, in Washington, D.C.
Leaders of the prayer and fasting campaign were joined this year by the Marians of the Immaculate Conception and the pro-life group Priests for Life.
Global crises – including a record number of refugees and deadly natural disasters – were cited as the week began to emphasize the need for prayer. The current the Jubilee Year of Mercy was also cited.
The week’s prayer intentions were the “conversion of peoples and nations,” “to build a culture of life,” “to defend the sanctity of marriage and family life,” and “for peace and to implore God’s mercy.”
Maureen Flynn, who chaired the event’s coalition, said in a statement that “peace can only come to us from the return of humanity to God through means of conversion, to which we are being called this day by means of prayer, fasting, and penance. Prayer and fasting can stop wars and will obtain for our nation and our world great graces from God.”
Rep. Smith was joined by Lila Rose, founder of the pro-life group Live Action, in addressing pilgrims on Monday at the basilica, and Fr. Chris M. Alar, MIC, gave the homily at the Mass on the International day of Prayer and Fasting.
Jesus commanded his followers to fast in the Gospel. He himself fasted for 40 days in the desert, and he said that certain demons could only be driven out through prayer and fasting. Rep. Smith noted.
The need for this is all the more dire because of current problems, he said, pointing to pro-life legislation being overturned in the courts, a movement to eliminate the Hyde Amendment’s prohibition on federal funding of abortions, and moves to force churches to include abortion coverage in health plans, like in California.
Yet Smith exhorted the faithful not to lose heart but to continue praying and working to build a culture of life.
“Discouragement is a luxury we can’t afford,” he said. “We must become even more determined to protect the least of our brethren and expose the grand deception so effectively executed by the abortion industry.”
Catholics should also remember that in protecting the unborn, they are protecting Jesus, he stressed. “Finally, Jesus tells us in Matthew 25 that whatever we do for the least of these, we do it to Him. To defend the unborn child is to defend Jesus.”
And he added that Catholics must pray for not only the unborn, but also for mothers who have suffered from abortions.
“Post-abortive women need our prayers today – everyday – as the Church strives to reach them with ministries like Project Rachel, Rachael’s Vineyard, and the Silent No More awareness campaign,” he said.
“I would argue that the past and present need not be prologue. We can rally. We can surge in support of the culture of life,” he continued. “By the grace of God – through prayers, fasting, and hard work, the culture of life must be established – saving tens of millions.”