I am very much hoping that the parish priest of the parish “not a million miles from where I live” did not read my last blog about hymn singing and the merits or demerits of Kevin Mayhew’s hymnal compared with that compiled by the London Oratorians. I say this because, by a strange coincidence, we did sing Faith of Our Fathers yesterday at Mass (which will please “leprechaun himself” who posted about it). I am also grateful to Parasum who enlightened me about the translation of “bonae voluntatis”. I still prefer “Fathers” to the suggested “forbears” which, though gender-correct and scanning, lacks the personal warmth and other connotations (such as the phrase “Fathers of the Church”) denoted by the word “Fathers”. And I am sure the magnificent St Margaret Clitherow would not have been bothered about it.
Anyway, this blog is not intended to be about sexism in the wording of hymns. It is about the pro-life issue (again). As people know, the third stanza of Fr Faber’s great hymn runs: “Faith of our Fathers Mary’s prayers/ Shall win our country back to Thee/ and through the truth that comes from God/England shall then indeed be free.” As I sang it I began to think, “This is all pious pie in the sky stuff. Look at the annual abortion toll in this country. Our Lady must be weeping about it – but there is nothing she can do. We are lost.”
This is, of course, a counsel of despair that sometimes distracts one during Mass (which is the supreme enactment of the counsel of hope). Then I sternly told myself to chuck the gloom; “Mary’s prayers” are the most powerful prayers of all, and of course she can win – if we turn to her in the right way. This led my thoughts to a recent blog of Damian Thompson concerning the Dorries amendment, in which he candidly explained the destructive and uncharitable in-fighting that goes on between X, Y and Z in the pro-life movement. This is itself a scandal that must cry to heaven.
Having given support to Spuc, Life, the Right to Life and other pro-life bodies in the past, I now support the Good Counsel Network as it strikes me as the most prayerful and the most Catholic of all the pro-life groups. I do not mean to be critical of the others, who all do good work; but although this abortion issue must be fought out in Parliament it has to be more than a political issue where one tries for incremental gains, small victories, employs strategies and the like. Yes, we all need to pray to Our Lady: but I can’t believe that she would sanction the incremental approach, ie saving some babies at the expense of others, or fixing a time limit on when abortions can or cannot take place.
Pro-lifers often cite, in their own defence, the example of the abolitionists of the slave trade, saying it took Wilberforce 20 years to win the abolition of the infamous and hugely prosperous slave trade. Someone correct me if I am wrong, but I think that Wilberforce and his friends did not go for incremental gains – saving the lives of some slaves but not others – in his long struggle for abolition. He showed the public pictures of the appalling slave ships together with a chained black slave (with the caption “Am I not your brother?”) and declared that slavery should be abolished because it was intrinsically evil. By this analogy we pro-lifers must start by saying that abortion is intrinsically evil and fight politically on that principle.
Back to “Mary’s prayers”: if this isn’t already done, why don’t all the pro-life groups get together for an annual “Pro-Life Day with Mary”? This would be different from the broad Day for Life established in the dioceses by the bishops some years ago and also from the usual “Days with Mary” that are popular up and down the country. It would be an annual event specifically for all the pro-life groups and their supporters, Christian or not; when all these individual and splinter groups bury their grievances and mutual suspicions for a whole day, to pray together under the aegis of Our Lady.
The day could involve Confession (very important), the Rosary, singing Marian hymns, as well as Mass and Benediction. I would be against “focus group” discussions on an occasion like this; the whole emphasis should be on prayer, contrition for past in-fighting, and openness to what Our Lady directs. It should take place in London, the seat of Parliament, and could include a procession around Parliament Square, holding banners of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the unborn.
What do you think?