The idea of contraception isn’t new; Egyptian scrolls, dating back as far as 1900 BC, refer to birth control of varying types. It seems, mankind has been trying to circumvent the procreational aspect of human intimacy all through history. Yet, some of the earliest instruction put forth by the Bible also condemns such acts. As was told, Onan and the spilling of his seed brought him a death sentence. (Gen. 38:8–10). It is evident that Sacred Scripture holds contraception to be so clearly wrong that there was no need to continually reiterate the point, nor to list the various means as objectionable. Its sinfulness was/is a given.
Therefore, we historically find that all Christians, Catholic and Protestant alike, acknowledged the sinful nature of birth control up until 1930. It is then that secular culture encroached further into faith life. Beginning with the Lambeth Conference, of the Anglican Church, the door was initially opened by allowing contraception in ‘some instances’. This rapidly devolved into unapologetic, categorical acceptance.
Unfortunately, all Protestant denominations soon followed suit until contraception was embraced completely. Marginal and poorly formed Catholics soon followed suit. Throughout the next decades, the resulting consequence was an open door to all sorts of ethical horrors. This brought us an almost worldwide downward spiral toward unlimited abortion, increasing euthanasia, and commodification of the unborn in the name of science.
Subsequently, the Extraordinary Consistory of Cardinals met in 1991 to “address the problem of threats to human life in our day.” On March 25, 1995 – the Feast of the Annunciation – Pope John Paul II responded to their request by publishing Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life). By giving the gift of this profoundly beautiful, life-affirming encyclical to the world, Pope John Paul II offered hope and instruction to revitalize the respect for all human life.
Yet Evangelium Vitae, was much more than just another papal document. As Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life puts it, Evangelium Vitae ‘is literally a celebration. It celebrates Christ, who is personally the Gospel and the Life. It celebrates humanity, love, and true freedom’. As the Holy Father states, it is “meant to be a precise and vigorous reaffirmation of the value of human life and its inviolability and at the same time a pressing appeal addressed to every person, in the name of God: respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life!”
“A great prayer for life is urgently needed, a prayer which will rise up throughout the world. Through special initiatives and in daily prayer, may an impassioned plea rise to God, the Creator and lover of life, from every Christian community, from every group and association, from every family and from the heart of every believer.”
– Pope John Paul II, The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae), n. 100
Here is where the ‘Good News’ (Evangelium) comes to bring tidings of a saving love. The heart of Jesus is at the center of this message. Fortunately, what we need to bring healing to the world is available through Christ Jesus and Pope John Paul II brought us the inspiration to bring light to darkness. As a people, we have forgotten the precious and true meaning of life. We find ourselves too preoccupied with things of this world and its secular allure.
This 20th anniversary of Evangelium Vitae provides us, the faithful, with an opportunity (duty) to share this good news. As the people of God we are tasked with the obligation to once again show the glowing light of God’s love for all people to the world. In keeping with this mission, an Evangelium Vitae Novena is planned for March 16 – 24, 2015. A unique and beautifully relevant meditation, as well as an excerpt from the encyclical will be shared throughout the nine days. This leads up to the anniversary, which will be celebrated on the life-affirming Feast of the Annunciation. Our Blessed Mother Mary’s ‘yes’ is a shining example to us all.
So what can the laity do to share in the reaffirmation of the sanctity of life? A special Evangelium Vitae Novena event has been set up on Facebook. It’s available to anyone, even those who don’t have a Facebook account. There you will find a beautiful preface, written by Father Vincent Edward Mark Bertrand, MA, MDiv, JCLFounder/Director of Marian Advocates for Life, as well as other pertinent information. I have also written a summary of the inspiration for the Novena and Priests for Life has a wide-ranging list of links about Evangelium Vitae on their website.
Evangelium Vitae Daily Meditations
Day 1: March 16 – For an end to the contraceptive mentality.
Day 2: March 17 – For an end to abortion.
Day 3: March 18 – For an end to euthanasia of the elderly and disabled.
Day 4: March 19 – For an end to the commodification of unborn children and mothers.
Day 5: March 20 – For an end to the sex industry.
Day 6: March 21 – For Legislators.
Day 7: March 22 – For a stronger witness from the clergy.
Day 8: March 23 – For a stronger witness from the laity.
Day 9: March 24 – For an increase in the virtue of chastity.
Closing reflection: March 25 – The Feast of the Annunciation.
It is my fervent prayer that this 20th anniversary of Evangelium Vitae will inspire more active participation by everyone – clergy, world leaders, and laity – in a redoubled effort to advocate for life. Prayer, faithfully done, can move mountains. This small effort could reap glorious results for the most vulnerable among us. Won’t you prayerfully consider being a part of the prolife revolution? Let’s answer the call by Saint John Paul II for a ‘great prayer for life!’