The decline of moral and family values, the rise of relativism and the visible assaults by the media and our own government on people of faith are heavy burdens. Some might feel, with good reason, that our culture has already collapsed under the weight of moral decay. But hope remains, and help is on the way.
On Saturday, August 24, a new chapter in the struggle to build a Culture of Life begins as Human Life International welcomes the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa to North America. This historic pilgrimage has already touched the lives of millions of Christians across Europe. At each stop of the icon at hundreds of Catholic and Orthodox churches from Vladivostok, Russia to Fatima, Portugal, those in attendance heard calls to prayer and action to renew the faith and defend the innocent unborn.
For the past 40 years in the United States, Roe v. Wade has allowed millions of lives to be destroyed with the legal consent of our government. What’s more, this destruction of life has too often been encouraged by political leaders, and policies which assume that there is no such thing as a right to life.
This is a war with political, cultural and spiritual fronts. But it’s a war that we can and will win – with God’s help. In the Old Testament, we see the Israelites carry the Ark of the Covenant into battle. Mary, the mother of Jesus, has been understood since the early centuries of the Church to be the new Ark of the Covenant, the one who carried the living Word of God. Meditating on the stories of the wedding feast at Cana and Jesus’ last words on the Cross helps us to understand how Jesus’ mother has always had a special intercessory power with her Son.
The history of the Black Madonna icon is replete with victories in battle, and with miracles. Legend holds that after the icon was displayed from the walls of Constantinople, her people won a critical 4th century battle against the Saracens. After an attack on the kingdom of Galicia in the 11th century, the king prayed in front of the Black Madonna for the intercession of Our Lady to aid his small army. Darkness overcame the enemy troops, and they began attacking one another. The icon is also credited for Polish victory in 1655 against the forces of Sweden’s King Charles X. After Poland was almost entirely overrun, only the area around the monastery which housed the icon remained free. The monks of the monastery were somehow able to successfully defend against a forty day siege, and eventually Polish forces were able to drive out all of the invaders.
Credit is given to the intercession of Our Lady of Czestochowa for numerous miraculous events over the centuries, including what is now referred to in Poland as the “Siege of Jericho,” when thousands of Poles prayed to the Black Madonna for their pope, Pope John Paul II, to be allowed to visit his homeland. At the end of the novena, the Communist government reversed its decision to bar his visit, and we know what happened next. We now turn to Our Lady in prayer and sacrifice seeking help for another miracle: the end of abortion around the world.
We must continue to make reason-based arguments, since reason and truth are on the side of life. But don’t you also see something very strange going on? That is, the utter disdain for reason, and for law, from those who govern our nation who seem to see themselves as rulers rather than as civil servants. They are accumulating great power, more quickly than most realize, and they have no respect for any limits on their own will. We need God’s help. We need to turn to Him, and we have a no more powerful advocate than the mother of Jesus.
We are not only seeking legal and legislative victories, though those would be most welcome, but victories of the mind, heart and soul. The Black Madonna has already come halfway around the world inspiring hundreds of thousands to seek Christ, to deepen their faith, hope and love, and to defend the innocent. As the icon travels to Catholic and Orthodox parishes across the United States and Mexico, our Blessed Mother calls all of her children to unite in the defense of life in an effort to build a civilization of life and love.
As this next chapter of the journey begins on St. Clement’s Island, Maryland this weekend — the site of the first landing of Catholic pilgrims in the American British colonies of the 17th century — we ask for your continued prayers for Fr. West, for all those participating in the pilgrimage around the continent, and for our pro-life missionaries. And please pray that millions more of our brothers and sisters will be inspired by this historic voyage to renew their faith and join in the defense of all human life from conception until natural death.