Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Dayof Penance . . . And Hope

Today I found myself, quite unexpectedly, at the 12:10 afternoon Mass at Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral in Los Angeles.  I say "unexpectedly" because my trip to L.A. was quite a big surprise, arranged by my wife and a dear friend from law school who wanted me to come to Los Angeles to celebrate the birthday of Robert Burns, the great poet of Scotland.  The celebration includes the singing and recitation of Burns' poetry, the consumption of haggis and other Scottish delicacies, and the drinking of much Scotch.

Today, however, my friend had things to attend to at his law firm in downtown L.A., and so I was left with some free time to walk around that part of the city.  Truth be known, he gave me the choice of walking around the campus at USC (his alma mater) or touring downtown.  As a Notre Dame grad, I have in the past ventured to the land of Troy -- a pilgrim in an unholy land.  So this time, I chose "the better part."

I was in fact very curious to see Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral which I had not had an opportunity to visit before.  I arrived just in time for Mass.  I would estimate that over three-hundred people were in attendance.  After the procession and greeting the priest said that just prior to the liturgy someone had asked him "Father, why are you wearing purple?  Lent hasn't begun yet."  And he explained to the congregation that this day on the Church's calendar in the United States is a day of penance, because today marks the sad anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that created a constitutional right to abortion, under the authority of which millions of unborn human beings have been destroyed.  Thus, today he said was a day of penance in which we seek God's forgiveness for our nation for the sin of abortion and we seek God's help in changing the hearts and minds of those who support abortion and in building a culture of life.

In his homily the priest noted that although today was a day of penance, it was also a day of hope.  He explained that the following evening Cardinal Mahoney would be celebrating a Requiem Mass for the Unborn at the cathedral.  At one point in the liturgy he said a number of children would come forward and place 148 candles around the altar representing the 148 abortions that take place on average in Los Angeles County each day.  The priest said that this was, however, a hopeful sign in that only a few years ago the altar would be surrounded by 300 candles representing the average number of abortions perfomed each day in Los Angeles County at that time.  This, he said, showed that despite all the cultural messages in favor of abortion, people were being convinced of the evil of this act and turning to embrace the cause of life.  Yet, he said, 148 candles is 148 too many, so much work remains to be done.

In extinguishing the flame of abortion we seek to make another light shine, "the light of the human race, the light [that] shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."


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