Friday, January 22, 2010

Purple Vestments

As I am writing this, the annual March for Life is going on in Washington. Tens of thousands of peaceful (and mostly youthful) marchers are making their way around the Capitol toward the Supreme Court building. It's not ideal timing for this sort of thing. For one, it's winter. And it's a workday, not a weekend when there might be more people around to witness the spectacle, and more people free enough to participate. But they're out there to make their annual statement.
But statements are not enough.
Today, the anniversary of the Supreme Court's "abortion decision," is a purple vestment day at Mass. If it's a bit jolting to see the vestments of penitence outside of Lent and Advent, it should be: the bishops of the US have established this anniversary as a day of penance and reparation for sins against life.
A day of penance calls for self-examination. It invites us to ask ourselves how we frame the issue of abortion in our own mind and how active a stance we take in getting information out about life-saving services. Not every family can do what Sr Bernadette's brother and his wife did: give a place in their home to a needy mother. But clearly more needs to be done, and (judging from this search) there are opportunities of all shapes and sizes.
The purple at Mass is supposed to remind us to actually do penance: to express grief, repentance, a sense of corporate regret and a willingness to get personally involved in undoing the effects of the ruling. Those effects have become so mainstream that it is estimated that 43% of American women have had at least one abortion. Which means that if you don't know anyone who has had an abortion, statistically speaking (as horrible as this is to contemplate) you probably just didn't hear about it. She's there. Now what?

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