The spiritual dimension of abortion based on our faith must be addressed along with the medical, legal, political, moral and psychological aspects of this social aberration. We have to see beneath the exterior human activities in order to appraise the sinister aspect of distorted spiritual realities that are motivating the obvious. Then observe the corrective means directed by divine providence. Many refuse to face the facts and actually camouflage the reality to make it palatable to their deformed consciences. That is the problem with politicians who claim to be Catholic, but whose actions show otherwise. They are to being Catholic what margarine is to being butter: mere appearance, essentially different, a label without content.
A clear idea of what results when evil pervades a society is needed. This concerns the justice of God because our denial of his rights by sin is a denial of his rightful glory. Let us examine the 8th Station of the Cross. Some stations say “Jesus consoles the women of Jerusalem”
– Hardly! He said to them, “Weep not for me, but for yourselves and for your children” (Luke 23.28).
This calls to mind the time he was entering Jerusalem and wept over it, saying –
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem – how I would gather you as a hen does her chicks; but you refused! – A time will come when you will be surrounded and a stone will not be left on a stone – because you did not recognize the time of your visitation” (cf. Matthew 23.37; Luke 19.44).
The refusal of the Gospel has its dire consequences. When laws are passed that make a society resemble the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, what can be expected? Recall what they got!
The Lord constantly complained that people invoked him with their lips, but their hearts were far from him.
My people heard not my voice,
And Israel obeyed me not;
So I gave them up to the hardness of their hearts,
They walked according to their own counsel.
If only my people would hear me,
And Israel walk in my ways,
Quickly would I humble their enemies;
Against their foes I would turn my hand.
The message of Our Lady at La Salette is an example of the merciful hand of God and his ensuing arm of justice when rejected. In 1846 she appeared in tears to two teenagers telling them that, if the people did not stop blaspheming the Lord’s name and would once again keep Sunday holy by attending Mass, a famine would come from the lack of wheat and grapes. But if they repented and did as she requested, the very rocks would become heaps of wheat. Did they pay attention? They suffered the famine and even children died as predicted. She also pointed out that the sign in the previous year’s potato failure was disregarded. They had been given several admonitions to no avail.
Nor should we forget what happened at Fatima in 1917, when Our Lady appeared to three children, aged seven, nine and eleven, asking them to come to a particular place at noon on the thirteenth of each month from May to October. They were not present on August 13th because the socialist town officials kidnapped them and put them into the common prison. After their release, Our Lady told them that, because of that deliberate opposition, the promised miracle for October 13th would not be as great as God had originally intended. We see here how the benevolence of God was interfered with by malicious government officials, causing the lessening of the promised gift. God is merciful but readily just at the same time. His mercy is not to be abused.
How often we hear “God bless America”. But how often do we hear “America bless God”? Is there proper reciprocation on our part as blessed recipients? When God blesses us with children, do we bless him by respecting his gifts?
Abortion is just one of the symptoms of what the real battle consists. This is my overview of what is actually happening spiritually on many levels of our society and culture.
Divine Fatherhood Eclipsed
It is obviously a spiritual battle. In Ephesians 6.12, St. Paul states point blank that it is demonic.
“For we are not contending with flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places.”
Now, if there is anyone who thinks that believing in demons is irrational, medieval, superstitious, naïve, I would ask if he/she ever witnessed an exorcism – not the Hollywood type where they have to entertain you for your money’s worth. He is sly and devious – unwilling to reveal himself, unless under great pressure. Our Lord described him as a liar and deceiver. He is truly that from my experience of witnessing many exorcisms. For those who reject the reality of demons without this experience, it can be said that their ideas are just opinions based on incomplete knowledge.
What is the Demon’s “battle plan” in all this? Remember that he is the great opposer of God. Examining the facts, we can get a general idea of his opposition to God’s plan. The great Christian revelation is that God the Father wants us to be his children in the eternal kingdom of heaven. Christ’s main mission, then, is the restoration of the God’s Fatherhood among men.
This is verified by the mystical experience of St. Faustina of the Divine Mercy revelations, as recorded in her diary : “When I received Holy Communion, I had a deeper knowledge of the heavenly Father and of His Fatherhood in relation to souls.”
So Satan will do everything to stop that from happening because he himself and his followers have rejected God’s will, which includes God’s fatherhood for mankind.
Satan cannot get at God the Father directly so he will do his best to eliminate every vestige of him in creation – that is everything related to fatherhood, which reflects God as Father. For, as Ephesians 3.14-15 (D-R) emphasizes,
“I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom all paternity in heaven and on earth is named.”
As the saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind”. If there is nothing to remind us of true fatherhood, then we would not know who God the Father is.
Let us recall that Jesus accused his enemies of having Satan as their father, doing his works – of lying, deceiving and murdering. John 8. 44 ff states that clearly,
“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth… for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
Obviously, Satan wants to replace the benevolent fatherhood of God with his own evil “fatherhood”, a pseudo-fatherhood, a false fatherhood, not one based on truth and love.
True fatherhoods of our Faith
There are five true fatherhoods in our Faith:
 the Divine fatherhood of God the Father
 the Supernatural fatherhood of Jesus Christ
- the New Adam [1 Cor.15.22]
- Father of the World to come [Isaiah 9.6]
- Jesus addressed St. Faustina as “My daughter” [Diary 757]
 the Virginal fatherhood of St. Joseph [Matthew]
 the Spiritual fatherhood of priests [1 Cor.4.14,15]
 the Natural fatherhood of men
As mentioned, Satan cannot attack God the Father directly, so he is trying to demolish the other four fatherhoods we can experience. How?
His attack against the supernatural fatherhood of Jesus consists of eliminating faith in Jesus as Son of God and Messiah. We see former Christian Europe now needing re-evangelization, a return to faith in Christ.
His attack against virginal fatherhood of St. Joseph is to disfigure his image so as to make him irrelevant to our times.
His attack against the spiritual fatherhood of priests is obvious. Break down trust in them. When my sister heard of the scandals, the first thing she said to me was, “I never realized how much the devil was against priests!” She echoed the words of St. Faustina, the Messenger of Divine Mercy, “O Divine and Great High Priest, may the power of your mercy accompany them everywhere and protect them from the devil’s traps and snares which are continually being set for the souls of priests.” [Diary 1052]
His attack against the natural fatherhood of men is also obvious. Contraception, abortion, sterilization, co-habitation, same sex marriages, divorce obliterate the true meaning of fatherhood.
Satan’s initial attack upon humankind was to get Adam and Eve to disobey God the Father through deceit, distorting truth, with false promises. And so he has continued throughout history. It should be especially clear to us from the debris of our moral culture.
A Spiritual Offensive
Plans to promote a pro-life agenda must include identifying and overcoming the demon’s evil tactics. Since this is war on the spiritual level, spiritual arms must be used. The easiest for all to use is the Rosary, which I like to compare to a machine gun. The decades on a Rosary remind me of the belts of bullets on a machine gun. Whereas the military bullet is aimed at a living heart to kill it, the spiritual “bullet”, the grace of the Hail Mary, is meant to enter a spiritually dead heart to bring it to a life in Christ.
Since Satan was conquered by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the Mass, as the sacramental celebration of that sacrifice, is central to this endeavor. Each Mass distributes the graces of that victory. St. Thomas Aquinas said that the more Masses there are the weaker Satan’s attacks become. Fewer Masses mean less opposition to his schemes. That is the importance of vocations to the priesthood and our devotion to the Eucharist. Eucharistic Adoration is a great means to arm ourselves for the spiritual part of this battle. Proper reception of Holy Communion energizes graces of Confirmation, the sacrament given to help us evangelize the world, confronting all its opposition. We should constantly ask for that wisdom and strength.
Salvation history presents the divine strategy. The results of the disobedience of the original Adam and Eve would be repaired by the obedience of the New Adam and his associate, the New Mother of the Living, Christ and his immaculate Mother. Her role is not peripheral but essential in a subordinate way as our faith teaches. To understand her contribution in our present struggle, we have to revert to the contents of our faith regarding Mary.
The Demon’s attack on the Fatherhood of God is ultimately related to the Most Holy Trinity. The created image of the Most Holy Trinity is the family: father, mother and child. Therefore the destruction of the family, where fatherhood is properly expressed, is in the demonic plans as well. The most perfect created image of the Divine Trinity is the earthly trinity of the Most Holy Family – Joseph, Mary and Jesus. Their spiritual harmony mirrors the eternal harmony of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They were focused on and united in fulfilling the will of God. Perfect reparation to and restoration of the glory of God depended on them.
It is true that fatherhood is the main target of Satan’s forces, but his is a multi-pronged strategy which includes the destruction of motherhood and childhood. This is blatant in abortions. The fact is that with abortion, there is no child, no mother, no father, no family and, consequently, no future.
The two motherhoods
In the realm of faith, there are two motherhoods: that of Mary, Mother of Jesus, the God-Man, and that of the Church, the Mystical Bride of Christ, through whom his supernatural fatherhood is expressed sacramentally, especially in baptism and the Eucharist. The demonic plot against Mary is evident in diminishing devotion to her – as she indicated in her prophetic message for our times at Fatima. His battle against the Church has been experienced in the heretical and schismatic divisions and separations throughout its history. Unity and harmony are the work of the Holy Spirit; disunity and discord are the signs of his adversary. Since Mary has been divinely commissioned to be a participant with Christ in crushing the serpent’s head and also being the Mother of the Church, its model and image, he fears her and needs to demolish her presence in the world as well as that of Christ, her Divine Son. Appreciation of her has greatly diminished just as fatherhood, motherhood and childhood have become deformed in our culture and society.
Mary is the New Eve, who in Genesis 3.15, is to assist the New Adam in crushing the Serpent’s head. Since she has that mission, she has been equipped for it by her fullness of grace.
This is portrayed in her titles of Tower of David and Pillar of Faith, the scriptural image of the “mulier fortis”, the woman of strength. Jerusalem had a very strong fortress whose main characteristic was its tall tower that overlooked the city. That tower gave the fortress its identity: the tower of David. Because of that fortress, the people felt secure. Mary, full of grace, is viewed as such a strong fortress in the realm of faith. As for Pillar of Faith, she stood and did not collapse on Calvary. She kept in mind her Son’s promise to rise again. That sustained her on Good Friday and Holy Saturday. She thus symbolizes the unconquerable strength of faith in Christ in the face of adversity. For this reason the Church admonished artists who portrayed her in a faint at the Cross. That pose denoting weakness contradicted Scripture.
The Diocese of Charleston, which covers all of the state of South Carolina, has an official diocesan shrine to house the icon of Our Lady of South Carolina – Our Lady and Mother of Joyful Hope. The name and symbolism were derived from that state seal, motto and flag. In her long straight robe, she is easily recognizable as that secure Tower and strong Pillar, as she stands on the serpent. The Eucharist and Rosary, very prominent on the icon, form her spiritual school according to the teaching of Bl. Pope John Paul II (www.ourladyofsouthcarolina.net).
The official prayer to Our Lady of South Carolina speaks of various members of society, including the unborn, needing to be rescued by her love reaching out through us. Why her love? It is because May’s love is constant, reliable and dependable. We never have to ask what kind of a mood is she in. But to love others as she does means that we must see them as she does. She sees them through maternal eyes as members of God’s family. Through the school of her Rosary, as Bl. John Paul II referred to it, we can acquire that same vision. In this way our endeavors will not depend on our weak human efforts, but will be empowered by the victory of the Cross given to us through Mary.
Enter St. Joseph
It is interesting that Our Lady is also bringing St. Joseph prominently into her mission. This is evidenced at Fatima [Portugal], Akita [Japan], Our Lady of America, Our Lady of Connecticut, and Our Lady of South Carolina. There is providential evidence to verify this.
In my Connecticut parish we had a healing ministry in honor of St. Joseph. This resulted from prayer to Our Lady of Connecticut, who is venerated in that parish. I asked St. Joseph to heal especially babies to show that heaven loves babies. And he did! Surgeries were cancelled. One of our first grade parochial school students had a lump in her neck that required surgery. The mother requested the prayers to St. Joseph and the anointing. The little girl was ready for surgery. Before going into the operating room the doctor felt her neck to locate the lump. He said it was not where it usually was. He stopped everything and asked for new x-rays. After studying them, he said that there was nothing there, to dress her and take her home. The mother told a friend of hers whose recently born daughter had a large hole in her heart. The doctor said that surgery could be done but only when she was five. The mother came for the anointing. At the next appointment, for a general health check-up, the mother asked the heart to be checked. The doctor reminded her that nothing could be done until the child was five years old. Upon the mother’s insistence, the tests were made. Upon examining those x-rays the doctor declared that no surgery would be necessary. At our SC Shrine a nine month old boy’s heart was healed, also eliminating the required surgery. We have the medical records for his case. There were other such blessings through the intercession of St. Joseph.
St. Joseph’s image is becoming clearer. There is an awakening to the importance of fatherhood. One of the popular books on this subject was appropriately entitled, Fatherless America. This was currently addressed in the impressive film Courageous. When I was requested to give a paper at the week long Seventh International Symposium on St. Joseph on the Mediterranean island of Malta, I chose as my topic the sudden mushrooming of many Catholic men’s organizations around the US dedicated to the restoration of manhood and fatherhood. The unique thing is that they came into existence on their own, without any knowledge of the others – and all identified with St. Joseph and named their organizations after him.
We can understand St. Joseph’s role in society’s restoration by appreciating the contribution he made to the sacred humanity of Christ. Studies show the urgency of the role of the father in the manly growth of boys. There is evidence of serious consequences when that is lacking. So Joseph’s responsibility was to support Jesus in developing a sound male identity according to natural law. Scripture describes Joseph as a just man, a holy man. He fulfilled God’s will as manifested in his life. Since his was a unique family, he required exceptional domestic prudence to direct his family towards its earthly and heavenly goals. These are among the required things that St. Joseph has to offer us for the renewal of human life today, individually and socially.
Pope Benedict XVI [when still Cardinal] addressed this common social fact in his book The God of Jesus Christ [p. 29] when he said, “The crisis of fatherhood that we are experiencing today is a basic aspect of the crisis that threatens mankind as a whole.” He elucidates this in the first volume of his study Jesus of Nazareth (p.136) where he analyzes the Our Father: “It is true, of course, that contemporary men and women have difficulty experiencing the great consolation of the word father immediately, since the experience of the father is in many cases either completely absent or it is obscured by inadequate examples of fatherhood.”
Both the international message of Our Lady at Fatima and the recognized national message of Our Lady of America state that St. Joseph has an important role in bringing peace to the world. That would have to include a return to true fatherhood. The fatherhood of God would have to be central. Is that possible?
Peace: Reality or Illusion?
Could Christ – Father of the World to Come – truly bring peace to the world? In his homily at St. Patrick’s Cathedral during his Pastoral Visit to the USA in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI pointed out that, “We can only move ahead if we turn our gaze together to Christ”. The proof for this was shown during WW I. Pope Benedict XV tried unsuccessfully through diplomatic means to obtain a cease fire on December 25, 1914 – Christmas – to celebrate the Birth of the Prince of Peace. The Germans in their trenches and the French in their trenches, on the other hand, took the initiative to celebrate that holy day with food and song. Soon they both came out and partied together in the no-mans-land between their trenches and shared their festivities. This mutual enjoyment lasted several days. Then they went back to their trenches and started to shoot at each other again. That celebration was never repeated because mutual hatred overwhelmed them as the war progressed.
What made Christmas 1914 different from the other days? Obviously it was the memory of Christ. No such memory of Him was kept except at Christmas 1914. If a proper memory of Christ constantly pervaded society, there would eventually be peace – as proven by that experience in the midst of that brutal war. The officers on both sides of the war admonished the soldiers not to “fraternize” with the enemy. That word comes from the Latin for “brother”. In other words, these mutual enemies acted like joyful brothers at a family celebration. How indicative of what the influence of Christ can be socially.
Pope Benedict XVI, in his Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis – Sacrament of Love – wrote of the efficacious means of arriving at this : “The Eucharist is the sacrament of communion between brothers and sisters who allow themselves to be reconciled in Christ, who made Jews and pagans one people, tearing down the wall of hostility which divided them (cf. Ephesians 2.14)… In the memorial of his sacrifice, the Lord strengthens our fraternal communion and, in a particular way, urges those in conflict to hasten their reconciliation by opening themselves to dialogue and a commitment to justice.” The family-like Eucharistic Covenant is the basis for this fraternal bond among peoples called to union in Christ.
Closer to us is the event of 17 August 2012, when the head the Orthodox Church of Russia went to Poland on a peace mission. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and Archbishop Joseph Michalik, head of the conference of Polish bishops, signed a good will document bridging centuries of historic enmity between their peoples – the first step towards the reconciliation of these Christian brothers. This gives evidence of the healing power of faith.
Also in our times are the successful World Youth Days, inspired by Bl. John Paul II. On these occasions hundreds of thousands of young Catholics from around the world gather together in one place to share their joy in Christ. They offer much evidence for hope.
The father of Bl. John Paul II frequently took him to visit the local Marian shrine of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska – dedicated to the Holy Land sites. When he returned there as Pope, he revealed that “Here the Mother of God nourished my heart.” He was a man of the head and of the heart – well balanced. He was directed to Mary by his natural father and thus nourished by his spiritual Mother. We see, then, that Bl. John Paul II is our saintly leader not only officially but personally as well. That is the ideal of parenthood, both natural and spiritual, so necessary for the restoration of family life, the basic social unit and domestic cell of the Church.
What is presented here is an overview of what I observe about the pro-life situation, wanting to give a more hopeful view by acknowledging the profound spiritual dimension. And in that way we can be better prepared, not only in mind but in heart as well, with the assistance of Our Lady of South Carolina – Our Lady and Mother of Joyful Hope. She with St. Joseph is ready to enlighten and guide, protect and encourage, and also correct us in re-establishing that harmony in Christ, which they enjoyed and which God the Father originally intended for all his children.
Rev. Stanley Smolenski, s.p.m.a., educated in the United States, Canada and Rome, was in a variety of ministries in Connecticut, Wisconsin, and Quebec. He is now a Baptistine canonical hermit at the service of the pilgrims to the Shrine of Our Lady of South Carolina – Our Lady of Joyful Hope – in Kingstree, SC. This article is based on a talk given at Immaculate Conception Church in Goose Creek, SC on the occasion of their Annual Pro-Life Event in 2012.
This article has been published in a fall 2012 issue of The Homiletic & Pastoral Review. Some editor’s changes made.