Humility Is Essential for the Pro-Life Activist

Domenico di Bartolo's Madonna of Humility

During our Face the Truth Tour a few weeks ago in Cincinnati, one of the local pro-life activists who came out to join us for the day reminded me of something that can’t be repeated often enough.

He and I were talking about various ways to fight abortion, and he remarked that one of the most important things any of us can do is to strive for personal holiness in our everyday lives.  I couldn’t agree with him more.

Eric Scheidler has talked in two recent posts about the need for pro-lifers to be diplomats for the cause, and to always keep in mind when we’re talking with people who are pro-choice that our purpose isn’t to “score points” but rather to persuade them to agree with us about the value of life in the womb.

Occasionally, a single conversation with someone who is pro-choice may result in an on-the-spot conversion to the pro-life position.  But I suspect that instances like these are more the exception than the rule.

Our Actions Speak Louder than Our Words

What’s more likely to happen is that someone arguing for the pro-life position will “plant a seed,” so to speak, in the mind of a pro-choice person, which may then lead to a change of mind gradually, over time.  If this happens, it’s also likely that the pro-choicer will remember just as much about what the pro-lifer conveyed through his attitude — charity, genuine concern, willingness to listen, etc. — as through the words he spoke.

But on the other hand, if a pro-lifer conveys an attitude of ad hominem hostility toward a pro-choicer, it likely won’t matter how intellectually airtight the pro-lifer’s argument is, because all the pro-choicer will remember is how obnoxious the pro-lifer came off in conversation.

This is where personal holiness comes in.  If we want to convey charity and compassion and shun pride and personal hostility, we can’t hope to do so if we do not first strive for holiness in our own lives.  And for most of us, the virtue that we most need to develop if we genuinely seek to become holy is that of humility.

Praying for Deliverance from…the Desire of Being Loved?

Last Thursday I was praying some of the prayers in our Life Witness Prayer Book at the 40 Days for Life site outside of the Albany Medical/Surgical Center abortion facility near our office on Chicago’s Northwest Side.  One prayer, the Litany of Humility, I found particularly hard to pray.

The first part of the prayer consists of several intercessions, each of which is followed by the plea, “Deliver me, Jesus”:

From the desire of being esteemed,
From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred to others,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,

From the fear of being humiliated,
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being calumniated,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being ridiculed,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being suspected,

How many of us can honestly say to Our Lord that we really and truly want Him to take away our desire to be esteemed, loved, honored, praised, or preferred to others?

These aren’t your run-of-the-mill petitions, and it’s hard to give voice to them.  But if we want to be holy, and therefore humble, we need to pray them sincerely.

The remainder of the prayer includes another series of intercessions, each of which is followed by the plea, “Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.”

That others may be loved more than I,
That others may be esteemed more than I,
That, in the opinion of the world, others may, increase and I may decrease,
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should,

We chose to include the Litany of Humility in the Life Witness Prayer Book not only because it’s a beautiful and powerful prayer in itself, but also to remind ourselves that when we pray outside of an abortion clinic, or have a conversation with someone who is pro-choice, or take part in any pro-life activity, it’s not about us.  Rather, it’s about God, and about submitting ourselves to His holy will.

It’s for this reason that our pro-life efforts will bear fruit only to the extent that they ultimately depend not on us, but on Him.

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