For the second year in a row, the U.S. Catholic bishops are sponsoring "Nine Days for Life: Prayer, Penance and Pilgrimage," planned for Jan. 18-26 this year, as part of several events marking the 41st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion virtually on demand in the U.S.
"Since that tragic decision, more than 55 million children's lives have been lost to abortion, and many suffer that loss—often in silence," says a posting on the website www.9daysforlife.com.
Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said Jan. 15 that the number of abortions since the 1973 decision reflects "with heartbreaking magnitude" what Pope Francis means by a "throwaway culture."
"Yet our society relegates abortion to a matter of personal choice, often denying the integrity and even the recognition of the personhood of unborn children," he said in a statement. "However, we have great trust in God's providence."
Cardinal O'Malley urged all Catholics to participate in nine-day pro-life novena, whether they planned to travel to Washington or not for this year's March for Life Jan. 22.
The 9daysforlife website offers participants several ways to sign up to receive directly a daily simple novena with different intercessions, brief reflections and suggested acts of reparation via email or text message or by using an app for smartphones.
Several resources for prayer and activities—as well as the full reflections for each of the nine days -- are available online in the "Pro-Life Activities" section of the U.S. bishops' website, www.usccb.org.
By participating in the pro-life novena and calling "upon the Lord for the healing and conversion of our nation and those impacted by the culture of death," Cardinal O'Malley said, "we are also reminded—through the very act of prayer—of our beautiful dependence on God and his deep love for each of us."
Jan. 22 is the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's decisions in the Roe case and its companion case, Doe v. Bolton. Once gain the National Mall in Washington will be site of the annual March for Life marking those rulings. Thousands of pro-lifers are expected to descend on the nation's capital for the rally and march to the Supreme Court.
The March for Life—which has adoption as its theme this year—will begin with a pre-rally event with live music at 11:30 a.m., followed by a noon rally with a host of speakers. The march begins immediately afterward, with participants walking from the Mall to Constitution Avenue and ending up at the U.S. Supreme Court.
On the eve of the annual march, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities and The Catholic University of America's Office of Campus Ministry will sponsor the annual National Prayer Vigil for Life at the national shrine.
It will open Jan. 21 with a 6:30 p.m. Mass to be celebrated in the Washington shrine's Great Upper Church. Cardinal O'Malley will be the principal celebrant and homilist.
The vigil will continue in the shrine's Crypt Church with the National Rosary for Life at 10 p.m., followed by night prayer at 11 p.m. The vigil continues overnight in the Crypt Church, with exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Holy Hours every hour on the hour starting at midnight and continuing through 6 a.m.
After morning prayer, Benediction and reposition of the Blessed Sacrament at 6:30 a.m., Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput will be the celebrant and homilist at the vigil's closing Mass at 7:30 a.m. Mass in the national shrine's Great Upper Church.
Last year, more than 20,000 pro-life pilgrims attended the vigil.
Across the country, three days after the Washington events, more than 50,000 people are expected to gather Jan. 25 for the 10th annual Walk for Life West Coast.
"The pro-life spirit is truly alive in San Francisco and the Walk for Life West Coast continues to be a wonderful way for those who care about women and their babies, born and unborn, to show that life is the only choice," Eva Muntean, the event's co-chair, told Catholic San Francisco, the archdiocesan newspaper.
The crowd will gather at Civic Center Plaza for a 12:30 p.m. rally, then walk down Market Street starting at 1:30 p.m. The event will conclude with a celebration at Justin Herman Plaza near the Ferry Building.
To celebrate and promote this year's walk, the Walk for Life has released a short promotional video that can be seen at www.walkforlifewc.com.
San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone will deliver the invocation for the walk at Civic Center Plaza. He has invited the priests and people of all the parishes and schools of the archdiocese to attend.
"The growth and enthusiasm surrounding the walk proves that our pro-life message continues to resonate with the culture to fill the void secular society creates when it excludes God, virtue and an understanding of the profound dignity of human life," Archbishop Cordileone wrote in his letters to pastors, priests, Catholic school teachers and students in the San Francisco Archdiocese.
The archbishop also will celebrate a 9:30 a.m. Walk for Life West Coast Mass at St. Mary's Cathedral.
"People, especially our young people, are more and more receptive to the message that abortion hurts women, men and families. They understand that it is inherently unfair to generations of their peers who never had the opportunity to experience life. This is why turnout by our students and young people continues to rise," the archbishop wrote.