By Barb Arland-Fye
DAVENPORT — Turnout was light, but the 50 or so individuals who participated in the Vigil for all Nascent Human Life filled Sacred Heart Cathedral with heartfelt, sung prayer.
Bishop Martin Amos presided at the vigil, which Pope Benedict XVI asked every bishop’s conference to celebrate in every diocese throughout the world on the eve of Advent.
“The purpose, the Vatican said, is ‘to become a cry of all humanity, rising up to God the Father, giver of all good things, in order that every human life be respected, protected and loved,’” Bishop Amos said during his homily.
“From the first pages of our Scriptures in Genesis to the last chapters of the Book of Revelation there is a proclamation of life.” But, “from those first chapters of Genesis to this very day that divine plan of life has been stained by sin and that sin has grown and grown — and with it a culture of death.”
The bishop cited death penalties, gang killings, assisted suicide, domestic violence, childhood poverty, drug and human trafficking, genocide, deportation, prostitution and child sweat shops as evidence of the culture of death.
“And I haven’t mentioned yet the most heinous of these crimes against life — abortion: the taking of that innocent human life even before the baby is born. Within a short drive from this cathedral, abortions happen weekly at the Quad-City center of Planned Parenthood in Bettendorf.”
The beginning of the causes of the culture of death is a lack of the sense of God and of humanity, Pope John Paul II observed in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), Bishop Amos said.
“We can be overwhelmed by the culture of death and how little we seem able to do, yet it is Christ the Word of Life we proclaim. And it is from the Author of life that we are transformed and saved; born again through the water of baptism to eternal life; renewed by the grace of the Spirit who is the Lord and giver of life. We have become a people for life and are called to act accordingly.”
Bishop Amos thanked all who work to help bring about a respect for life: those who accept abandoned children, and adopt them; who take in teenagers in difficulty; who help the handicapped; who work with the elderly and the dying; and all of the centers that support life. He thanked young people who support life and encouraged them to help raise the social awareness in defense of life. He thanked the religious and lay people who work with the weak and needy, and he thanked the Women’s Choice Center, a pro-life facility in Bettendorf.
“As we prepare these next weeks of Advent to celebrate the incarnation of the Eternal Word who came that we might have life and have it to the full, let us increase our own efforts to live a culture of life, encourage a culture of life, support a culture of life, pray for a culture of life, and defend a culture of life.”
Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament was the centerpiece of the hour-long vigil, for which Father Hai Dinh was grateful. Parochial vicar of Sacred Heart Cathedral, he described the vigil as “a wonderful moment for us to think of the unborn babies and their parents, and we had time together with the bishop to pray with the priests of the world and the Holy Father for human life.”
Fr. Dinh sat among the congregation; the vigil’s ministers were Msgr. Robert Gruss, rector of Sacred Heart Cathedral, and Deacon Frank Agnoli, the Davenport Diocese’s liturgy director. Pat King served as master of ceremonies, Kim McDonald as organist, Terry Ratcliff as cantor, and the Diocesan Ensemble added their voices in song.
For Mickey Oliger, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport, the vigil “lightened my heart so much. I thought to myself, ‘I must write to the bishop and tell him what a beautiful Holy Hour it was and thank him for it and to tell him how privileged I felt that I was able to attend!”