By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Bishop Martin Amos said finding what direction to go with his homily for a celebration of life Mass was a struggle this year. “In the past few years this Black and White Gala has fallen on feast days and it was pretty easy to draw a homily from the Scriptures.” Then he went to the prayers for the Mass of the day and found this passage: “for giving thanks to God for the gift of human life.” “I found my hook,” he said during his homily for the celebration of life Mass on Aug. 12 at Christ the King Chapel.
He compared the preciousness of life to an icon. Bishop Amos said that image and likeness are both translations of the Greek word “icon.” He noted that in Western spirituality we are called first to listen, “so we have such things as Lectio Divina and Divine reading.” Byzantine fathers focus on gazing. One gazes at icons to look into the invisible world. “They are to lead us into the inner room of prayer. It is a window into the divine.”
The bishop noted that one of the icons that the late Father Henri Nouwen reflected on was the Icon of the Savior of Zvenigorod. It was painted by Andrew Rublev, “one of the greatest medieval Russian painters of icons. He died in the beginning of the 15th century.”
The icon, lost over time, was found in 1918. It was largely destroyed, but the face of Jesus remained on the wooden panels. Fr. Nouwen wrote, “When I first saw the icon, I had the distinct sense that the face of Christ appears in the midst of chaos. A sad but still very beautiful face looks at us through the ruins of the world….”
Bishop Amos said the history of the icon, its loss and rediscovery, holds both a warning and reassurance. “Christ warns us against our destructiveness while at the same time expressing that God’s love is stronger, much stronger than our own inclination to destroy what has been so beautifully made. … The icon is an invitation: ‘come to me, all you who labor and are overburdened and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.’”
Every human life is an icon, Bishop Amos said, “made in the image and likeness of God. Perhaps we need to take more time to gaze upon the icons that we are, to gaze on the icons of our family members, the icons of the poor and vulnerable in our world, the icons of the elderly, the icons of the unborn. Let us look upon the beauty of his face in everyone we meet.”
He concluded by reading a prayer called “The Baby” by Michael Quoist. Bishop Amos asked that God continue to bless those who continue to work for life.
Following Mass, a bagpiper led the pro-life supporters to the gala at the Rogalski Center on the St. Ambrose University campus. Inside, displays of various pro-life ministries lined the third-floor entry before the ballroom with information about their services.
Along the walls inside the ballroom were displays of raffle items such as a fair trade basket, jewelry, religious items (paintings, rosary, nativity set), a back-to-school package, stationary sets and wine baskets. The evening also included dining and auction.
Emma Simmons, a member of Our Lady of Victory Parish-Davenport, said her mom started bringing her to the gala when she was in high school. She continues to attend the annual event. “I enjoy the pro-life reason for the event. And you can see everyone come together to support something so important.”
Carrie Goldermann, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish-Davenport, she has attended the event almost every year it has been held. “I feel so united with people for such an important reason and we have to defend life.”
Kathleen Schneider, a member of Sacred Heart Parish-Moline, Ill., said, “Life is a black and white issue. Either you support it or you don’t. We are here to support those working for the unborn and who cannot speak for themselves so that they may live.”