‘Prayer does work’ to help end abortion, Bishop Ricken says at Respect Life Mass

During homily, bishop says all faithful ‘called to promote, protect life’

APPLETON — Forty-three years after the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion on demand in the United States, some people in the prolife community question whether praying to end abortion in this country is working.

“Prayer does work,” affirmed Bishop David Ricken during his homily at the annual Respect for Life Mass, held at St. Bernadette Church on Thursday, Jan. 14. The bishop celebrated a second Respect Life Mass Jan. 15 at Ss. Peter and Paul Church in Green Bay.

Jeff and Laura Sheptoski, members of St. John Nepomucene Parish in Little Chute, hold their son Oliver. The Sheptoskis attended the Jan. 14 Respect Life Mass at St. Bernadette Church in Appleton and brought up the eucharistic gifts. (Amanda Lauer | For The Compass)

Bishop Ricken cited one incident showing how prayer works.

Last summer, he was praying with a group of people near the Grand Chute abortion facility. “At that Mass, I mentioned we should pray for the closure of that abortion facility through the intercession of the Holy Innocent children, not just the innocent children who were slaughtered by Herod … but all those who have been victims of abortion throughout the centuries,” he said. A few months after that Mass, the facility closed its doors.

“I don’t often pray enough for the intercession of the Holy Innocents for the protection of human life, but look at the power of their intercession,” said Bishop Ricken.

“The struggle between life and death happens, first of all, in the spiritual realm. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t use everything within our own spiritual arsenal to pray for the intercession of Divine Providence in closing down the works of the enemy, especially with regards to taking the lives of innocent children,” explained Bishop Ricken. “We need to pray that the facility continues to stay closed because so many lives have been taken there. We need to pray that this slaughter of innocent children stops.”

A nation will be judged by the way it treats its children, noted the bishop.

“If you look at the worst atrocities, you look at the cultures from ancient times all the way through now that signed and sealed their own death warrants; cultures that don’t revere and respect their children and bring them up properly, they will be condemned to die by their own decisions,” he said. “The culture of death starts to take hold and pretty soon death seems to win the day. Now we see this culture of death expand into euthanasia.”

Words from the Gospel reading at the Mass, Mt 18: 1-14, reinforced this message, said Bishop Ricken. “‘It is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost,’” he said, citing the Gospel account.

“It’s very heavy to talk about these kinds of subjects, but if we don’t talk about it and face it directly, you all know we will continue to be condemned to keep seeing these evils proliferate and this darkness continue to persuade people to continue these evil actions — taking the lives of innocent children,” he added.

According to Bishop Ricken, there is no more important issue of social justice in the world today than abortion. “If you want to talk social justice, talk about the voiceless, the powerless, those who have no one to defend them. If we do not speak for them, if we do not take action on their behalf, then judgment shall be upon us as well.”

All Catholics, by virtue of their baptism and confirmation, are called to be missionary disciples of life, the bishop explained. “We are all called to promote and protect life, to help educate young people on the purpose of sexuality and its protection in the context of marriage and family life and to the commitment to the solid family life which children have the right to.”

People attending the Mass were reminded that it’s not the sinner who should be condemned, but the sin itself.

“The sinner needs to be loved and shown the compassion of Jesus,” said Bishop Ricken. “We are to help young women and men who are trapped in these situations and help them know the church is here to help them and to provide for them. We really need to put our money where our mouths are by providing help and assistance to people in these situations.”

In closing, Bishop Ricken answered the question, ‘What can we do?”

“We need to fight for, protect and value human life, especially for those who have no one to fight for them,” he said. “Pray to the Holy Innocents. Use the power and authority given to you by your baptism and confirmation to cast out the power of the enemy. This is a spiritual battle.

“Let’s pray more, let’s pray more directly, let’s pray with greater authority, and let’s do something about it,” added Bishop Ricken. “If not you or me, then who? If not now, then when? If not here, then where?”