When we learned several months back that Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life would be flying to Fargo in October to keynote our local Teens for Life's annual Cupcakes for Life event, we parent volunteers were thrilled. We knew his presence here would be a boost to our teens, who are trying to raise enough money to bring their whole Catholic high school to the March for Life in D.C. in January. Our school has been selected from all the schools in the nation to carry the lead banner at this year's March, and Father Frank will be marching beside us.
Father Frank came to North Dakota for several reasons. Foremost, to encourage our young people, who are not just future leaders of the pro-life movement but its present leaders too, as he said during his visit.
In addition, he noted, the nation is watching North Dakota to see how our citizens will vote in an upcoming election. The ballot will include a life measure, Measure 1, that has tremendous implications not only for our state but all citizens of the United States. Issues such as whether young mothers need the consent of their parents before having an abortion, and whether the doctors who perform the abortions here need admitting privileges at our local hospitals, and whether babies can be aborted for gender selection, and more, all will be decided and cemented. Our commonsense laws to protect our own citizens are being threatened -- much due to money and marketing from outside organizations (namely, Planned Parenthood) -- and should concern us all.
A few days prior to Father's visit, the parents who have been working alongside our kids to make the D.C. trip a reality for our whole student body (yes, we want to make history) were invited to have breakfast with him. What an honor to know we'd not only be hearing him speak, but actually sitting down to "break bread" with him at a local eatery in our own back yard.
So last Friday, on a beautiful, 60-degree fall day after dropping the kids off at school, we parents sat down and enjoyed a meal and conversation with this very sweet man who has devoted his whole priesthood to fostering a Culture of Life. He shared a little about his life on Staten Island (when he's static, which isn't often) and he wanted to know about all of us, too. We went around the circle, sharing why we're involved in this group and other ways we're advocates for life.
Toward the end of our short hour together -- Fr. Frank had to hurry over to a school assembly right after breakfast -- he shared some encouraging insight with us. First, he expressed his optimism for the pro-life movement, stating that there are two reasons to be extremely hopeful about it.
The first reason: the young. The youth who are at the forefront of the pro-life movement understand they are survivors, having been spared abortion themselves, so when they speak out for others, they are simultaneously speaking out for themselves. As the reality of history hits them, they become naturally and fully invested, and that energy and motivation is its own powerful force that no amount of fuel from outside sources can quell.
The second reason: the aftermath. The real-life stories coming forth from every direction from post-abortive women and men sharing of the devastation and destruction of both body and soul, as well as healing and hope, cannot be quelled. The injustice of abortion and what it has done to them compels these stories to spill out, and as Father Frank said, the energy and passion that has resulted is unstoppable.
These two elements, along with where we're at in history, combine to create an extremely encouraging picture. Abortion will, by its very nature, be its own demise, he said, because you cannot have a thriving society in a society that allows the killing of its youngest. "Injustice necessarily corrects itself," he says, because it is beyond the bounds of God and nature.
Finally, he told us that we need not feel undue pressure to change the world. The momentum is in our favor. We don't have to make it all happen. All we have to do is our own little part -- by being firm and steadfast, day by day; by supporting our children in their efforts; by making a small wave that can be added to the whole. We are, in a sense, points of light, here to encourage each other in a movement that is wholly on our side, because it is a movement of life.
It was refreshing to hear this. Those of us who believe that death is never a good answer to any "problem" in society can feel disheartened at times by a culture that touts death as an acceptable answer. Death does happen, but it should always happen naturally, at God's appointed time, not at our own choosing. This is my fervent belief, and it's one of many reasons I am solidly pro-life.
Our breakfast with Fr. Frank was just the beginning of an amazing day. That same afternoon, we gathered with him Downtown Fargo at our state's only abortion facility, and after an hour of prayer there, including the recitation of the Rosary using pro-life reflections and the Divine Mercy Chaplet sung at 3 p.m., we headed to the nearby Visitation Chapel for Mass. After Mass, Father Pavone blessed us with a relic of St. John Paul II -- drops of his blood from the day he went to paradise. It was incredible to realize, in that small chapel next to the abortion facility, that we were in the midst of a saint who, during our own lifetime, drove this movement forward in love. And incidentally, our school is within the network named for him -- the John Paul II Catholic Schools Network.
Finally, Father joined the Teens for Life group at our parish here in Fargo, along with the hundreds of others who had come to hear him speak and enjoy cupcakes. The students themselves led the evening, including one who shared his personal testimony of learning his mother had aborted two of his siblings before receiving healing through Rachel's Vineyard. Father's talk gave us all a tremendous boost of hope and courage as he reminded us that we are not passing the torch onto our young kids to take over this movement; we are taking their hands and joining them as we all walk together toward the victory that is certain.
We have every reason to feel confident that God's hand is with us, and that all we have to do is stick with Him, and be points of light for one another on this beautiful journey of life.
Q4U: Have you ever dined with a hero?
Copyright 2014 Roxane B. Salonen
About the Author
Roxane B. Salonen, a wife and mother of five from Fargo, N.D., is an award-winning children’s author and freelance writer who also enjoys Catholic radio hosting and speaking. Roxane co-authored former Planned Parenthood manager Ramona Trevino’s memoir, Redeemed by Grace. Her work is featured on "Peace Garden Passage" at her website, roxanesalonen.com