quarta-feira, novembro 26, 2008

Prayer and Protest Do Mix!

Fr. Frank Pavone

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (whose niece Alveda is a full-time Pastoral Associate of Priests for Life) spoke of a man who once said, “You Negroes should stop protesting and start praying.” He responded as follows:

“The idea that man expects God to do everything leads inevitably to a callous misuse of prayer. For if God does everything, man then asks him for anything, and God becomes little more than a "cosmic bellhop." … I am certain we need to pray for God's help and guidance in this integration struggle, but we are gravely misled if we think the struggle will be won only by prayer. God, who gave us minds for thinking and bodies for working, would defeat his own purpose if he permitted us to obtain through prayer what may come through work and intelligence. Prayer is a marvelous and necessary supplement of our feeble efforts, but it is a dangerous substitute” (King 1963, p. 131-132).

We should never fall into the mistaken notion that prayer and protest don’t mix, or that prayer and politics don’t mix. No document of the Popes, the Bishops’ Conference, or individual bishops suggests that because we believe in prayer, we should forsake all other action, nor that we should keep that action separate from prayer. In fact, the US Bishops’ current Pastoral Plan for Pro-life Activities outlines prayer as one of four key types of activity which the Church must foster in defense of life. The others are public information/education, pastoral care, and influencing public policy. As Gandhi said, those who think religion has nothing to do with politics understand neither religion nor politics.

When we read the Gospels, we see Jesus not only praying privately, but also in front of the crowds. At the raising of Lazarus, Jesus prayed, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me” (John 11:41-42). The Acts of the Apostles demonstrates a Church at prayer in public, confronting confusion, idolatry, and abuse of power.

The bishops’ prayerful presence at the March for Life, and at abortion clinic vigils nationwide is an encouraging and instructive witness. Praying at an abortion clinic, or praying in front of the Supreme Court, is an expression of the fact that union with God means opposition to evil. God has something to say about public affairs, and about publicly advertised killing. Moreover, he is denied and ridiculed in public, just as he was at Calvary, and therefore he should be honored in public, including when we protest evil. Worship inherently is a stand against evil, and is also inherently public, because it is the action of a community. To publicly protest evil that is inherently contrary to worship is perfectly compatible with worship itself.

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