4 Things I Learned from Monsignor Reilly
Many years ago, Monsignor Reilly realised that the most powerful witness against abortion was prayer in front of the facilities themselves. He has travelled to over 60 countries to share the message of prayerful, peaceful witness, and his advice was even sought by the founders of 40 Days for Life when that ministry began. Many prayer vigils throughout the world are the direct result of his influence and untiring example. I had the chance to spend a few days with the Monsignor last January, in his beautiful monastery of the Precious Blood.
For a priest who has witnessed decades of the horror of our abortion-ravaged culture, apathy and heresy in our churches and even had to face the inevitable physical limitations that come with age, Monsignor Reilly impressed me above all with his great hope.
Here are four more lessons that I gleaned from my time with him:
We are called to Extra-Ordinary Holiness
Everyone who has met Monsignor Reilly is struck by his down-to-earth holiness. He is a man who makes us want to become a saint. For all his successes, and the huge number of babies he has helped to save, he remains an example of humility. He knows that he is doing God’s work, and that he is but an instrument. This should be the goal of all of us: our personal sanctity is more important than any great work we can do for the pre-born, and must never be compromised for the sake of results.
And I am talking about extraordinary holiness, not something superficial.
“Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”
Pope St. John Paul II
Legislation is Important
It can be difficult to keep up with the range of activities involved in a pro-life apostolate, but Monsignor makes the effort to stay informed about changes in legislation, and sometimes contributes personally to relevant cases in his area. When I asked him about incremental legislation, and specifically Victoria’s Infant Viability bill, he replied that incremental legislation, such as this one, can be very effective. His only caveat was that pro-lifers sometimes fail to follow through on these small successes, thinking that one new pro-life law is the victory, when the goal is to make abortion unthinkable.
Our Primary Duty is to Save Souls
Pro-lifers are often accused by abortion advocates of having “foetal tunnel vision” - that is, that we are concerned only with saving babies. The obvious reply is that we are also very active in caring for women, before, during and after pregnancy, and also after their abortions. But, neither of these positions reflects the ultimate aim of the Christian pro-life activist, which is that of saving souls.
We pray for the conversion of mothers, fathers, abortion providers and their support staff, and for the building up of a culture of Life. We pray for a return to chastity and for a reverence for the sanctity of marriage, as well as for the sanctity of Life. When we heed Monsignor Reilly’s exhortation to pray for souls, there is no fear that we will become discouraged by a lack of apparent success in the form of turnarounds.
‘All lives matter’, but so do all souls.
We Need to be a Presence for Women After their Abortions
Following on from the point above, is the need to be able to minister to women at the facility after an abortion. Monsignor Reilly says that for the first 15 minutes after their abortion, the women feel a sense of relief. But as they sit in the recovery room, the weight of what they have just done starts to descend on them, and the guilt can be overwhelming. Many of these women begin to feel that they can never be forgiven. And some may be about to start a cycle of self-destruction that will bring them back to the abortion facility in the future.
When pro-lifers are present outside the facility as women leave, there is the chance for those mothers to begin the process of repentance and healing for their grievous sin against life.
It is never helpful for a post-abortive mother to hear, “You have done nothing wrong”. But it is very helpful, and our Christian obligation to be able to say, “Jesus loves you very much. There is no sin that cannot be forgiven. Even this sin is not beyond His Mercy.”
“Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.”
1 Peter 3:15
To read more about my time with Monsignor Reilly click here: