by Marc and Julie Anderson
OVERLAND PARK — Some 120 people from across the region gathered on Oct. 16 in front of the Center for Women’s Health here to receive encouragement from Shawn Carney, president, CEO and one of the co-founders of 40 Days for Life. The rally and prayer vigil marked the halfway point of the fall 40 Days for Life campaign.
Since its inception in 2004 in Bryan/College Station, Texas, 40 Days for Life has grown from a local effort to “an internationally coordinated 40-day campaign that aims to end abortion legally through prayer and fasting, community outreach and a peaceful all-day vigil in front of abortion businesses.”
According to Carney, when the organization started, abortion rates declined in the area by 28%. In 2007, the organization launched its first national campaign, which included 89 cities. Since then, 40 Days for Life has reached more than 1,000 cities in 63 countries.
Prior to Carney’s remarks, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Pro-Life Activities and a board member of the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment, joked about the chilly morning, saying, “The Lord wants to wake us up, and he wants to use us. He wants to use you in waking up our nation and our community as well.”
The archbishop added, “Everything we do as Christians has to begin with and is [dependent] on prayer. I think that’s really what has made 40 Days for Life such a powerful instrument for good for our culture and for our society today.”
Prayer and fasting, Carney said, are at the core of 40 Days for Life.
“It’s a requirement because of the grave evil that we are facing. We simply can’t run out the door and say we’re going to change the world and get all excited. We will be crushed by the world,” he said. “We have to have an interior life to do this because it is unspeakable what happens in an abortion, and it’s a crisis of the human heart, and it’s a crisis of conscience, and our source in this battle is Jesus Christ.”
“We are not a bunch of self-righteous Christians,” Carney said later, “trying to tell the world how to live — quite the opposite. We are approaching five decades of legalized abortion. That means we have experienced it as a nation. We have the data, and we have the pain.”
The pain, he said, is only part of the story. Like the archbishop, Carney said many hearts have changed due to the prayers of countless others, and that brings him joy. Still, loving others enough to pray for them can be difficult.
“It doesn’t mean we’re all walking around, smiling in front of abortion facilities,” said Carney, “but it does mean that our hand doesn’t shake in the midst of spiritual warfare or persecution, or when people don’t agree with us or when coping somehow with the reality of what goes on in over 700 abortion facilities across the country.”
“We have to bring the love and joy and peace,” he continued, “to a place that simply will not have it unless we are here, and that is the grace of being the hands and feet of Christ.”