Cardinal Dolan: Newborn in manger a positive sign of a culture of life

IMAGE: CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

By Mark Pattison

(CNS) — A baby in a manger is proof enough for Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of
New York that Americans can express a culture of life.

And it
wasn’t the Christ child. Instead, it was a newborn infant left by his mother in
the crib of a manger scene at a parish in the New York City borough of Queens.

it “a sad but gripping tale” in his homily during the opening Mass
Jan. 21 of the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National
Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, Cardinal Dolan, said, “No
one knew where the baby had come from, or who left him there … until, a
week later, the sobbing mother, a young Mexican woman, remaining anonymous,
told her story to a journalist.”

Dolan, who is chairman of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, recounted the mother’s words, noting the irony that the woman had left
her baby at Holy Child Jesus Church:

was so afraid, and, all alone in the house, suddenly went into labor. I must
have been in excruciating pain for at least two hours. I started pushing
because, each time I did, the pain would let up. I pushed for 15 minutes and finally
the baby, a boy, finally came out. He didn’t cry at first, so I was afraid he
was not all right. I didn’t know what to do, so I left the umbilical cord on. I
wrapped him in a clean towel and started to look for some place safe and warm.

very religious,” the woman had continued, “so right away I thought of
my church, Holy Child Jesus (in the Brooklyn Diocese). I go there a lot, and the priests and people are
so good. I just knew if I left him in God’s hands, my baby would be OK. So, I
ran into my church and put him in the empty crib. Then he started crying. I
just hoped he was warm enough. I hid in the back of church, knowing Father
would find my baby and the people would care for him. They did.”

story,” Cardinal Dolan said, “and I submit it to you, the jury, this evening,
as Exhibit A in our case for promoting the culture of life.”

added, “It’s not far-fetched to imagine another scenario, what might have
happened: that mother’s legitimate and understandable apprehension and
isolation could have led her to Planned Parenthood.

could have been going to a parish which she found cold, unwelcoming and, impersonal,
where she did not feel safe, and where she would not have been inclined to turn
in her crisis,” Cardinal Dolan said. “Or, in those fretful minutes
after her baby’s birth, she might have run to a church only to find it
bolted-up, with a sign on the outside telling her, probably in English, to come
back during office hours. Thank God that scenario remains only a ‘might-have-been.'”

He said
later, “We are summoned to be such agents of conversion.” The way to
do that, Cardinal Dolan said, was “by imitating those priests and people
of Holy Child Jesus Parish in New York City, by acknowledging that Jose, that
abandoned newborn baby (named for St. Joseph, Jesus’ foster father), Jose was
nowhere more at home than in the empty manger of their parish nativity scene,
because he, too, is a child of God.”

Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, in introductory remarks, welcomed “the
many, many, many young people” at the Mass, as they serve as “a
reminder for every generation” that all are “called to show respect
for the gospel of life.”

prospect of a major storm carrying heavy snow and high winds made the national
shrine slightly less impossibly crowded. Compared to the 11,000 who were packed
in for the opening mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life last year, only
9,000 were on hand Jan. 21, according to Jacquelyn Hayes, a shrine spokeswoman.

turnout was similarly smaller for the Mass. Unlike the entrance processions
in recent years, which lasted a half-hour, the Jan. 21 procession took 20

One indication
of a reduced turnout for the vigil was an announcement Jan. 19 by the
Archdiocese of St. Louis’ Catholic Youth Apostolate that as a precaution, it was canceling its annual Generation Life bus caravan that would have sent hundreds
of youths to Washington.

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Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.

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