One of the most rewarding and at times difficult ministry I’ve done as hospital chaplain has been attending the neo-natal ward. This would involve the baptising and confirming of infants in danger of death, saying prayers for babies who die and accompanying their grieving parents, etc. On one such occasion I conducted the funeral service for a little baby girl Mary Li who was born premature at 21 weeks, and yet perfectly formed. She was given to her parents in a little white coffin that was no bigger than a shoe box. After a liturgical service in the church, we interred her in a corner of the church cemetery in a grave that I had dug myself – the only time I’ve ever done such a thing.
Whilst conducting this neo-natal ministry I would often reflect and be bemused by the fact that immediately below the neo-natal ward that was performing all this heroic and hi-tec medicine to keep wanted babies alive, there was another ward (immediately underneath!) that was engaged in the mass-killing of unwanted preborn babies. I still find it hard to work out how such a practice has come to be socially accepted by the population at large and tolerated by the vast majority of believing Christians. Given the enormity of this mass-killing of unwanted perborn babies, I have always believed that it is insufficient to say I am against abortion and leave it at that. Some level of activism is required. Next Wednesday I will attend a prayer vigil outside an abortion clinic in Maidstone along with some other parishioners.
Today is the feast day of St Vincent dePaul. Perhaps we can reflect on what he says about ministry to the poor in terms of the preborn babies being killed by abortion.
Since Christ willed to be born poor, he chose for himself disciples who were poor. He made himself the servant of the poor and shared their poverty. He went so far as to say that he would consider every deed which either helps or harms the poor as done for or against himself. Since God surely loves the poor, he also loves those who love the poor. For when one person holds another dear, he also includes in his affection anyone who loves or serves the one he loves. That is why we hope that God will love us for the sake of the poor. So when we visit the poor and needy, we try to understand the poor and weak. We sympathise with them so fully that we can echo Paul’s words: I have become all things to all men. Therefore, we must try to be stirred by our neighbours’ worries and distress. We must beg God to pour into our hearts sentiments of pity and compassion and to fill them again and again with these dispositions.