Youth carry a 40 Days for Life banner during the AZ Life Rally Jan. 22 in Phoenix. (Tony Gutierrez/CATHOLIC SUN)
Youth carry a 40 Days for Life banner during the AZ Life Rally Jan. 22 in Phoenix. The next 40 Days for Life prayer campaign runs Feb. 10-March 20 and includes five vigil locations in the Diocese of Phoenx. (Tony Gutierrez/CATHOLIC SUN)

Christ calls every person to a special mission, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted instructed the faithful during a Mass he celebrated in honor of the “40 Days for Life” 2016 campaign.

The peaceful campaign launched in 2007 and focuses on prayer, fasting and public witness to help bring about an end to abortion. This year’s Mass was held at St. Mary’s Basilica Feb. 4, a week before the national campaign, which coincides with Lent, kicked off. The Gospel of the Mass reflected on the Apostles’ work of evangelization.

“There are five points which I think are all very helpful for us, who are engaged in witnessing to the Gospel of Life, and seeking to defend the most vulnerable among us,” Bishop Olmsted said. “The first is He sent the Apostles two by two. They were not to go alone.”

The second point made was that Jesus gave His Church authority over Satan. “This is vital,” Bishop Olmsted said. “We can be certain that when we’re near a place where abortions take place, the Evil One is especially active there, but we are not alone when we pray. … We give thanks to God for that and that’s why we pray there together. That’s why we call upon Our Lady of Guadalupe to be with us and keep us under her mantle.”

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Mike Phelan, director of the diocesan Office of Marriage and Respect Life, re-affirmed the importance of prayer, specifically in conjunction with 40 Days for Life. “Forty Days for Life is doing the most fundamental, foundational and probably important part of the pro-life movement, which is public prayer and witness,” Phelan said. “There is a lot of spiritual battle that happens around these clinics.”

Bishop Olmsted illustrated that although the fruits of 40 Days for Life may not be witnessed directly, they certainly do exist. “The third piece of advice to the Apostles and for all of us in the Apostolic Church is ‘Take nothing for the journey.’ We should not worry if it seems that we don’t have enough words to say, convincing actions to perform, God’s work is being accomplished.”

Phelan re-iterated this point, saying, “We do know from Abby Johnson’s testimony that when people are outside praying in front of the clinics, they do have up to a 70 percent cancellation rate on appointments. … Whether you see the fruit or not, you can count on God working with your prayers.”

Bishop Olmsted’s fourth piece of advice is to “Shake the dust off your feet.”

“If our words are rebuked, if our efforts are disdained, made fun of, if we’re not welcomed, shake the dust off our feet.”

The sermon concluded with the fifth point, which is that “the Apostles went off and preached repentance.”

Forty Days for Life began on Ash Wednesday and is being carried out during the Lenten Season. Phelan explained this significance, saying “Our Lord showed us with His 40 days in the desert that a time apart of serious sacrifice, fasting and prayer, is how mighty things happen. Throughout the Scriptures, 40 days and 40 years are mighty times of change.”

Phelan mentioned that it is easy for anyone to get involved. “There is a national website and people can look for the five campaigns in the Diocese of Phoenix: Flagstaff, Tempe, Phoenix, Chandler and Glendale and sign up for hours of prayer,” Phelan said. “I would encourage everyone to go two by two and pray for an hour a week during Lent.”