By Kathleen Gilbert

FRONT ROYAL, Virginia, May 20, 2009 ( – Two days before leading in prayer a handful of University of Notre Dame graduates protesting President Obama’s commencement speech, Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life delivered a rousing pro-life homily at the baccalaureate Mass of Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia.  Fr. Pavone remarked on the nature of abortion, which he called “the opposite of love,” and President Obama, whom he said has dishonored the presidency by supporting abortion.

Fr. Pavone introduced the question of the meaning of love with a meditation on Christ’s statements, “Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” and “I have power to lay it [my life] down, and I have power to take it up again.”

The “power to lay down one’s life,” said Pavone, is “the power of love, the power to be able to give yourself away purposely, deliberately, knowing what you’re going to lose … because you’re not focused anymore on what you’re losing, you’re focused on what you’re giving to the other.”

“This is the heart and core of the civilization of love, of the culture of life, of the meaning of being pro-life, of the meaning of social justice, and of the very meaning of service, all summed up in this power to lay our lives down for the other,” he said.

“In the culture of death, we see exactly the opposite dynamic.”

Pavone continued: “Love says I sacrifice myself for the good of the other person.  Abortion says I sacrifice the other person for the good of myself. …

“Right here in the Eucharist, in the center of love, where love is understood at its deepest level … we find four words that Jesus uses to express this truth, and the same four words have been hijacked, twisted inside out and upside down by the culture of death, and those words are: ‘This is my body.’

“‘It’s my body,’ some say, ‘I’ll do what I want, even if it means taking the life within me.  This is my body,” said Pavone.  “The Lord says to us today, ’ … given up for you,’ and you have the power to do the same.”

Fr. Pavone told the congregation that building a culture of life does not require more people, but only “people ready to take a whole lot more risk.”  Of those who ask him how to help stop abortion, Fr. Pavone said: “They’re not asking, ‘What is it that I should do?’  They’re asking, ‘How do I find the courage to do it?  Because I know that if I do it, I’m going to lose something. …

“When we talk about abortion in the churches, what do people say?  ‘Oh, it’s too political.’  What happens when we talk about it in the political arena?  ‘Oh, it’s too religious.’  Talk about it in the world of business? ‘It’s bad for business.’  Talk about it out in the public arena? ‘It’s going to harm children.’ 

“If abortion is so bad, where do we go to say so?  And the answer is, we say so in all of those arenas, and we stop counting the cost!”

Fr. Pavone praised the example of Mary Ann Glendon, the former ambassador to the Vatican who refused Notre Dame’s prestigious Laetare Award this year, in protest of President Obama’s appearance at the same ceremony.  Obama gave the commencement speech and received an honorary law degree. 

The University of Notre Dame itself, said Fr. Pavone, failed a similar challenge to sacrifice.  “They aren’t taking the challenge, are they?” he asked.  “The challenge is, if ‘greater love than this no one has, than to be willing to lay down his own life’ – well then, maybe you can lay down some prestige and disinvite the president!  ‘Oh, but if we do that, what will happen to us?’”

Referring to the uproar of over 80 U.S. bishops and 360,000 petitioners against the Obama honor at Notre Dame, Fr. Pavone noted: “Some people say that all of this stuff going on dishonors the office of the President of the United States.

“I have news for them.  It is the president who is dishonoring the office of President of the United States by taking a pro-abortion position.

“Every elected official on any level of government who takes a position in which they fail to recognize and work for the protection of the right to life dishonors the very meaning of their office,” said Pavone, “because you can’t be a public servant if you fail to tell the difference between serving the public and killing the public.”

Christendom president Dr. Timothy O’Donnell told Sunday that it was “a great grace and a great honor” to host Fr. Pavone.  The school presented Fr. Pavone with its Pro Deo et Patria award at its commencement Saturday.

“His message fills us with hope and renews our zeal,” O’Donnell continued, “and despite the fact that in so many ways it seems we’ve lost – in the government, and there’s been a real assault upon the academic citadels of our Church – the fact of the matter remains there is so much good going on, and remembering always that the darkest hour is just before the dawn.”


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