Joseph and Maria Bellantuono, friends of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, returned with their eight children for a third year to participate in the Feast of the Holy Innocents at Holy Innocents Church in Manhattan.
“Having the eight children here as a part of this and praying for children that can be lost on a day like today is a beautiful thing,” said Mrs. Bellantuono following the pro-life Mass, prayerful procession and benediction on Dec. 28.
“It’s beautiful for us as parents to see the children doing it freely when they see all the sisters and friars and all the people praying together in a procession like that. It is something we can’t explain to them. It’s such a powerful witness.”
The Feast of the Holy Innocents recalls King Herod’s massacre of young children in his attempt to kill the infant Jesus.
The Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Renewal, the Sisters of Life and the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants were the day’s sponsors.
The Mass was followed by a Rosary procession to the abortion clinic, benediction at the church and lunch in the church hall. Auxiliary Bishop John O’Hara celebrated the Mass, and Father Donald Haggerty, a parochial vicar at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, delivered the homily.
Father Haggerty asked for prayers, especially for one inspiring couple, who had visited with him on Dec. 23 at the cathedral’s parish house. The woman is carrying the couple’s unborn daughter, who has a birth defect and will likely die before birth. The mother has health issues and is at risk as well. The couple is being “pressured” by doctors to abort the child, but they refuse, Father Haggerty said.
“Pray for what? That God himself steps in,” Father Haggerty said. “This is what we need so much in our own lives and in the life and protection of human life. We have to beg before God, ‘Lord, please intervene. Please step in, inspire, do your act of God and don’t let the evil one have his hand present here.’”
Following Mass, Bishop O’Hara led several hundred people in the church in final prayers before the procession. “Strengthen us with your presence. Deliver us from fear. Help us to be witnesses to the sacredness of human life. Empower us to be that light to be shining in the dark. That many through our presence and our surrender to your holy might come to know your mercy, your love, your peace,” the bishop said.
As the walk to the Parkmed abortion clinic began, about 50 people remained in the church to pray and recite the rosary.
“You can see people joining us in the rosary that were just passing by,” said Chris Bell, president and executive director of Good Counsel Inc., which provides housing to single mothers and their babies.
“Many people stared and a few came up to one of us to ask what this is about. Most importantly, it’s the prayers to end abortion, particularly at that hideous abortion mill at Second Avenue and 42nd Street.
“Every day we need to remember the holy innocent that are being killed by abortion throughout the country, throughout the world, and on this particular day, we have to come together in prayer and in assembly to show our city and show the world this atrocity has to end.”
Bell said that women who are dealing with crisis pregnancies should not feel that they are alone. He cited the Sisters of Life, who were established by Cardinal John O’Connor to promote and protect the sanctity of life, and his own Good Counsel Homes, which has four locations in the archdiocese, as two of many Catholic pro-life resources.
“We’ll take in any mother who is pregnant regardless of her mental health, addiction, immigration status,” Bell said of Good Counsel Homes.
“If you’re pregnant and need help, we’ll take you in. You can come in for up to a year where you can have your baby, go back to school, find a job and take those next good steps in your life.
“A woman needs to hear there is someone to help her. There are pro-lifers throughout the nation to help mothers in any situation, and that’s what we have to share.”