From Fr. George Rutler’s “pastor’s page” for 11 January.
There was a theologian who, when discouraged, would keep repeating to himself, “I have been baptized.” Since the Prince of Lies has discouragement as his chief strategy and purpose, the Rite of Baptism includes an exorcism: an explicit renunciation of Satan, and all his works, and all his empty promises.
Jesus our Encourager did not have to be baptized, for he had no sin to wash away, but by plunging into the waters of the Jordan and rising up, he was setting an example of dying and rising, which in daily life is played out by overcoming obstacles and refuting naysayers. This is modeled in the famous legend of the Scottish king, Robert the Bruce. As Sir Walter Scott told it, the Bruce withdrew to a cave after six defeats in battle, and one rainy day, deeply depressed, he watched a spider weaving a web. Six times the spider’s thread broke, and six times the spider resumed its weaving until it succeeded the seventh time. The Bruce rallied and won his great victory at Bannockburn, and the crown of Scotland along with it.
Ever since the legalization of abortion in our country, the Church has resisted the temptation to discouragement in defending innocent life. January 22 will mark the 41st annual March for Life in Washington. The March has gone on in weather fair and foul, whether government administrations have been friend or foe. In those years, more than 56 million babies in our country alone have been destroyed in their mothers’ wombs. We lament the loss of at least 110 million soldiers and civilians worldwide in the two World Wars, and can barely imagine with what talent and invention so many of them might have endowed the arts and science. The same dirge can be intoned for all those babies.
Last year at this time, I cited a statistical abstract using the ratio of professions to population and the number of infants aborted. The resulting estimate showed that in the last 35 years, those lives destroyed could have included: two U.S. presidents; seven Supreme Court justices; 102 U.S. senators and 589 congressmen; 8,123 judges; 31 Nobel Prize laureates; 328 Olympic medalists; 6,092 professional athletes; 134,841 physicians and surgeons; 392,500 registered nurses; 70,669 clergy, including 6,852 Catholic priests and 11,010 nuns; 1,102,443 elementary and high-school teachers; 553,821 truck drivers; 224,518 maids and housekeepers; 33,939 janitors; 134,028 farmers and ranchers; 109,984 police officers; and 39,477 firefighters.
None of those infants lived to be baptized, and they are entrusted to the mercy of God. Our nation now has the lowest birthrate in its history, and may be approaching the demographic winter that is destroying many other countries. The good news is that contending for life year in and year out has raised consciences, and the rate of abortions is at an all-time low. So when facing Satan and all his works and all his empty promises, say with good courage: I have been baptized.