The spiritual works of mercy guide us as we help our neighbors with their spiritual needs. Prayer is one of the most powerful ways we can support others. When we embarrassedly offer, “the least we can do is pray,” we are minimizing the impact that prayer has. It is the mortar of our faith.

On Jan. 1, we commemorate the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. This feast is a celebration of Mary’s motherhood of Jesus. The Prayer for Reverence for Life includes the petition that “Like Blessed Mary, may we always say 'YES' to your gift of life” while in another prayer, St. John Paul II describes Mary as the “mother of the living.”

A sculpture of Our Lady of Guadalupe once greeted visitors in the lobby of the Pastoral Center. Drawn closer by the beauty of this bronze statue, the admirer discovered its unique depiction of Our Lady of Guadalupe as pregnant, the mother of life.

On Dec. 12, we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patron saint of the pro-life movement and patron saint of Mexico. Our U.S. Catholic bishops ask that on her feast day, we pray that she may help us never see others as burdens, especially migrants to our country and communities. “Human beings are ends in themselves” and can never be considered a burden. Would an examination of your conscience uncover an attitude conciliatory towards abortion in situations where the unborn child is considered a burden? Are you sympathetic to the plight of Mexican migrants or do you consider them a burden to our society?

Everything is connected. If one part of the Body of Christ is suffering, the whole body is affected. The thread of our Catholic faith spun with church teaching binds our concerns for the unborn child and the living immigrant, the same thread used to construct the cloak worn by Our Lady of Guadalupe, again, the patron saint of the pro-life movement and Mexico.

Just as our attitudes toward life – in every situation and at every stage of development – are bound together, so too are we bound to all people who came before us and all people who come after us.

Imagine a long line and, starting from the bottom, drawn of all people who preceded us upon whose shoulders we stand, and reaching higher, the succeeding generations who stand upon ours. 

Now imagine a long line and, looking from left to right, drawn of humans in all stages of life, from conception to natural death. 

Lay the horizontal line of human development upon the vertical line of intergenerational solidarity, binding the two where they cross. At the intersection of past, present and future lies Jesus. You have created a crucifix, the symbol of our faith. 

In the Apostles’ Creed, we profess our faith in the communion of saints, those who have preceded us in death and whose paths we hope to follow.

Confident in the power of prayer, we pray for these future saints at the memories and memorials of their deaths. And we ask Our Lady of Guadalupe to intercede for us as pray for all of the living today.

Cato is director of the Office of Life, Justice and Peace for the Archdiocese of Portland. Fr. Libra, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish, is director of pro-life activities in the archdiocese.