“Tonight we come together … to pray for the unborn and to ask for the grace and courage to stand for life,” Archbishop José H. Gomez said in his welcoming remarks to worshipers gathered in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Downtown Los Angeles the evening of Jan. 24 for the annual Requiem for the Unborn Mass.

All five auxiliary bishops, Cardinal Roger Mahony, Cathedral pastor Msgr. Kevin Kostelnik, Knights of Columbus from across the archdiocese, and many other notable guests joined Archbishop Gomez for the pro-life liturgy, which featured the “Shantigarh Requiem for the Unborn” with original compositions by John Bonaduce, music director at Our Lady of Peace Church, North Hills.

“There are many injustices in our society, but the most fundamental is the one we rarely acknowledge — this routine taking of innocent unborn human life,” said Archbishop Gomez in his homily. “The right to life is the foundation of every other right and liberty, and the true foundation of justice and peace in society.”

Father Alexei Smith, director of the archdiocesan Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, introduced “our ecumenical and interfaith partners in respecting life” who were in attendance at the Mass representing various faith traditions, including Lutheran, Presbyterian, Buddhist, Muslim, Armenian Apostolic, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and many others.

The yearly Requiem Mass is held near the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, noted Archbishop Gomez. Since 1973, approximately 55 million abortions have been performed in the United States. A new threat to life was recently introduced in California: Senate Bill 128, known as the “End of Life Option Act,” which would mimic Oregon’s assisted suicide law and allow doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill adults, he explained.

“So let us go forth tonight, and follow Jesus to proclaim the Gospel of life. To love life and to serve life — every life,” he continued. “Let us ask Our Lady, the Queen of the Angels, to pray for these little ones and to pray for us  — so that everyone sees that life is a beautiful gift from God and that every life matters.”

The Mass concluded with the traditional “One Life, One Light” candle ceremony, with members of the assembly solemnly walking up to the front of the Cathedral, with each person holding one flaming candle, which were then placed in a circular pattern around the altar. This year 220 candles were lit, and 220 seconds of silence were observed, to represent the estimated total number of unborn lives lost due to elective abortions in one typical day across Los Angeles County.

For Judith Langford, who shared a witness reflection during the liturgy, the ceremony of light is a yearly reminder of the biggest life-changing and life-affirming experience of her life: becoming a parent.

Ten years ago, shortly after learning that she and her husband Ken would be unable to conceive their own biological child, the couple attended their first Requiem Mass at the Cathedral, where they were invited to participate in the candlelight ceremony. Upon doing so, they decided to “spiritually adopt and pray for the soul of an unborn baby.

“As we set our candle down among the many candles that evening, it not only represented an aborted soul, but for us it also represented a life of hope for an unborn baby … that would be protected and saved from abortion,” she recalled.

The Langfords would later learn that sometime after a baby girl had been conceived, a baby that they eventually adopted from a young unwed mother, who told them that “she knew in her heart that this baby was meant for our family.”

Following the Mass, the candles were taken outside and placed in the windows of the Cathedral Colonnade, where they were to remain lit and on display for a week “as a tribute to these brief lives, and the shining witness in the city of angels of our commitment to life,” explained Father Smith near the end of the service.

Dagoberto Ramos, a parishioner at St. Bernard Church, Los Angeles, described the annual Requiem Mass as a “great opportunity to bring together those of us who are part of the pro-life movement.” He described the ceremony of light as a touching and powerful experience, noting that he would like to see the ceremony replicated at churches throughout the archdiocese as well, to encourage more people to become actively involved in pro-life efforts and parish ministries.