Capping a day devoted to events targeting an end to elective abortions, a massive throng filled the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels the evening of Jan. 23 for the annual Requiem for the Unborn, the archdiocesan pro-life liturgy held each year on or near the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the U.S.

Joining Archbishop José H. Gomez for the Mass were all the Los Angeles auxiliary bishops, archbishop emeritus Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, and a large and diverse number of church leaders from Orthodox, Protestant, Mormon and Muslim faiths, demonstrating that providing protection to the unborn transcends religious distinctions.

“Let us reach out with faith in God. We can do all things when he strengthens us,” said Archbishop Gomez in his homily. “As the Gospels say, we must go into the world as Jesus does, for love cannot wait till tomorrow. Too many people need us today. …

“Love speaks with the language of service,” he added. “Let us continue working to deliver every person from every form of slavery, from every injustice. … We can make a difference. Pray for the sanctity of life, the mystery of the love of God.”

Archbishop Gomez ended by calling on each person to “bear witness to the truth that every life is worth living.”

“Be God’s mercy to our brothers and sisters,” he said. “Proclaim the Gospel of Life! And may Mary, Mother of Mercy, be with us.”

Near the conclusion of Mass, Dan Haley and Jenna Gasssew gave personal testimony regarding the birth their son, Shane, whom they had been advised to abort since, the doctor explained, he would be born dead.

“He lived only four hours after he was born,” said Jenna. “But those four hours changed our lives forever.”

Following their remarks came the traditional “One Life, One Light” candle ceremony, in which 200 members of the assembly — each holding a large votive candle — solemnly approached the altar, surrounding it with a double semicircle of candles.

The 200 candles represented the estimated number of unborn lives taken each day by elective abortion in Los Angeles County.

After 200 seconds of silence was observed, Father Alexei Smith, director of the archdiocesan Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, explained that there is cause for hope.“When this ceremony began 14 years ago, there were 460 candles around the altar,” he said. “Legal abortions have thus decreased by 60 percent.”

The candles were then taken out to the cathedral’s outdoor colonnade, facing  the Hollywood Freeway, where drivers would see the lights shining in the darkness.

A significant number of teens and young adults were among the worshippers on hand for the Requiem Mass, many having been at the second annual OneLife LA walk and rally earlier in the day. Many were wearing T-shirts bearing the message, “Choose Life!”

Among them was Jessica Gaudy, the 25-year-old daughter of Larry Gaudy, director of religious education at St. Maria Goretti parish in Long Beach.

“There’s a real sense of community and purpose here,” she said. “It’s so strange. We keep hearing from popular, secular sources that the Catholic Church is anti-women. That’s so far from the truth. As Catholics and pro-lifers, we want only to protect women and their babies.

“Each year it becomes more evident that we’re advocating protection of the entire family: mother, father and children,” she continued. “And I think our young generation of Catholics is coming to understand in greater and greater numbers that we can be a booming voice for the voiceless.”

For John Bonaduce, composer of the Shantigarh Requiem of the Unborn sung during the Mass and music director at Our Lady of Peace Church in North Hills, the yearly event is part of a self-imposed penance.

When asked what impelled him to compose this Mass, he replied, “In 1976, I paid for my girlfriend’s abortion. I didn’t feel bad about it because all my friends at the time told me it was the right thing to do. Unconsciously I had left the Church, but I heard an overwhelming voice telling me that I had transgressed a great law.

“For three years I could not go on with my life as it was,” recalled Bonaduce. “I searched for a place of reality. And then I realized that the Church, with all its mystery, is that place of reality.” 

Asked about the term “Shatigarh,” Bonaduce explained, “About 30 years ago I was at a Catholic retreat and came across a piece of wood with the word ‘Shantigarh’ carved on it. I discovered that it’s a Hindi word meaning ‘House of Peace’ and that is what I’ve come to see [as] the reality of the Catholic Church.”