Sister Cecilia Rose’s speech at the Pulse Life Advocates’ Christmas Gala

Good evening, my name is Sr. Cecilia Rose and this is Sr. Shirley Ann. It is a gift & delight to be with you all.

I realize this is a Christmas banquet, but this past 4th of July some of us went to an epic firework show! I have never been that close to fireworks in my life! They were literally exploding right over our heads!!! It was awesome!

My favorite part, though, was a little guy high up on his dad’s shoulders. I was watching him and as each explosion happened he’d yell out –“WOW!” then again, –“WOW!” and again, –“WOW!” It was incredible to see the sheer delight, wonder, and awe on his face as he watched the fireworks explode.

So, now here I find myself in front of each of you, made in the image and likeness of God, an imprint of His glory, my heart is exploding, –“WOW!” — ––“WOW!” ––“WOW!” — Each of you so much more amazing than those fireworks. The sheer wonder of your being makes me exclaim, –“WOW!” Speaking of WOW – “Defenders of the Defenseless for 50 Years” – WOW!!!

There is nobody like you

Sr. Cecilia RoseFrom all of eternity, the Lord desired that you exist. There is nobody like you, and there has never been nor will there ever be anyone like you. This is the stunning truth:

every human person, no matter how strong or weak, rich or poor, healthy or sick, is loved and willed into existence by God. You are chosen and loved and looked upon with mercy.

Each of us thirsts to know this truth. We thirst to know that we matter, that our life has meaning, that we are good, loved, lovable. But the reality is, in today’s busy, efficiency-driven world, it’s easy to forget who we are, what we’re made for.

That’s why our community exists

Founded in 1991 in NY by Cardinal O’Connor, we exist so that every person can encounter the goodness of their own life, and every person’s life. Our main work is prayer, and all of our missions flow from that relationship with Christ:

we serve women who are pregnant and in need; we host weekend retreats; we speak around the country about the dignity of the human person; and we also have a mission of Hope and Healing for those suffering after abortion, inviting them to receive the Lord’s mercy.

A visitor comes

We recently had a visiting day at our Motherhouse and one of our sisters’ nieces who is ~2 ó yrs old, came right up her auntie and went straight for her crucifix and gave it a BIG kiss! Then later on in the day, I asked her, Rose, what do you want to be when you grow up? She replied enthusiastically, A saint! If those two things weren’t enough, right before they departed she found the nativity set in our fake fireplace, picked up baby Jesus, rocked him and said,

“I love you Jesus.”

She’s got it! One of the most important truths to remember on this our pilgrimage of life, is that we’re each called to be a saint and called to love! I would like to propose to you a guide for this pilgrimage of life – the Blessed Mother.

I would like to look briefly with you at three specific words of Our Lady, the call that each word reveals and how each one is an invitation. The three words are Behold, Fiat, and Magnificat!


Come Holy Spirit, living in Mary, inspire their hearts.

In the marvelous account of the Annunciation in Luke’s Gospel, the angel Gabriel comes to Mary and tells her she is going to conceive and bear a son. The angel said to her,

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord…”

What is key here is God’s individual love for Mary, just as he knows and loves each one of us. The Lord approaches Our Lady first. Any country music fans out there?

♫♪I loved her 1st, and a place in my heart will always be hers, when she first smiled at me, I knew the love of a Father runs deep… ♪♫

God has prepared her from all eternity. Each of us are the recipients of His grace, His love, His mercy, not meriting it but receiving it as a free gift. The gift of life is totally gratuitous and unmerited. When God looks upon us, He doesn’t see humanity as a whole but as individuals, each one whom he knows and creates.

And so when the Lord approaches Mary first in love, what is her response? “Behold.” And we can respond in the same manner.

How do we look at ourselves?

BEHOLD means simply to observe, to look at. How do we observe, or look at ourselves – do we see ourselves as being created by God out of love, or do we lose sight of this truth? How tempting it is to see ourselves in other ways – by our achievements or by our failures, by how successful or faith-filled our kids or grandkids are, by our job – title, status or rank, by our bodies and how they look or how we wish they didn’t look, by our sins, and regrets. But God doesn’t see us that way. Do we behold ourselves as beloved daughters and sons of God the Father? He is always looking upon us, beholding us, with eyes of love and mercy!

A profound experience

A few years ago, when I was serving in our mission up in Canada, I had a profound experience with one of the pregnant women who came to us – I’ll call her “Maria”. She herself was not Catholic at that time, but found out about us through a priest at a parish nearby her apartment complex where she wandered in looking for help.

When she came to us, she was very abortion vulnerable- in and out of appointments – it was a real roller coaster! The turning point for her was when we took her in for an ultra sound, so she could see her baby. Picture this: she and her friend, myself and another sister, all crammed into a tiny little doctor’s office. She was prepped, the jelly going onto the wand and then as it went onto her belly, a little voice inside said to look at her face. As her baby appeared on the screen for the 1st time — she lit up! Her face was absolutely beautiful, radiant! Her smile, the look in her eyes, so full of life! Up until then, she kept telling me to pray she had a boy, b/c boys are so much easier to take care of than girls — girls are too much drama. However, at that moment she exclaimed,

“Sister, that’s my baby! I don’t care if it’s a boy or a girl anymore. That’s my baby! That’s my baby.”

The way she looked at her preborn son (yes it was a boy) gave me a tiny of glimpse of how God the Father looks at each one of us! Before we were born He delighted in us, He loved us.

We don’t have to earn God’s love! He loves us. He died for us. He wants us to be free and authentically ourselves.

To not hide anything from Him. When we pray, and open ourselves to God’s love, it is as though we can sigh with relief and let go of everything we carry, especially those parts of our hearts that we want to keep hidden – our sins, weaknesses, bad memories, and things about ourselves we do not like. We can go to Him and say,

“Behold, here I am Father with this sin I can’t let go of” or “Behold, Lord, here I am, with this resentment, or this wound inflicted by someone I love, or this lack of trust in You, or this trait in myself I don’t like”…

whatever it might be. He knows and wants it all…. (pause) He receives our fragile faith and wounded hearts with tenderness.

The Blessed Mother is our model

Mary is our model in this – she was completely transparent with the Lord. In her “Behold,” we see what we aspire to – to bring our whole beings, the entirety of who we are as beautiful and flawed creatures, to the light of God’s love, who approaches us first. / Her invitation to us is to RECEIVE His love first.

Once we know and deeply live from the truth of our being – created in the image of God, and loved by him – it enables us to say yes to God and allows us to make a total gift of ourselves.

Which brings us to Our Lady’s next word & call –


Fiat means,

♫♪ Let it be, let it be… ♫♪ Any Beatles fans in the house? Fiat means – “May it be done” — Yes — I give You permission Lord”.

Mary says YES to the Lord’s invitation to love, in a way that she never expected, in circumstances that she could not have foreseen. In fact, her entire life was one big Fiat! His birth, at the temple with Jesus, the Wedding feast at Cana, the agony and way of the cross… She has complete trust in God and what He asks of her, and continually responds “fiat” – may it be done. – she knows that He is 100% worthy of our trust.

What’s beautiful is the ripple effect that comes from her fiat. Her yes allows us to make ours. JCOC’s yes allowed each Sister of Life to say yes to her vocation. Parents pave the way for their children and on and on. Like it or not, the way we respond to Christ has an impact, an effect on others!

The story of “Jane”

A couple years ago, “Jane” was living with us at Sacred Heart, our convent where we invite pregnant women to live with us, we call it our holy respite mission. We invited her to join us for the March for Life. She had never been … and was always up for an adventure, so she came. She was about 6 months pregnant at the time and we traveled together on a bus filled high school students, while she herself was only about a year older than many of them (~18)! We let her take the lead on how much of her story she wanted to share and at the beginning she wanted to keep it on the down-low that she was pregnant. We simply introduced her as a friend of ours. It was a true pilgrimage, extremely cold weather that year, but she really toughed it out and seemed to enjoy it.

On the bus ride home, Sr. Lucy gave the students the opportunity to share any graces they received on the trip – an open mic time. Jane looked at me panicked and said, “Do I have to share?!?” I reassured her that it was completely optional, however, if she felt called by the Lord to share, she should consider it. She breathed a sigh of relief and sat back in her bus seat. Student after student came forward and shared beautiful testimonies of how inspired they were to see so many other young people standing up for life. After about 5 or 6 students, Jane leaned over to me and whispered,

“my heart is racing.”

To which I replied,

“Do you want to share something?”

Before answering, she got up and took the mic:

“Hi guys. You don’t know this, but I’m pregnant. I’m one of the women you’re here to support, to stand up for. You’ve each inspired me. When I told my friends I was pregnant, they said they were with me in whatever I decided to do. That’s not what I needed to hear. I needed them to tell me I could do it, that I could be a good mom. Well, they didn’t, but the sisters did and well, now here I am, 6 months pregnant and on a bus with you all coming home from the march for life. On behalf of all scared, confused, pregnant women — TY– Thank you for your encouragement and support. I can’t wait to see my baby.”

She received a standing ovation.

“I am pro-life!”

What surprised us all was the next person to come forward. A teen boy, almost sprinting to the front, took the mic and thanked Jane for sharing. Then he honestly admitted that he came on that trip in order to solidify his beliefs that it’s a woman’s choice and that no one can tell her what to do with her body. But hearing her share about what she really needed to hear and her own courage to come to the march, as a pregnant woman in need convinced & convicted him that he was wrong. He ended by shouting,

“I am pro-life!”

Our yes’s impact others! Here is another quick example. We have Co-Workers who faithfully pray outside planned parenthood every Saturday – rain or shine, snow, sleet, hail, whether they feel like going or not, they go and pray.

Answered prayers

Most of the time, they do not see the fruits of their prayers. However, one Saturday morning, outside at their post, a nice car rolled up next to the sidewalk where they were praying. A man in his late 50’s rolled down the window and said,

“Thank you. If you or someone like you wasn’t here 25 years ago today, my girlfriend and I would have gone in there and we would not have been able to call our daughter today and wish her a happy 25th birthday because she wouldn’t be here. So, thanks.”

Jane chose to share part of her story on the bus. Our co-workers and lay faithful choose to pray outside abortion mills even if they don’t feel like it. Fiat. Let it be done. We can learn from Mary that our own “fiats” to the Lord, our own trust in Him, extend to each moment. In every moment, every circumstance of life we have the opportunity to renew our trust in Him, to say “let it be done unto me” again, to open our hearts again and make ourselves vulnerable.

Mary’s invitation to each of us is GIVE God permission.

The last word and call of Our Lady that I’d like to look at with you this evening is:


As our love matures, it is purified. We will all be called at some point to suffer for the Beloved. Our love goes through a refiner’s fire and results in the capacity to give even more. When we experience suffering in our lives, part of us may question the Lord – why did You let this happen? Where are you in this? When our love doesn’t seem to be bearing fruit or a mother who sees her grown children making choices that lead away from the Lord, when we have been betrayed or disappointed in relationships, in marriage, when we see an innocent child suffering, in all these situations and more we are tempted to say that the Lord doesn’t know what He is doing.

Ultimately, the answers to these questions are beyond our limited human capacity, but the Lord does point us to something: the Cross.

In his encyclical, On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering, Pope St. John Paul II wrote,

“Suffering is, in itself, an experience of evil. But Christ has made suffering the firmest basis of the definitive good, namely the good of eternal salvation. By his suffering on the Cross, Christ reached the very roots of evil, of sin and death. To the suffering brother or sister Christ discloses and gradually reveals the horizons of the Kingdom of God: … a world being built on the saving power of love.”

We can turn to the Blessed Mother and see in her a response to suffering. She also knew fear, anxiety, frustration, confusion, the pain of loss. Think of her words to Jesus after searching for Him for three days: Why have you done this to us? In the face of it all, even without understanding “why?” she pondered what each event of her life communicated and moved forward with faith and trust. Faith means believing God is able to do something…but trust is knowing He will. With her presence, attentiveness, empathy, she is always there, in our Cana. Sensitive to and easily perceiving our needs and asking Jesus for those things we do not even realize we lack. And through her intercession, we receive new wine in our souls.

Redemptive suffering

One of the women we’ve served experienced this in her own life – how the Lord can use our suffering, and our trust in Him, all for good: “Jenna” found out she was pregnant, and she called us. Her family was against her, and her boyfriend wanted her to end the pregnancy. She had already suffered an abortion, and knew she never wanted to do that again… she asked herself, is there another way out? Spent hours on phone with us, and was still scared. We offered to connect her with another woman we had served, Jenna agreed. Jenna talked to “Christine”, who spoke words of peace to her. She told her,

“God chose you to be a mother, the mother of this child.”

The morning of scheduled abortion, Jenna said something stopped her from going – the words in her memory:

“God chose me.”

She received grace not to go, to choose life, motherhood.

Fast forward – now 5 months pregnant, Jenna had a doctors appointment where the dr. told her her baby was positive for spina bifida and was recommended “genetic counseling”. Jenna knew her baby’s life was in danger and being threatened. She realized what the dr. was hinting at. The Doctor says to Jenna, what are you going to do? Jenna replies in her Bronx fashion,

“What am I going to do? What am I going to do? I’m going to be a good Mother! That’s what I’m going to do! Spina bifida or no spina bifida, I’m going to be a mother to my child! That’s what I’m going to do!”

Wouldn’t you know it, at her next doctors appointment: sorry, false positive. / Baby girl was born and Jenna told our Sisters, if another girl calls tempted, let me be the one to talk to her!

Jenna talks to “Alicia”

Couple months later, “Alicia” called, 19, pregnant, her parents told her her life was over, she was under a lot of pressure. We called Jenna, and she could see herself in Alicia, in her story. We connected them and Jenna told Alicia, I’ve made both decisions, not a day goes by that I don’t think of my first baby, you can’t make decisions based on what other people think. They forget the next day, you have to live with it for the rest of your life. Alicia then took her words to heart, chose life, and heroically discerned placing her child into adoptive family.

The Lord does this in all of our lives – He takes our sins, our sufferings and if we allow His redemptive power into them, he creates bigger, more beautiful places in our hearts that didn’t exist before and brings a great good out of them. When we suffer, the Lord who loves us is inviting us to share in the sufferings he took on when he assumed our human condition. He desires to share everything that we experience but is without sin. When the Lord asks something of us that is hard to give, or we cannot fully understand and we say YES, we allow his Life and Love to come into the world. We say yes to the redemptive power of the cross that makes us foolish in the eyes of the world. But, when suffering is transformed from within, it gives us the strength and serenity to carry it and allow it to change us. It results in the ability to praise God amidst trials and difficulties of life. “Magnificat.”

A scene from the Visitation

To close, I want to turn to the scene of the Visitation where Mary arises and goes with haste to her cousin Elizabeth. John the Baptist leaps in her womb upon hearing Mary’s voice. Elizabeth greets Mary with joy, and Mary responds with her song of praise, her Magnificat:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit exalts in God my Savior, and holy, holy, holy is his name.”

John Michael Talbot, anyone?

As we see in Mary, the natural expression that springs from complete given-ness and surrender to the Lord is “Magnificat!” Even amidst the uncertainty of what lies ahead, in Mary’s generosity in going out to help her cousin, she experiences the joy of the Lord doing great things for her.

After receiving His love, His mercy, His goodness, and trusting Him with our hearts and souls, and surrendering everything to Him, praise wells up within us. Praise, Mary’s Magnificat, is the natural expression of a heart that knows itself to be loved by God, has responded to this love and has allowed the challenges of love to bring out something of the heart of Our Lady in each one of us. Her invitation to us is to PRAISE Him in all things.

These are the aspects of love that we have reflected on:

1.) God loves each of us into existence and so we can say, Behold. 2.) We are called to love and this requires our Fiat. 3.) As we allow ourselves to be changed by Love, we can sing God’s praises through the Magnificat!

I pray that each of you may be able to echo the Words of our Lady in your lives as a response to God’s love for you.

To Receive His love first, Give Him permission, and Praise Him in all things.

To close, I’d like to invite you to pray the “Magnificat with Mary” with me.

It can be found on your table – it’s a call & response, please join in with the bold phrases.

In the Name of the Father…

[This speech is printed with the express permission of the Sisters For Life. Our annual Christmas Gala is just one small part of Pulse’s pro-life educational outreach. We need your financial support more than ever to remain on offense against the deep pockets of Big Abortion. Click and donate today! Thank-you.]

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