I expect a few hundred visitors to our parish this weekend as San Francisco hosts the annual Walk for Life West Coast. My parishioners and dear friends, Eva Muntean and Dolores Meehan, founded this magnificent witness to human life in 2004 and have managed the tens of thousands who come to our fair city every January to walk for life for the last nineteen years. In the name of God, I welcome visitors to Star of the Sea and San Francisco this week.

Guests often remark on the sixteen shrines to Our Lady (sixteen historical apparitions) along the east and west walls of our church. I’ve written small brochures describing the apparitions for each of the sixteen shrines. It has been a rewarding exercise to research and write these trifolds, sifting out the essential facts and messages of each apparition, fitting each of them into just five short pages. I just finished writing the brochure on Our lady of Manaoag (Philippines), who appeared to a poor farmer in 1602 in much the same way she appeared to Juan Diego in in 1531.

In both cases she came as a mother, giving and protecting life. In both 16th century Mexico and 17th century Philippines, human life was grievously violated. The Aztec religion practiced human sacrifice on a massive scale in Mexico; tribal warfare wasted many human lives in the Philippines, which was largely animist, seeing human life as no more sacred than that of plants and animals. Sadly, our culture has reverted to human sacrifice (aborting children to increase personal wealth) and animism (valuing very young children less than pets and whales).

God continues to send his Holy Mother to help us cherish every human life. “I am the mother of the one true God by whom all live” she told Juan Diego in 1531. She has appeared in other times and places where human life was in danger of violation — Kibeho, for example, to warn of the Rwandan genocide of 1994, or Fatima during the Great War in 1917 to warn of a “worse war to come.”

In present-day California, the war against human life has intensified with 22 million dollars poured into passing Proposition One amending the state constitution. It is now legal to kill a child up to the moment of birth without restriction, and to leave children born alive after abortion to die.

We turn to Our Lady, Mother of Life (mother of Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life), with many heartfelt rosaries, as we witness to God’s gift of human life. Violating human life, we violate every other form of life, and we destroy the earth. With Oskar Schindler, who quoted an old Jewish proverb, “Whoever saves one life saves the world entire,” and Dr. Seuss’ elephant Horton, who insisted that “A person’s a person, no matter how small,” we insist that every life is a precious gift. Honoring one human life, we honor God, and we hope to live eternally with Him in heaven.

Full story on Father Illo’s Blog.