Each year as we prepare for the annual March for Life in our nation’s capital, I am reminded that the march occurs just a few short weeks after the Solemnity of Christmas. On Christmas, and the days immediately following it, I often found myself (and I hope you did, too) before the manger gazing with wonder and love at the birth of the Christ Child. Certainly few, if any, of us can remain indifferent to the birth of this Child.
The March for Life provides us with the opportunity to reflect on the coming of new life — a new person — into the world and the respect that is due each person. Sadly, it also recalls the many children who, due to abortion, never see the light of day. Over 56 million abortions since the 1973 Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton decisions reflect the heartbreaking magnitude of the lack of respect for the most vulnerable among us — the child in a mother’s womb.
When we are pro-life, we recognize the dignity of every human person created in the image and likeness of God. Every person occupies a unique place in creation. “Being in the image of God the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just something, but someone” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 357).
Pope Francis speaks often about a “throwaway culture.” In his words,
“. . . not only food and dispensable objects are thrown away. Often human beings . . . are discarded as ‘unnecessary.’ For example, it is frightful even to think there are children, victims of abortion, who will never see the light of day; children being used as soldiers, abused and killed in armed conflicts; and children being bought and sold in that terrible form of modern slavery which is human trafficking, which is a crime against humanity” (Address to Diplomats, January 13, 2014).
As I was preparing this article, I turned to Google! I wanted to locate quickly some speeches from Pope Francis and his immediate predecessors on the sanctity of human life. The endeavor turned out to be a reflective time as I revisited words of truth, wisdom, and challenge.
Allow me to share for your reflection some excerpts from the speeches I read.
St. John Paul II:
“The promotion of the culture of life should be the highest priority in our societies . . . If the right to life is not defended decisively as a condition for all other rights of the person, all other references to human rights remain deceitful and illusory.”
“Give us the grace when the sacredness of life before birth is attacked, to stand up and proclaim that no one ever has the authority to destroy unborn life.”
“As believers, how can we fail to see that abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide are a terrible rejection of God’s gift of life and love? And as believers, how can we fail to feel the duty to surround the sick and those in distress with the warmth of our affection and the support that will help them always to embrace life?”
Pope Benedict XVI:
“The Catholic community must offer support to those women who may find it difficult to accept a child, above all when they are isolated from their family and friends. Likewise, the community should be open to welcome back all who repent of having participated in the grave sin of abortion, and should guide them with pastoral charity to accept the grace of forgiveness, the need for penance, and the joy of entering once more into the new life of Christ.”
“God’s love does not distinguish between the infant in the mother’s womb or the child or the youth or the adult or the older person. In each one God sees His image and likeness. Human life is a manifestation of God and his glory.”
“. . . At the origin of every human being there is not something haphazard or chance, but a loving plan of God.”
All human life has inestimable value, “even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.”
“Every child who, rather than being born, is condemned unjustly to being aborted, bears the face of Jesus Christ, bears the face of the Lord, who even before he was born, and then just after birth, experienced the world’s rejection. And every elderly person . . . even if he is ill or at the end of his days bears the face of Christ. They cannot be discarded, as the ‘culture of waste’ suggests!”
Being pro-life is about cherishing and protecting each person and his or her life at every stage and in every circumstance. As the March for Life approaches, take some time to consider the dignity of human life and commit yourself to find ways to cherish and promote life. Let us commit ourselves to a way of life that reverences the gift of life in every human being and sees in every person the face of Christ.
If you have a prayer intention you would like me to consider during the weeks ahead, please mail it to my attention at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.
Bishop Robert J. Cunningham’s schedule for the week of
Jan. 27 – Feb. 4
Jan 27: Mass, Crypt Church of the National Shrine, Washington, DC, March for Life, 9:30 a.m.; “Light the Way Scholarship Event Dinner,” Oncenter , 6 p.m.
Jan. 29: Mass at Immaculate Conception Church, Fayetteville, celebrating the Opening of Catholic Schools Week, 9 a.m.
Jan. 30: New York State Catholic Conference, Board of Bishops’ Meeting, Immaculate Conception Convention Center, Douglaston, N.Y.
Jan. 31: Installation of Most Reverend John O. Barres as Bishop of Rockville Centre, Rockville Centre, N.Y.
Feb. 1: Mass at Bishop Ludden, Catholic Schools Week Liturgy,
9:30 a.m.; Finance Council Meeting, 12 p.m.
Feb. 2: St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary Fund Meeting, 12 p.m.
Feb. 3: School visit, Trinity Catholic, Oswego