The month of October is annually observed by the Catholic Church in the United States as Respect Life Month. Each October, we are asked to reflect on the precious gift of life and how we can work more fervently to defend and protect it, especially for the most vulnerable.
As we approached this year’s commemoration, we have added grief to bear. With the subject of clergy sexual misconduct again in the national news, “our hearts are heavy with revelations of how those who should be most trustworthy have not only failed in this regard but have inflicted immense evil,” said Cardinal Dolan of New York, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Pro-Life Activities. “As USCCB President Cardinal Daniel DiNardo expressed, ‘the Body of Christ is lacerated.’”
Due to this breach of trust, we, each of us, is called to “help others encounter God’s transforming, life-giving love and to defend the sanctity of every person’s life, at every stage and in every circumstance,” Cardinal Dolan said. “In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul tells us, ‘As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. … If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it.’ (1 Corinthians 12:12, 26).”
This year’s Respect Life theme is “Every Life: Cherished, Chosen, Sent.” The theme, draws on the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe (patroness of the Americas and the Unborn) and St. Juan Diego and highlights the importance of answering our call to be missionary disciples to build a culture of life. This culture of life includes defending the unborn, the elderly, the disabled, and those hurt by abuse.
As part of the October Respect Life Program, the USCCB offer several one- or two-page informational pieces to help us take another look at these serious topics.
“Another Look at Abortion” examines the reality of abortion, the harm it does to society and suggestions for what we can to stop the scourge. It is often during the month of October that our local crisis pregnancy centers ask for assistance so they can reach out to those who face difficult pregnancies and assist them in choosing life.
We are blessed in the Diocese of St. Cloud to have 14 centers that offer their clients assistance and support during pregnancy and after the baby is born. These vital centers need our prayers and financial aid to continue the great work they do.
“Another Look at Contraception” is most poignant this year with the 50th anniversary of St. Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, “Humanae Vitae” and his canonization Oct. 14. This handout uses a “back-to-basics” approach to address contraception, the church’s teaching and contraception’s negative effect on women’s health.
“God’s love is generous, sacrificial, life-giving, and forever,” the document states. “As humans made in God’s image, we are called to imitate the eternal giving and receiving of love that is the Holy Trinity. We can do this in a unique way through marriage — a vowed communion of a man and a woman who enter a ‘one flesh’ union open to bringing forth a new human life. ‘The whole meaning of marriage is present and signified’ in each act of marital sex, so the love-giving and life-giving purposes of sex should not be separated.”
Other topical issues covered in this year’s program are: “A Perfect Gift,” addressing persons with disabilities; “Killing the Pain not the Patient: Palliative Care vs. Assisted Suicide;” “Caring for Loved Ones at Life’s End” and “Bridges of Mercy for Healing After an Abortion.” These materials are available in English and Spanish and can be found at http://omf.stcdio.org/from-the-director/clergy-resources/respect-life-month-resources.
The point of the focus each year for Respect Life Month is to educate ourselves on the current issues that threaten life at all stages and the importance of living our lives in ways that respect the dignity of each human person, from the moment of conception to a natural death. May we take this opportunity this year to do just that.
Note: One educational movie showing in theaters now is “Gosnell.” This true story about an abortionist in Philadelphia who was convicted of killing one woman and four infants chronicles how difficult it was to prosecute Kermit Gosnell for the atrocities he committed because it centered around the politically charged issue of abortion. A very important film to see.
Chris Codden is director of the Office of Marriage and Family of the Diocese of St. Cloud. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.