The following is my monthly column that appears in Faith: West Tennessee. Since my wife & I just had a new baby, this post is particularly special to me. If you want great monthly content to help you grow in your faith, visit the Catholic Diocese of Memphis website to subscribe to the magazine.
Human life, says St. John Paul the Great, is “a sharing in God’s breath of life” (Evangelium Vitae, 39). This means that all human life at every stage, from conception to natural death, is sacred and has a special relationship to the Creator (see CCC 2258). Therefore, we must always see life as a gift, no matter how difficult the circumstances. And, those of us who see life as a gift must work to protect, respect, and foster life at every stage.
When we receive gifts from others, for birthdays or Christmas or any other day, we acknowledge the giver of the gift. More than that, if that gift is valuable to us, we keep it safe and protect it so that we can use it in the future. The same must be true of the gift of human life. We must acknowledge the Giver, and we must protect human life. Our Catholic faith reminds us that we are “obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for [God’s] honor…. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us” (CCC 2280; emphasis added).
Stewards foster gifts, but many of the practices and habits that we see in our world are tearing down human life rather than fostering it. These include abortion, euthanasia, contraception, large-scale hunger among peoples, lack of adequate medical care, and more. These unfortunate trends happen because of the wounds within individuals’ hearts; they happen because of the pride, greed, and envy that exist within people. Wounds within human hearts radiate outward to affect the whole culture. So, respecting and fostering life has as much to do with healing people’s wounded hearts as it does with particular actions or hot-button issues.
In order to heal hearts and eliminate practices that tear down life rather than foster it, we must learn to live virtuously. We must cultivate healthy and holy habits. After we cultivate virtue within ourselves, we will be able to share it with others, affecting the way social groups operate. Eventually, we might be able to build a whole culture of virtue, eliminating the practices and habits that tear down human life rather than foster it.
Along the way to cultivating a more virtuous culture, we must advocate for an end to abortion; we must provide food, water, shelter, and medical care for those who cannot access it on their own; and we must protect those who are weak and vulnerable near the end of life. As Catholics, we see that we can do both things at the same time.
During this month of October, this Respect Life Month, we should also look to Our Lady of the Rosary (October is the month of the Rosary, too) and ask her intercession. We must ask her to share her graces with us so that we can accept the truth of the Gospel; so that we can receive the gift of life in gratitude and joy; so that we can bear witness to, and speak about, the sanctity of life to our culture that has forgotten that sanctity; that we can give all glory to God, the Creator and lover of life. Mary, our mother and mother of the culture of life, pray for us!