“Every life is worth living.” That is the theme for this year’s Respect Life Month, which is celebrated annually in Catholic parishes across the country each October. Coordinated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Respect Life Month raises awareness about important human life issues and communicates those topics to parishioners through informational material.
In the midst of profound struggles, it can sometimes be difficult to believe that life is always a gift. A friend, relative, or neighbor may be facing a terminal illness, a son or daughter could be living with extreme disabilities, or the couple sitting across the pew may have just found out their unborn child will only live a few days after birth. Then consider the homeless, the forgotten, and those in prison. While these and other similar situations are extremely difficult, they require compassion and support, love and tenderness from family members, friends, and the greater community.
The terminally ill and elderly do not lose value when they are unable to take care of themselves on their own. Children or adults with disabilities do not lose their value because their experience of life is different than that of others. The unborn child who is not expected to live long after birth does not lose his or her value simply because time is limited. And the prisoner does not lose value because of the crime that was committed. Every life has a purpose and offers a chance to impact others. As Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, the chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, says, people cannot simply be reduced to “our skills or level of productivity” to determine if their life has value. Instead, that value comes from God.
Pope Francis has repeatedly spoken about the unfortunate tendency in today’s society to promote a “throwaway culture,” to discard individuals in difficult situations instead of encountering them with love. While addressing the United Nations during his visit to the United States last month, the pope said that “every man and every woman, the poor, the elderly, children, the infirm, the unborn, the unemployed, the abandoned, those considered disposable” deserve respect and protection. Compare the Holy Father’s words, spoken out of love for all, to deadly and cold policies such as assisted suicide, abortion, and capital punishment.
In his speech to a joint session of the U.S. Congress, Pope Francis also encouraged lawmakers to be open to dialogue and cooperation on behalf of America’s people. Political activity, he said, needs to “serve and promote the good of the human person” with a “love of the common good.” One way this goal can be achieved is for policymakers, both in Lansing and Washington D.C., to support legislation that protects the unborn, the poor and vulnerable, disabled persons, and the elderly.
During Respect Life Month, take the time to read the materials from the USCCB on the broad range of pro-life issues. Direct women in unexpected or crisis pregnancies to your local pregnancy center or Catholic Charities agency so that they can find necessary resources, such as pregnancy counseling, parenting classes, and material support such as diapers and formula. Additionally, take time to advocate for legislative policies that protect human life through Michigan Catholic Conference’s email network, the Catholic Advocacy Network, by signing up at www.micatholic.org/can/.
Finally, reflect and recognize the true gift in all life, for every human person matters and should be given the opportunity to live it.