Monthly Archives: October 2014

Navigating the Faith: Humanae Vitae

by Fr. Matthew Long, Pastor, St. Joseph Parish, Mansfield & St. Ann Church, Stonewall

Pope Paul VI  became pope in 1963 and continued the work of the Second Vatican Council. During his time, he issued one of the most famous papal encyclicals: Humanae Vitae.

This encyclical was a response to a number of changes in the world: the rapid increase in population; the economic difficulty of providing for a large family; a new understanding of the dignity of woman and her place in society, and; the progress of humanity in the domination and organization of nature. (HV 2)

The headline “The Pope says no to the Pill” was how this carefully crafted and compassionate letter was introduced to the world. As a result, most have never read it in its entirety, but most believe it is simply the Church’s answer to artificial contraception. To fully understand this document, one must consider the reason for this difficult decision and the consequences prophesied by Pope Paul VI. This teaching has often been described as oppressive towards women or patriarchal. In reality this teaching applies to married couples, so it is applicable to both men and women.

The document begins with “The transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator.”  This reminds us that life comes from God and its transmission is a collaborative effort between a married couple and God.

It then moves on to the moral norms regulating married life. They discuss “totality,” wherein, you look at the procreative finality of the marriage and not at each individual act of conjugal love.  This would lead ultimately to regulating the transmission of life by the intelligence and will of the married persons rather than through the “specific rhythms of their own bodies.” (HV3)

In approaching the question of human procreation there were two aspects of married love that had to be considered since they were used as justification for artificial birth control: demands of married love and responsible parenthood.

Married love is defined in three parts. 1. It is total, in that husband and wife share generously of everything. 2. It is faithful and exclusive. 3. It is fertile, which means it is ordered toward parenthood.

Responsible parenthood was the other item. Many factors should be considered when deciding whether to welcome more children or “for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts,” choose to postpone additional children.  This requires the husband and wife in “keeping a right order of priorities, recognize their own duties toward God, themselves, their families and human society.” (HV10)  One of these duties is to respect the natural law, which shows the marital act to be both unitive, in that it strengthens the union between husband and wife, and procreative, which means that every act must be open to life. (HV11)

This doctrine of the natural law means that married people cannot by their own initiative break the unitive or procreative significance which are inherent to the marital act. Sexual intercourse between a husband and wife without the consent of both parties is not unitive and it offends the moral order.  In the same way sexual intercourse between a husband and wife that is not open to life, and therefore not procreative, also offends the moral order. (HV13)  Based on natural law and moral law, it was determined that artificial birth control, sterilization and abortion “are to be absolutely excluded as lawful means for regulating the number of children.”  (HV14) 

There is an exception to the Church’s position, and that is for the cure of bodily diseases even if it can impede procreation.  This exception should not be interpreted liberally, however.  It would be most applicable in situations where sterilization, such as a hysterectomy, would be necessary.  It is clear that this is only acceptable if the primary motivation is not to prevent children.  (HV15)  The use of natural methods of family planning is also allowed. (HV16)  This method is not offensive to the moral order because it relies upon the natural cycles of the body, the cooperation of both husband and wife and abstinence, which cultivates virtue .

One of the most compelling parts of the encyclical is Section 17 where the possible consequences of artificial methods are discussed. Looking back across 46 years helps us to see that many of the consequences feared have come to pass.

One of the first concerns is the effect artificial birth control will have on the faithful and exclusive aspects of married love. “Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards.” (HV17)

Because of the taint of Original Sin, human beings are weak when faced with temptation. When there are no consequences when breaking the moral law, it becomes easier to yield to temptation.  A second concern was that with the use of artificial contraceptives, men would, “forget the reverence due to a woman.” Instead of seeing a woman as a partner who should be shown affection and care, she would become an object to be used for sexual satisfaction.

The last concern was that the power to artificially control birth, once exercised between husband and wife, would be used by public authorities.  “Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law.” (HV17)  This fear was well founded based on the policies already in place by some world governments. There was recognition that governments could and would not necessarily adhere to the divine law and moral law.  If this was the case, then they could require artificial birth control, sterilization or even abortion without the consent of the people.  The Holy Father felt strongly that this “personal and intimate responsibility” should belong to a husband and wife and no one else.

One need only look at the data from the past 46 years to know the grave concerns expressed by Pope Paul VI have been realized in part.  Marital infidelity and the divorce rate have risen exponentially.  The number of those engaging in sexual activity outside of marriage has also gone up.  Pornography, which has at its center the objectification of women, has become a multimillion dollar industry.  Finally, the last concern regarding governments attempting to impose artificial methods on its citizens has become all too real in the last two decades.

Pope Paul VI knew that the teaching of the Church would not be easily accepted.  He reminded us that like her Founder, Jesus Christ, she was to be a “sign of contradiction.” Following Christ has never been easy, but He gives us the grace necessary to do so if only we will live in accord with His will as expressed in our hearts, from the Sacred Scripture and through His distinctive voice in the world, Holy Mother Church.  I urge all of you to take the time to read this document.  It can be found at http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae_en.html

Former Ruston Priest Passed Away

On August 26th, Fr. Gary Bernhardt, OFM was lost to this world in a tragic boating accident on Lake Taneycomo, near Branson, MO.  He was fishing with two other men at the time when their boat capsized, tossing all those on board into the water.  Fr. Gary’s two companions managed to survive the incident, but unfortunately Fr. Gary was gravely injured while being swept downstream and later died at the local hospital in Branson.

Fr. Gary served in a number of locations within the Franciscan Province of the Sacred Heart as Secretary of the Province, Spiritual Assistant for the Secular Franciscans, Parochial Vicar and as Pastor of several locations including our own St. Thomas Parish in Ruston where he served faithfully as Pastor from 2004 to 2008.  Fr. Gary did a great job in Ruston and was certainly loved by the Catholic community of Lincoln Parish.  He was currently serving as Director of Franciscan Charities and the Province Development Director.

Fr. Gary loved fishing, being with his brother Friars and serving the many people he met in his various ministries.  He also loved helping others, especially with his computer knowledge and experience with technology.  His cheerful presence and unselfish willingness to put others before himself will be deeply missed.

by John Mark Willcox

Book Review: Style, Sex, and Substance: 10 Catholic Women Consider the Things That Really Matter by Hallie Lord

I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a Catholic woman and, using the Blessed Virgin Mary as a prototype, I just might have narrowed down the definition: A Catholic woman is hopeful in God’s plan for her; she lives according to that hope, serving the way God has asked her through friendship, marriage, motherhood, or all of the above. She tries her best to imitate Christ in joy and suffering, working and speaking with love and grace.

I know, I know – a tall order, right? It’s an idea that, though easily defined, is not as easily achieved, nor is it appealing to everyone.

In an age of feminism gone awry, wives, mamas and single ladies at large feel like they have to navigate faithful waters solo, uncertainly basing decisions on what might feel right, and unaware as to how accessible guidance and good company are; yet there are aspects of Catholic living we don’t know about, don’t think about, or maybe we just leave them alone because even deliberate ignorance is bliss. Catholicism is a fraction of our lives, but we might not let it infuse our identity because we don’t realize the joyful freedom that comes from it or, simply put, we don’t understand how to put it into practice.

We have questions about holiness – What is it supposed to look like? Will I lose my identity or even have fun anymore? We have questions about friendship – How do I handle conflict with friends? What do I do with a toxic friendship? Do my close friends challenge me to be a better Catholic woman?

And there’s the ever taboo topic of intimacy – Why does the Church have insight into something so private? How on earth am I supposed to talk about this with my husband? We’re done having kids – why should we suddenly be open to more?

Good news, girls – there’s a book that quite candidly discusses all of the above and more. Style, Sex, and Substance edited by Hallie Lord is a collaborative effort from 10 Catholic female writers who address the common hesitations of others with grace, humor and compassion. With each chapter taken by a different author, Style, Sex, and Substance is real reading on real topics that often go unmentioned, but linger in the backs of our minds.

I picked up this gem a couple years ago and enjoyed a few chapters on my own, and I really started to glean wisdom when my book club selected it for summertime reading. Each chapter concludes with discussion questions designed to help you consider your behavior and approach to the corresponding topic be it women’s contribution to society, pursuing friendship or lighting a holy spark in marriage; in answering these questions either within the secrecy of my soul or in the openness of my book club, I learned that God calls me to my own particular brand of holiness and that it is accessible and it isn’t boring.

This wouldn’t be a true book review, however, if I failed to mention my reservations. While any reader will be challenged and compelled by chapters 1-9, it’s chapter 10 that left a sour taste in my mouth. The general theme of Lord’s publication is “in the world, but not of the world,” yet the final section seems to absolve women from avoiding those aspects of the media that would lead us from what is good. The fact is that what we read and watch impacts what we think is acceptable and enticing; regardless of general appeal in music, movies and other media, we should guard ourselves from what is clearly not of God.

Overall, however, Style, Sex, and Substance by Hallie Lord is a read for both the curious and educated Catholic woman. Read it on your own, with a group of girlfriends or in your Bible Study or book club. No matter how you slice it, this book will both affirm and challenge you as a wife, mother, and most importantly, as a daughter of God.

This book is available at Barnes and Noble or online at Amazon.com.

Domestic Church: Affirming Life in Your Marriage

Happy National Respect Life Month! If there’s any assembly in the world ready to stand for life from conception to natural death, it’s Catholics. We share articles, pray before clinics and organize events for the noblest of causes. It’s an uphill battle going against societal norms, but one that must be taken on by courageous souls.

Few may realize, however, that a pro-life cause quite near and dear requires equal bravery, though of a different nature. I’ve lately realized the importance of openness to life not just within our cities and states, but more specifically within our homes and especially within our marriages. What happens within the family will spread to the world, and what happens in the family starts with the marriage. It takes just two.

In my short six years as a wife, I’ve learned and observed enough to know that marriage calls for a constant effort of communication, compromise and sacrifice from us both. Currently, Andrew and I are adjusting to a new career, juggling three little boys and anticipating the imminent arrival of our baby girl. Lately it feels like we hardly see each other because of how much life demands.

Regardless of what the ins and outs of family life look like for any of us, spouses are easily reduced to casual roommates in a whirlwind of busyness. Andrew joked that sometimes it feels like we’re running a non-profit because our interactions are so often task-oriented that we fail to really see each other. Despite being a common issue, blindness to the personhood of our spouses can develop into a harmful malady in the home; when we don’t recognize the depth of our spouses’ spiritual, emotional and physical needs, they become easy to disregard and disrespect. Keep your eyes and hearts open to life in your marriage with the following:

1) Pray. Pray for him. Pray for her. Pray for yourself. Pray together. Pray apart. Pray in secret or let them know. A marriage laced with prayer will thrive in joy and be upheld in trials. No need to be too complex – sometimes a simple “God bless Andrew and Mary protect him” suffices, and other times Andrew will offer larger sacrifices for me.

2) Be receptive. The best advice I’ve ever received for hectic times was to close my mouth and open my ears. Don’t just give your husband or wife a chance to vent; listen and validate their emotions without criticism. A relationship where a person feels free to be vulnerable will be cherished and respected by both spouses.

3) Hug and kiss. Research proves that hugs lasting around 20 seconds decrease stress hormones and increase hormones associated with contentment and trust. Similarly, giving your sweetie one 15 second kiss every day invokes affection and helps you recall your close relationship to each other. A good hug or kiss can drown out distraction to maintain focus.

During Respect Life Month, revamp how receptive you are to your beloved to encourage life and joy to thrive in your house. A Catholic marriage is never a contract between two persons, but a sacramental covenant among three – husband, wife and God Himself, who drew the two of you together according to His purpose. What happens within the family will spread to the world; what happens in the family starts with the marriage; and what starts in the marriage starts with God. It takes just three.

Katie Sciba is the author of thecatholicwife.net. She lives in Shreveport with her husband, Andrew, and three sons, Liam,Thomas & Peter.

Get ready for the Catholic Pumpkin Patch!

October brings a stunning spray of orange that covers the lawn of Mary, Queen of Peace Parish in south Bossier.  The parishoners of Mary, Queen of Peace, under the leadership of Deacon Michael Straub, are hosting the 4th Annual Pumpkin Patch in an effort to support the church’s various youth programs.  Fellowship abounds as community members pile in and peruse the patch for that perfect, picturesque pumpkin.  Please consider visiting our patch.

We are located five miles south of the Jimmie Davis Highway in Bossier City.  We will be open for the duration of October, even through Halloween evening.  Visit us beginning Oct. 5 during the hours of 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.  We will be open on Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m., and on Sundays, our hours will be noon – 7:00 p.m.

Don’t forget our Pumpkin Patch Carnival on Saturday, Oct. 25 from 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.  For only $3 admission, children can enjoy all the trunk or treating and games they can stand!  We will also have burgers, hot dogs, cotton candy and other delicious treats.  Adults will enjoy  our large craft booth with various arts and crafts, edible goodies, canned jellies and jams, and plants.  This will be a great opportunity to do some Christmas shopping while enjoying the fall atmosphere of the pumpkin patch.

Come join us for the annual fun, and don’t forget to wear your costumes!

For more information, please contact the parish office at 318-752-5971.

by Donna Grimaldi

Catholic Food: The Little Things

by Kim Long

Not all groups are made of huge numbers. Not all endeavors must be large. These points were made known to me in a powerful, quiet way over the past 13 years by the group at our church known simply as “the Bible study ladies,” a small but faithful contingent of six (although when school holidays take precedence or someone has an appointment with a doctor our numbers can shift in either direction). Although we are a Bible study group, we alternate with other books as well. Currently we are working our way through Miriam’s Kitchen by Elizabeth Ehrlich, both a biography and autobiography.

Liz writes with a voice that changes and grows as she herself does. We meet Liz as a cultural Jew who falls in love with the only son of Holocaust survivors. This book works on several levels by telling us the story of Miriam, who in the fullness of time becomes Liz’s mother-in-law, and we see Liz grow in her faith, her marriage and motherhood from her lessons in Miriam’s kitchen. The book is flavored with recipes reflective of the Jewish liturgical year. We applied this to our own lives by taking the subject a bit wider and discussing how these paragraphs reflect our Catholic lives as women, mothers, daughters, grandmothers, granddaughters and daughters-in-law. The conversations are never dull.

One of our members is Winnie, a woman I have known since my early days in Catholicism. Cooking seems to bind us together. Twenty-six years ago my phone would ring and Winnie’s cheerful voice would ask me for a covered dish. Winnie and I served as part of the bereavement ministry. Now years later we are still exchanging recipes, lore and growing together in our faith. This past Wednesday, Winnie brought cake to our meeting, but not just any cake: Miriam’s cake! After finishing our session, Winnie announced “there is cake in the kitchen.”
As we quickly brewed a pot of coffee and set out cups and spoons, we oohed and aahed over the cake. Soon we sank our forks into “just a small piece” and then the room went silent – that cake was so good! I tasted the chocolate, the sour cream, the love Winnie stirred into it, the experiences of Miriam’s life and the wisdom of Liz and I heard a tune in my head: the Ray Conniff Singers crooning the chorus of one of my mom’s old favorites, “Love is the sweetest thing, what else on earth could ever bring, such happiness to everything…” My own mother, in heaven for many years, joined us for cake.

I don’t know if my “sisters” had similar thoughts swirling in their own minds as we feasted on cake and wisdom and cared for one another, but I can tell you this, we all shared a common bond of love.

Grandma’s Chocolate Sour Cream Cake – 1930’s

Cake Ingredients:
• ¼ lb sweet butter
• 2 ½ oz unsweetened chocolate
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 tsp baking soda
• 1 ¼ cup cake flour
• 1 cup sour cream

Cake Directions:
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease pan well.  2) Melt butter and chocolate over a low flame.  3) Beat egg; add sugar and beat; add sour cream and beat.   4) Sift flour and baking soda together and mix.  5) Add melted butter and chocolate. Mix.   6) Bake at 350 degrees, if one tube pan, for at least 45 minutes; if two small layers, 325 degrees for 30 minutes.  7) Cool 10 minutes in pan on rack then turn out and cool for 10 minutes more on rack before frosting.

Frosting Ingredients:
• 3 ½ oz unsweetened baker’s chocolate
• 3 tbsp. sweet butter
• 3 cups sifted powdered sugar
• 1 tsp salt
• ¼ cup milk
• 1 tsp vanilla
•  dash of instant coffee

Frosting Directions:
1) Melt chocolate and butter over hot water or a very low flame.   2) Blend remaining ingredients and add hot chocolate mixture.  3) Let stand in a coolish place. Stir until right consistency.

From the Pope: Mercy is Essential

Vatican City, September 10, 2014 (VIS) – A special aspect of the “maternity” of the Church is education through mercy, and this was the subject of the Holy Father’s catechesis during September 10’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Like a good mother and educator, the Church focuses on the essential, and the essential, according to the Gospel, is mercy, as Jesus clearly tells his disciples: “Be merciful, just as your father is.” “Is it possible for a Christian not to be merciful?” asked Pope Francis. “No. The Christian must necessarily be merciful, because this is at the center of the Gospel. And so the Church behaves like Jesus. She does not give theoretical lessons on love or on mercy. She does not spread throughout the world a philosophy or a path to wisdom. Certainly, Christianity is all of this too,” the Pope remarked, “but as a consequence, a reflection. The mother Church, like Jesus, teaches by example, and words serve to cast light on the meaning of her gestures.”

Therefore, “the Mother Church teaches us to give food and drink to those who hunger and thirst, and to clothe those who are naked. And how does she do this? She does it through the example of many saints who have done it in an exemplary fashion, but she also does it through the example of many fathers and mothers, who teach their children that what we have left over is for those who are in need of basic necessities. In the most humble Christian families, the rule of hospitality is always sacred: there is always a dish of food and a place to sleep for those in need.” And to those who say they have nothing to spare, Francis gave the example of a family in his former diocese who shared half of what they had to eat with a poor man who knocked at their door. “Learning to share what we have is important.”

The mother Church teaches us to be close to those who are sick. Like the saints who have served Jesus in this way, there are many people who practice this work of mercy every day in hospitals, rest homes or in their own homes, providing assistance for the sick.

The mother Church also teaches us to be close to those who are imprisoned. “‘But Father,’ some will say, ‘This is dangerous. These are bad people.’ Listen carefully: any one of us is capable of doing what these men and women in prison have done. We all sin and make mistakes in life. They are not worse than you or me. Mercy overcomes any wall or barrier, and leads us always to seek the face of the human being. And it is mercy that changes hearts and lives, that is able to regenerate a person or enable him to be newly reintegrated in society.”

“The mother Church teaches us to be close to those who have been abandoned and who die lonely. This is what Mother Teresa did in the streets of Calcutta and it is what many Christians, those who are not afraid to take the hand of those who are about to leave this world, have done and continue to do. And here too, mercy offers peace to those who depart and to those who remain, making us aware that God is greater than death, and that by staying with Him, even the final separation is only ‘until we meet again.’”

“The Church is a mother,” he continued, “teaching her children the works of mercy. She has learned this path from Jesus; she has learned that this is essential for salvation. It is not enough to love those who love us. It is not enough to do good to those who do good to us in return. To change the world for the better is it necessary to do good to those who are not able to do the same for us, as our Father did for us, in giving us Jesus. How much have we paid for our redemption? Nothing. It was all free. Doing good without expecting anything in return – this is what our Father did for us and what we too must do.” For this reason, he concluded, “let us give thanks to the Lord, who has given us the grace of having the Church as a mother who teaches us the way of mercy, the way of life.”

Second Collections: World Mission Sunday

Collection Dates: October 18th & 19th  
Announcement Dates: October 5th & 12th

Every year, something special happens on the next-to-last Sunday of October – the Church reflects its deepest identity as the Church in mission.  The theme for World Mission Sunday 2014 is “I Will Build My Church.” (Matthew 16:18).

On World Mission Sunday, Catholics of the world unite at Mass to recommit ourselves to our vocation, through Baptism, to be missionaries.  The Church’s missionary activity begins with the proclamation of faith: “Jesus is Lord!”  He is our common hope – a hope that saves.
On World Mission Sunday, we are called in a special way to be missionaries through prayer and participation in the Eucharist, and by giving generously to the collection for the Society for the Propagation of the Faith.  Our brothers and sisters in the Missions themselves offer their prayers and sacrifices so that others may come to know Jesus.

Throughout the Missions, your support keeps the following going day in and day out:

• 9,000 clinics for the sick and dying
• 10,000 orphanages, providing a place of safety and shelter
• 900,000 children in some of the poorest parts of the world, receiving an education and the knowledge of God’s great love.
• 80,000 seminarians preparing for the priesthood
• 9,000 religious Sisters and Brothers in formation programs

“The Church is called to transmit the joy of the Lord to her children,” Pope Francis tells us.  And as members of the Church, united as the One Body of Christ, we are called to support, in prayer and sacrifice, the Church’s mission to bring joy to people everywhere – especially, as Pope Francis urges, “the poorest, the weakest, the least important.”

Mongolia, the world’s youngest Catholic Church needs your help and support.  It was just a little more than 20 years ago that the Church was built there, slowly, with great love and missionary support. Today, there are about 850 Catholics in the Church in Mongolia.  Bishop Wens remains as committed today as on that first day, to reach out and offer practical and spiritual support to those in need – and to continue to build the Church.

Thank you for your generosity to the World Mission Sunday Collection.

(This article was crafted from statements of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith).

Fr. Rothell Price, Vicar General, is the Director of Special Collections.

Mike’s Meditations: Do Not Judge or Condemn

We have all, more than once, heard the phrase: “love the sinner, hate the sin.”  I wonder what results would emerge if each of us tried to explain exactly what that means.  What would it mean to show true compassion to the sinner?  Another question we might ask is:  “do we show mercy to sinners we like but not to those we do not know very well?”  Finally, do we acknowledge our own sins before we turn our attention to others’?

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus says, “Be merciful,” “Stop judging,” “Stop condemning,” and “Forgive” in chapter 6, verses 36 and 37.  A few verses later he asks:  “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ but not do as I command?”  I never really liked that question.  It seems a little personal.

Our society is trying to legislatively deal with issues that involve what some view as sinful.  The result usually leaves two groups with differing opinions who refuse to respect and listen to each other.  In essence, the merciful love that Jesus gives us and has commanded we give each other is missing.  Most Christians are very passionate about their beliefs and equally passionate in defending their faith.  Those who oppose those beliefs are pretty enthusiastic and fervent themselves.  We have proven one thing: continuing to argue with no respect for each human being involved in the debate has proven fruitless.  It is time to be obedient to Jesus’ commands.

Throughout this month, let’s pray and meditate on the ways we can be compassionate and merciful without judging or condemning.  Let’s remember that our respect and love for human life is at the very core of the love God has called us to live.  Finally, let’s remember, if we are going to love anyone at all, it means we will love a sinner.

Jesus said:  “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and not do as I command?”  Let’s commit to making permanent changes in our lives so Jesus can finally say:  “Thank you for calling me Lord, Lord and doing as I have commanded.”

Mike is a writer and teacher. You can contact him at: www.mikevanvrankenministries.org or write him at: Mike Van Vranken, 523 Loch Ridge Drive, Shreveport, LA  71106.

Bishop’s October Reflection: Be a Witness for Life

by Bishop Michael Duca

So often today, and this will happen even more in the future, we find ourselves defending our faith from a biased and one-sided negative characterization of the Church.  For example, recently we have heard, “the Catholic Church does not care about women and their rights.”  We hear this especially in regard to the Church’s stand against abortion.  If you are tired of this, know that it will always be tiring work to defend our faith unless we first of all, as in this regard, know the statement is not true.  Secondly, we will find new energy if we do not let ourselves get caught up in defending a negative and turn the conversation to a Witness for Life, that is, to witnessing to our belief in the absolute value of every human life – a witness of love and care of all people.  This witness of love makes the connection to our faith and love of Jesus.  In a positive witness we will discover a new enthusiasm that will fill us with a love for every child. We will stop just arguing a moral point and we will begin to witness the wonder of our God who loves each new life with a unique and personal love.

To only say the Church is against abortion is the wrong way to approach the issue as a believer. The better way to profess our Catholic faith is to say that we are FOR life. We often frame our faith, or others describe the Catholic faith, by what we cannot do. This is a small and incomplete understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, a good Catholic.  We follow the teachings of Jesus not because of what we cannot do, but because of the wonderful things Jesus reveals to us.  We are first a Church who believes in the wonder, the mystery and the unique value of every human life. Why would anyone not want to profess such a positive respect for every human being and to see everyone as a child of God?

We must respect the life of every individual from the moment of conception because we want to love all our brothers and sisters at every stage of their lives with the love of God.  Science, without the help of religion, is continually revealing to us the complexity and wonder of human life. We know that at the very moment of fertilization the essential elements of our human selves are already set and only need time to grow.  The deeper science investigates, the more life reveals its wonder and the mark of the hand of God. To not protect life from its very first moments sets a dangerous precedent and ignores what science and our faith reveal about the uniqueness of every life.

For anyone to accept abortion they must suspend the belief that the life within the mother’s womb is a child, a human life with values and rights. This sets up a disastrous way of thinking. If a human person’s life is not valued and acknowledged from the very beginning, then every decision for when life should be valued will be arbitrary and unjust. It will be unjust because the value of the life of the developing child who is vulnerable is decided by someone who was given the chance to be born and is already alive. Where in our society do we feel that this is a fair and just way to decide? Further, if we can make this arbitrary decision to determine the value of a human life before the child is born, then why not make the same decision at other stages of life (old age for example), or for other reasons (medical problems)?

As Catholics we must unashamedly be Witnesses for Life.  We are people of the Light and of Life and that should be evident in our witness. With that inspiration we will not be exhausted, but rather filled with a new enthusiasm for this cause with a love that cares for the distressed mother and the unborn child. When we witness to the Gospel of life by our words or choices, let us be motivated by a heart transformed by the love of God that desires for all life to be respected.