Having just completed the month of October, which in the Church in the United States is dedicated to “Respect Life”, and looking ahead into next year in January with its anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and the various marches and vigils which will be held in light of that day, I would like to take a few moments and lines here and reflect on perhaps what was one of the most powerful Masses that I have celebrated here in Orange to date.
In the month of September, I was asked to celebrate a Mass for handicapped children and families at St. Barbara’s parish in Orange. It was sponsored by our office of family life, Hispanic ministry, and Respect life Peace and Justice. Much of the work and preparation for this event was done by families of the “Neocatechumenal Way”. I would like to thank all of them, and in particular, Fr. Augustine Vu, who is the parochial administrator of St. Barbara’s parish, and Deacon Guillermo Torres who assisted me at the Mass.
The church was filled to capacity and overflowing of families and their children with special needs (“discapacidades” in Spanish), and many of them with “Down Syndrome”. This Mass was a testimony to so many aspects of the Pro-Life ministry and apostolic work. Here were so many immigrant families who brought their children to life rather than abortion. Here as well are so many families and others, who now care for these children and young people. Having brought these children to birth, these community members and families now assist each other in the ongoing care and support of these special children. Their witness to the Gospel of Life, especially in the Hispanic and Vietnamese communities who were present, is truly heroic. It is not only words, but deeds. Lastly, many of these families are immigrant families who as well are hoping, praying and working for a better life for them and these children through the regularization of their status.
The Mass at St. Barbara’s was a great witness to Life and to the support of the Catholic community to all of the families. The Mass was a profound experience for me, and echoes the recent words of Pope Francis on September 20 to Catholic Gynecologists:
“A widespread mentality of the useful, the ‘throw away culture’ which today enslaves the hearts and intelligences of so many has a very high cost: it requires eliminating human beings, especially if physically or socially weaker. Our answer to this mentality is a decisive and unhesitant ‘yes’ to life. “The first right to life of a human person is his/her life. He/she has other goods and come of them are more precious; but life is the fundamental good, condition for all others (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, November 18, 1974.) Things have a price and are saleable, but persons have a dignity, they are worth more than things and they have no price. Because of this, attention to human life in its totality has become in recent times a real and proper priority of the Magisterium of the Church, particularly for life which is largely defenseless, namely that of the disabled, the sick, the unborn, children, the elderly.”
Sincerely in Christ,
+ Bishop Kevin Vann