October is upon us and Catholic Churches across the nation are observing Respect Life Month. Here in the Diocese of Orange, I have been blessed to encounter so many individuals, groups, and parishes committed to upholding the life and dignity of the human person. From the Mass for handicapped children and families, seeing the witness of immigrant families welcoming their children into this world rather than choosing abortion, to the recognition of Nancy Phan for her work saving lives and caring for women through Viet Respect Life; with Pastor Rick and Kay Warren, and so many wonderful people, gathered to address mental illness, and our diocesan Domestic Violence Awareness Initiative; we are working to remove stigmas and address threats to life. In our support for Proposition 47, California bishops have affirmed that respecting life and dignity does not stop at prison walls and ought to create pathways for alternative treatment for nonviolent offenders. From conception to natural death–
Each of Us is a Masterpiece of God’s Creation!
Let us reflect on this theme for the 2014 Respect Life Program. Throughout all our pro-life activities, we must never lose sight of the fundamental encounter with God and one another. As Pope John Paul II stated, “The inviolability of the person which is a reflection of the absolute inviolability of God, finds its primary and fundamental expression in the inviolability of human life.” He went on to admonish that “the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights—for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture—is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.” Far from narrowing our many efforts to care for the human person, these words help us remain steadfast in our respect for the gift of life, from beginning to end, especially where it is most threatened. I encourage you to connect with the Catholic Legislative Network at the California Catholic Conference (cacatholic.org) to advocate for public policy that seeks the common good, affirms the life and dignity of the human person.
“The credibility of a healthcare system,” said Pope Francis to medical professionals, “is not measured solely by efficiency, but above all by the attention and love given to the person, whose life is always sacred and inviolable.” Locally, St. Joseph Health is a model of this type of healthcare. Indeed the credibility of all of our ministries is measured by this love and respect for one another, and especially the least. In his July letter, Bishop Dominic reminded pastors and parishioners alike that our Pennies from Heaven campaign (which raised over $240,000 last year) seeks to bless the clinics, centers, and shelters that enable life-affirming choices and provide essential services for women, men, and children in crisis. As we celebrate Respect Life Month, let us unabashedly witness to the Gospel of Life: God’s love for the unborn, women and families in crisis, those on death row, unaccompanied refugees, those struggling with mental illness, or surviving domestic violence. Each of Us is a Masterpiece of God’s Creation! And all of us can lend a helping hand to a neighbor in need.
For more on how to become involved, go to lifejusticepeace.org/respectlife and inquire at your parish about local activities.