By Maureen Smith
October is observed in the church as Respect Life Month, a time to focus on issues of life and human dignity, including the death penalty, abortion, euthanasia and respect and care for the disabled. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has posted prayers, artwork and activities on its website to help parishes and individuals celebrate this month.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM Cap., the chairman for the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, wrote a statement about this year’s theme, “Each of us is a masterpiece of God’s creation,” in which he explains how our everyday actions can have a profound impact on this issue.
The theme comes from Pope Francis’ 2013 Respect Life Day statement when he said, “even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.”
Cardinal O’Malley writes about how Pope Francis has lived out this statement in his care for the poor, the marginalized, the elderly and those who are ill. He writes that we are all called to this kind of life. “Our mission is to show each person the love of Christ. As uniquely created individuals, we each have unique gifts which we are called to use to share Christ’s love. We are continually given opportunities to do so in our interactions with the cashier at the grocery store, our spouses, children, friends and even the people we encounter in traffic. Each of these moments is valuable beyond our realization. We may never know how much a simple gesture of compassion may affect someone’s life,” writes the cardinal.
He wrote about how people in modern society are isolated and often feel like abortion or suicide is their only choice. “The Church’s antidote to an individualism which threatens the respect for human dignity is community and solidarity,” wrote Cardinal O’Malley.
Locally, Catholics are invited to participate in “40 Days for Life,” an ecumenical program of prayer, fasting and advocacy to end abortion. The campaign kicks off with a rally outside Mississippi’s only remaining abortion clinic on State Street in Jackson on Wednesday, Sept. 24, at noon. People can then sign up for shifts to stand outside the clinic in prayer.
All participants must sign a pledge to be peaceful and to treat everyone, including clinic workers and supporters, with respect. Volunteers can sign up online at 40daysforlife.com. Search for the Mississippi event.
Teenagers can also sign up for the January March for Life in Washington. The deadline to register on www.jacksonmarchforlife.com is Oct. 17.
“Love and justice must motivate each of us to work for a transformation of our own hearts so that we can transform the world around us. This is the message of Pope Francis. May the Risen Lord put the Gospel of joy into our hearts so that we may bear witness to the greatest love story ever told,” concludes Cardinal O’Malley’s letter. The full text of the letter is available at www.usccb.org in the Respect Life section of the website.
By Maureen Smith