Every year, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) designates the first Sunday in October as Respect Life Sunday, and October itself as Respect Life Month. The conference’s Pro-Life Secretariat provides collateral materials supporting the annual theme, which this year is “Open Your Hearts to Life.”
These materials, which are purchased for each parish and school by the Diocese of Superior’s Respect Life Office, assist clergy, principals, directors of religious education, teachers, catechists and parents in teaching adults, youth and children to respect all human life. That “all” is important, as respect for life is all encompassing. Consider the variety of life concerns that are addressed in the Respect Life materials:
“Our Obligation to Protect Religious Freedom”
“Roe Plus 40”
“Explaining the Reality of Marriage to Family and Friends”
“A Catholic Response to the Death Penalty”
“Forgiveness and Healing After Abortion”
“Pregnancy from Rape”
The titles of those publications should help dispel one of the misconceptions people have about respecting life – that it only applies to the unborn. Certainly, much of our work is devoted to protecting the most innocent lives from abortion, but our respect for life doesn’t – it can’t! – stop with them.
Consider the respect life dimension in other areas of our society: human trafficking, immigration, welfare, prisons, homelessness, abuse, addiction, pornography, bullying, video games, music and the television industry. Our culture glamorizes violence, and it doesn’t hesitate to treat people as objects. All this occurs within a context that selfishly asks, “What’s in it for me?”
When we look back, we notice that little by little, we, as a society, have allowed the lack of respect for one another to become “normal” in our culture. We might say, “It’s not a big deal,” when children don’t learn “please” and “thank you,” or when children express “attitude” to adults and those in authority, or when foul language is considered part of the vernacular. Each time we have taken the “It’s no big deal” stance, we, as a society, have become more desensitized to respecting others.
The USCCB has four sections in its plan of rebuilding a culture of life. Everyone can connect with least one section, while many people are involved in all four:
Prayer. Pray daily. This is most important and it can be done by everyone – from toddlers to the bedridden elderly. As we’ve often heard, never underestimate the power of prayer.
Service. Serve those in need – the homeless, the elderly, prisoners.
Advocacy. Stand up for those persecuted and who are not loud enough or do not have a voice.
Education. Read – and share – materials from the USCCB, the Catholic Herald newspaper and information from the diocese for the official Catholic stance and position on a topic. Attend conferences and workshops to become better informed.
Such a conference regarding abortion education is available in the Diocese of Superior. I invite you to hear Vicki Thorn, founder of Project Rachel, a post-abortion healing program, Friday, Nov. 22, 6:30–9 p.m. and /or Saturday, Nov. 23, 10:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. (lunch provided), Turtleback Conference Center, Rice Lake. Register by Friday, Nov. 1 for a reduced registration fee of $32 for both days ($10 for only Friday; $26 for only Saturday). Since fees increase after Nov. 1, and seating is limited to the first 100 people, I encourage you to register soon.
Even though it seems like our culture is dark and gloomy, there is a light in the darkness and that light is God. No amount of darkness can overcome this light and love. We need to pray for one another and to ask God how you and I can rebuild a culture of life in our society.
God is the author of all life – from beginning to end. Each and every person is made in the image and likeness of God; each and every person deserves respect. Let us stand together as sons and daughters of God and shine His light every day in all we do for His honor and glory.
Deb Lieberg is the Respect Life coordinator for the Diocese of Superior.