On June 29th the Church honors the Apostles Peter and Paul. We pray that we will be faithful to the teaching and grace handed down from the Apostles. At the heart of that faith “that comes to us from the Apostles” is the teaching on the Sanctity of Life. The fact that God cares for human life is the basis of all He does for us; the fact that He has entrusted us to the care of each other is the basis for all we do for each other. Peter and Paul had relied on the Lord to sustain them in many battles. That is true of the Church throughout the ages, yet “the gates of Hell will not prevail.” These words apply well to the battles to defend a Culture of Life against a Culture of Death.
This weekend the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Trinity. We worship one God in Three Persons. This feast is a lesson in unity and love: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit give themselves completely to one another, and literally have one mind, one will, and one power. As human beings, there are limits to how close we can come to others, but we can come far closer than we are.
Nothing divides human beings from one another more drastically than abortion. It cuts and destroys the most intimate union, that of a mother and her unborn child. The effects of abortion split marriages, families, political bodies, and nations.
As we prepare to celebrate Trinity Sunday, let’s renew our commitment to building unity, starting with the bond between mother and child.
In the early hours of Holy Thursday, 2011, as Churches were preparing – and in some parts of the world already celebrating – the Mass of the Lord’s Supper and the washing of the feet, “Baby Joseph” was flown from St. Louis, where he had been treated since I brought him there in mid-March, to his home in Windsor, Canada. As the Church prepared to celebrate the day when the Lord gave us the command to “love one another,” Baby Joseph’s parents and older brother were enjoying the fruit of the hard fight that their love inspired. They fought to help their baby breathe and bring him home. Canadian medical and government authorities had resisted, trying to impose their own value judgment on his life.
Now, however, he is home, and the Priests for Life Family, including tens of thousands of people who sent emails to the Canadian authorities, is delighted to have helped.
Our mission to save Baby Joseph and help his family was never based on any prediction of the future, but rather on the value of his life here and now. Our critics, on the other hand, looking into the crystal ball that ‘right to die’ advocates seem to always think they have, claimed our intervention was futile because Joseph would only end up having a machine do his breathing for him.
We don’t have to answer their criticism; Joseph is doing that for us, with every breath he takes. He has gained benefit from his tracheotomy, is breathing on his own, and is free from the need to use any tubes or machines.
Doctors have not given a time estimate as to how long they think he will live. Nobody knows. What we do know is that there are several key lessons to draw from this story:
a) Doctors do not always know best. Day by day, situations turn out better than many doctors predict. The desires of the patient and the family who seek care need to be honored.
b) Families need to fight to care for their loved ones. Moe Maraachli and his wife Sana did just that. They did not let the death of a previous child bring them to despair about this one. Rather, they fought hard for Joseph to get the care that has now helped him. Their love reminded me of the love that Terri Schiavo’s parents and siblings showed for her, a love willing to persevere despite the public spotlight and pressure that they never sought.
c) The meaning and value of life does not come from medical tribunals or courts, and it is not measured in years, months, or days. It is measured by giving and receiving love, first from God and then from each other.
d) When people band together for the cause of life, victories can be won. So many people sent emails, prayed, and are helping pay for Baby Joseph’s care (see BabyJosephCentral.com). We need to stay engaged in the pro-life cause, because there are many more victories to win.
The Fourth Commandment is “Honor thy father and mother.” The Lord worked through our parents to bring us into being; He asked for their collaboration, for their generosity, in bringing about a plan that He had decided on from all eternity – that we should exist to love and serve Him. This commandment points to the dignity of human procreation. It also points to the profound privilege and responsibility that parents have in being open to life and in being ready to protect the lives that God entrusts to their care. Those who claim a right to abortion are violating the fourth commandment. No parent is the owner of his or her children. God alone owns and rules human life, and He entrusts to parents the awesome gift of welcoming that life with joy.
On May 1st Pope John Paul II was Beatified. This step was taken not because of the profound impact of his pontificate, the multitude of his writings, or the depth of his knowledge of theology. Rather, his beatification is because he lived in a faithful and heroic way the Christian virtues of faith, hope and love, and provided a model for us to imitate. The Vatican spokesman who served under Blessed John Paul II added that the key to his effectiveness was that he firmly believed that each person was created in God’s image and likeness, and that this was what attracted people to him. Having worked under him myself in Rome, I was privileged to see close-up that he was indeed the Pope of Life.
Many of you pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Did you know that this prayer was given to St. Faustina especially because of the sin of abortion? God revealed to her that because of this evil, the world needs His mercy more than ever. He even permitted St. Faustina to suffer special pains, representing the pain of abortion. On Divine Mercy Sunday this weekend, please pray for the many people who seek forgiveness from abortion by coming to Rachel’s Vineyard, which operates under the umbrella of Priests for Life and is the largest ministry in the world for healing after abortion. Not only do we provide retreats, but we also enable people to make the long journey of healing through various forms of individual counseling. May God’s mercy come to all.
When the Lord gave the command to take away the stone so that He could call Lazarus to walk out of his own grave, Lazarus’ sister Martha expressed a concern: “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.” Notice how we worry about small things when God is about to do great things. He works through us to end abortion, but we worry that we will lose friends; pastors worry that they will anger parishioners; politicians worry that they will lose votes; we all worry that there will be a stench. It’s time to stop limiting the power of God. As Mother Teresa said, let’s give God permission, so that He can work mightily through us to end abortion and bring about a culture of life.
On April 2, 2005, Pope John Paul II was called from this world to the next. John Paul II was the Pope of Life. He provided the Church and the world with profound reflections about the origins of human life in the loving mystery of the unity of man and woman. He wrote about love and responsibility, and he called the Church to understand that God’s choice comes before our choices.
He provided the pro-life movement with the encyclical Evangelium Vitae, the Gospel of Life. In it, he declared that the attack on children in the womb is an attack on God Himself, and that when the state no longer protects these children, the disintegration of the state itself has begun. May the example and teaching of John Paul II hasten the Culture of Life.
In light of the passing of Dr. Bernard Nathanson, the pro-life movement continues reflecting on his life. I will never forget the workshop at which I introduced him at the 1994 Human Life International Conference in Irvine, CA. He was supposed to talk about chemical abortion, but at the last minute decided instead to speak of his spiritual journey. At the end of the talk, he said that he was standing on the brink of conversion to the Catholic Church. The room exploded. People were leaping into the air. He said that he hoped God could forgive him, and I said, ‘Dr. Nathanson, He already has,’ and I reminded him of that exchange just a week before he died. Many have turned away from the abortion industry; let’s encourage them to trust in God’s mercy.
At the end of February I was with the Holy Father as he addressed the Pontifical Academy for Life. The Academy had addressed the theme of post-abortion healing. The Pope said, “It is necessary to provide the necessary help to women who sadly have already taken recourse to abortion, and who now experience all its moral and existential tragedy. There are many initiatives, at the diocesan level or through individual volunteer entities, which offer psychological and spiritual support for a complete human recovery. The solidarity of the Christian community cannot give up this type of co-responsibility.”
Among those presenting at the Academy’s meeting was our full-time Priests for Life Pastoral Associate Dr. Theresa Burke, founder of Rachel’s Vineyard, which is one of those initiatives to which the Pope was referring.