Every Child Brings Us God’s Smile


Bishop James V. Johnston


Published on the website of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau

“Let the children come to me. …” —Mk 10:14

There are two ways one can understand the meaning of “child.” It can refer to age or to relationship. For example, because of my age, I am no longer a child, but I will always be the child of my parents. Because of my baptism, I will also always be a child of my heavenly Father.

This year’s theme for both Respect Life Sunday and Respect Life Month (October) is taken from one of Pope Benedict’s homilies: “Every child brings us God’s smile.”

Every person is a child of someone and always will be, and we all reflect and image God in the world. Each of us is a unique messenger of God and his creative love simply by our presence in this world. We each bring God to our neighbor and possess an immeasurable value, not only those who are chronologically children, but every human being.

As Respect Life Month, October brings us the occasion to assess matters related to human life. Sadly, we see human life being attacked at every angle, and so there is a great need for each of us to be engaged in order to take our part in serving human life. This includes protecting the dignity of every human being and being at the service of others in charity.

Life and family

We often do not make the connection, but it is important to realize that we cannot respect human life, without also respecting and defending the family. The family is the most basic cell of society and church. It is the best and most stable place for children to be conceived, born, nurtured, and formed to be good citizens and good persons. This is not to minimize the often heroic efforts of those who, through no fault of their own, find themselves without the reality of a traditional family, and strive to do their best. Nevertheless, many of the evils that are deeply anti-life originated as “solutions” to the problems created by the breakdown of the family. Unfortunately, movements are afoot to further undermine and weaken the family.

Efforts continue that seek to redefine the very meaning of marriage, which is the basis of family life. “What God has joined together, no human being must separate” (Mk 10:9).

No human being has the authority to separate husband from wife, nor procreation from marriage. Defending family is a defense of life. Serving marriage and family serves life.

Life on the edges

Catholics are also called by virtue of baptism to serve and protect human life, especially at its most vulnerable and weakest points. This includes human life before birth. Embryonic stem-cell research involves destroying living human beings for speculative medical research. Each year, abortion continues to claim over one million boys and girls in America alone. Fortunately, polls indicate that a majority of Americans are opposed to abortion. It is important to realize that one of the best ways to counter abortion is to reach out to those who are facing the crisis of an unwanted pregnancy, showing that there are options other than killing. Organizations such as the Vitae Foundation are making marked progress in this work, countering the propaganda of the culture of death and helping those in crisis.

Human life is weak and vulnerable after birth, too. Legally-assisted suicide and euthanasia arise out of the false view that some lives are not worth living, and that some people are not worth protecting.

There are other edges in the middle of life as well and these demand attention: peacefully and prayerfully working to abolish the use of the death penalty; striving to establish basic, affordable, adequate health care for all; making efforts to ensure that every human being has adequate food, clothing, shelter, and education.

We come to realize that every person is a child, and every child is a precious gem of incalculable worth.  Accepting a new life into one’s family, and accepting the lives of every brother and sister in the human family, honors God, the author of every human soul.