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 | By Candace Bryant-Lester

October is Respect Life Month

“The Gospel of life is at the heart of Jesus' message. Lovingly received day after day by the Church, it is to be preached with dauntless fidelity as ‘good news’ to the people of every age and culture.” (Evangelium Vitae 1)

Every October in the United States, the Church celebrates Respect Life Month, and asks us to reflect more deeply on the inherent dignity of each human being.

From beginning to end, or “womb to tomb,” the Catechism states: “Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end.” (2258) Practices such as abortion, assisted suicide and capital punishment violate the dignity of the human person and must be rejected. In today’s world, this truth can be subverted in favor of how useful someone is or will be, casting aside those most vulnerable: the unborn, women and children, those living in poverty, the ill, the incarcerated, those living with disabilities and the elderly.

“Man is called to a fullness of life which far exceeds the dimensions of his earthly existence, because it consists in sharing the very life of God.” (Evangelium Vitae 2)

Made in God’s Image

In the very beginning of the Bible we’re told that “God created mankind in his image” – that we were created to share in God’s life through knowledge and love, establishing us in a unique friendship with our Creator that elevates us above all else in creation. (Gn 1:27; CCC 355-356) Each of us is a reflection of God called to share in love and creation. As we hear in the book of the prophet Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” (1:5)

Therefore, God’s love for his children is not based on usefulness or status in society, and Christ’s life and teachings continually guide us toward that message: “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (25:40), and “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (19:14)

Respect Life Month reminds us of the other part of that equation as we work toward ending the culture of death: respect. Not only are the people considering or supporting life-denying options often in dire positions, but they are also God’s children. So when we come across this type of situation, let us be Christ to one another in our words and actions and speak the words of life with love and compassion.

“By his incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every human being.” (Gaudium et Spes 22)

How to Celebrate Respect Life Month

Learn more about Church teachings. The Catechism is a tremendous resource to learn more about our faith. You can read more about Church teachings on respect for life in paragraphs 2258-2317 (or the overview in paragraphs 2318-2330). Additionally, check out St. John Paul II’s encyclical Evangelium Vitae (“The Gospel of Life”).

Get your affairs in order. Walk the walk by ensuring your own life is aligned with Church teachings. Find a life-affirming doctor to take over your care. Plan your advance medical directives in accordance with Catholic values. Reach out to your parish or diocese for Natural Family Planning education.

Volunteer. Pro-life ministries, pregnancy and crisis centers, foster care programs and prison ministries all could use your help! Encouraging and growing a culture of life begins in our own communities.

Walk in Christ’s love with others. It’s easy to say we’re pro-life, but we must always remember that Jesus always put God’s love into action, and we must also: “This is the way we may know that we are in union with [Jesus]: whoever claims to abide in him ought to live [just] as he lived.” (1 Jn 2:6) Unexpected pregnancies, life-threatening illnesses, depression, poverty and incarceration happen constantly – what will we do if it arrives on our doorstep as a loved one or acquaintance in need? Let us resolve to act as Christ did by offering a compassionate witness, sharing life-affirming options, and walk with the most vulnerable to care for and protect human life.

Pray. There are many opportunities to pray for specific Respect Life Month concerns ranging from rosaries to novenas and beyond. Simply adding your concerns and thanksgiving for life to God in your daily prayer is great practice, too!

Mark Your Calendar – Respect Life Month Events

  • Respect Life Sunday: October 1
  • World Day Against the Death Penalty: October 10
  • Respect Life Month novena: October 13-21

“The human person is a “manifestation of God in the world, a sign of his presence, a trace of his glory.” (Evangelium Vitae 34)

Jesus is the Word of Life

Every human life is precious, from that in the womb, to the incarcerated, to those who feel there is no reason to continue living – every life was elevated and blessed by Christ’s incarnation. He shares in our struggles, temptations, failures and victories, and he walks alongside us as we build God’s kingdom here on earth. We, as the body of Christ, have been entrusted to care and defend for the outcast and marginalized, and we must cultivate a culture which is respectful of all life in the face of adversity that claims otherwise.