Today, the largest pro-life movement in the world will occur as thousands march the National Mall in Washington, DC, peacefully and passionately for the sake and sanctity of human life. Every year, the March for Life occurs on the anniversary of the historic Roe v Wade decision that made abortion legal in all 50 states. Despite the sorrow that fills the memory of this day, we have been called, as a community of life, to stand with zeal (word choice) for everyone’s right to life, not just this day, but every day of our lives.
I have never participated in the March for Life before, but I am very excited to finally take part in some of the activities that are occurring this week in our nation’s capital. From hosting eager pilgrims coming from Texas to march, to pro-life talks and dinners, and the National Prayer Vigil for Life, it has been an inspiring week so far. The pro-life community is strong and vibrant and it is a joy to be a part of that spirit. However, as I’ve been reflecting on the meaning and beauty of this week, I am realizing the vital call that is bestowed upon us to witness the beauty of life every day of our lives. During this week and beyond, we must take the time to see the value in every life and how we can share that with others.
I want the world to know that the beauty of life is all around us: the young, the old, the rich, the poor, and those in-between. It is in those risking their own life for the sake of others. The beauty of life is all around the world in different races, cultures, and experiences. The beauty of life is in the day to day interactions of our community, at home, work, and school. The beauty of life is in experiencing nature. The beauty of life is in sharing our own lives with others. Most vividly, as Catholics we know that the beauty of life exists in the Church, as Jesus Christ who teaches us how to love perfectly: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). To love perfectly is truly selfless. Those committed to a culture of life live as selfless witnesses, caring for the sanctity of each human soul through love. In our culture where instant pleasure and satisfaction are the façade for human happiness, we must teach others that there is authentic joy in protecting and standing for those who may not have a voice of their own.
So many have come before us and instructed us in Christ's example, in the way of life. Blessed Mother Teresa, who devoted herself to the Cross by serving Christ in the slums of India said, “Any country that accepts abortion is the poorest of the poor” and that, “Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human being’s entitlement by virtue of his humanity. "Not only as Americans, but as faithful citizens of the kingdom of God, we are called to protect the preciousness of every life created by God.
These thoughts are my prayers, especially today, as we reflect on the Right to Life, particularly that America and our world will come to embrace a culture of life for all peoples, and I hope that you will live these prayers with me wherever you are marching. Whether you are in our nation’s capital today, at home, or at a march in spirit, know that your witness matters and is essential to stamping out a culture of death and living a culture of life. In order to bring life to the world, we must live in love. Let us ask God to bless this week that He may touch the hearts of many who need to hear his words of love and mercy, and that together we can increase the culture of life.
Alyce Anderson is a teacher in Washington D.C.
If someone were drowning, whether you knew how to swim or not, would you save them?
This is one of the sayings that Irena Sendlerowa’s father told her to remember and use as a model for her life. As a young Catholic social worker living in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II, “Irena Sendler” made this question her life’s testament by saving Jewish children and orphans from the Warsaw Ghetto.
January 27 is designated by the U.N. as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. This day of remembrance is appropriate for National Sanctity of Life Month. We may first think of respecting life in terms of the unborn, but being pro-life means honoring life in all stages. The horror of the Holocaust violated a respect for life. Many Catholics during this period of time understood the threat anti-Semitism brought to humanity. It’s not surprising many Catholics aided in protecting Jews and other targets of the Nazi Party.
Irena Sendler was not a commonly known hero of the Holocaust until nearly a decade ago when four high school girls from rural Kansas created a 1999 National History Day (History Fair) performance focusing on the heroine. “We saw a 1994 U.S. News & World Report that was five years old [at the time we read it] with a clipping entitled, ‘Other Schindlers,’ and Irena Sendler was listed as saving at least 2,500 children,” said Megan Stewart-Felt, one of the four students who created Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project. “ ‘Irena Sendler’ received one hit on Google in 1999,” said Felt. “Today I type in her name and have more than 767,000 hits.”
Sendler’s work in saving Jews didn’t start with her efforts in saving children in the Warsaw Ghetto. As a young university student, Sendler made false documents for Jewish friends and others in the Warsaw area from 1939 to 1942 before she joined the underground Zegota, a Polish underground group to assist Jews.
“Life in a Jar” describes perfectly the actions Sendler used to save Jewish children in the Warsaw Ghetto. Sendler, along with 10 others under her direction, implemented various tactics of getting children past Nazi guards. Several of these tactics included Sendler posing as a nurse taking “sick” or “dead” children out of the ghetto, smuggling a five-month-old baby in a carpenter’s box and using a barking dog to conceal the crying children, hindering Nazi guards from thoroughly examining the cargo vehicle.
Sendler then adopted the children into homes of Polish families or hid them in Catholic convents, orphanages, and parish rectories. Priests and monks provided some Jewish children and adults with false baptismal certificates to pose as Catholics. AmericanCatholic.org quotes Szymon Datner, a Jewish historian, as saying about Catholic nuns, “No other sector was so ready to help those persecuted by the Germans. This attitude, unanimous and general, deserves recognition and respect.” To ensure the children would one day discover their true identity, Sendler made lists of the children’s real names and family information and concealed them in jars she buried in her garden.
Nazi’s did capture Sendler. She was beaten severely and even scheduled for execution, but the Polish underground bribed a guard to release her and she entered into hiding. Sendler passed away at the age of 98 on May 12, 2008. Just one year before, Sendler was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway for her courage and valor in saving Jewish children. Additionally, Yad Vashem recognized Sendler in 1965 as Righteous Among the Nations.
During National Sanctity of Life Month and International Holocaust Remembrance Day, it’s important to reflect and gain inspiration from everyday heroes, such as Irena Sendler, whose actions saved many lives, often at great risk to their own.
Dana Edwards is a recent graduate of the University of Florida. She currently resides in Tallahassee, Florida where she works as a Digital Strategist, and volunteers as a lector and with communication outreach at her local parish, Good Shepherd Catholic Church.
This past Sunday, October 6th was “Respect Life Sunday,” a day designated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to kick of their Respect Life programming for the year. When I went to Mass this weekend, I offered extra prayers for the protection of the unborn and the protection of life until natural death. I did not really think about it any more than those few minutes at Mass.
Later in the evening however I had a general meeting of the Catholic Daughters of the Americas on my campus. Our chaplain spoke briefly about Respect Life Sunday and offered this group a challenge. He spoke about the good things that the pro-life ministry does (March for Life, sidewalk prayers, raising awareness, etc), but also pointed out the need for more resources for women actually in the position to be making decisions about whether or not to end their pregnancies. He spoke about how too often, the decision to end a pregnancy is made because it is the easiest. He challenged us to re-think our views on the pro-life ministry.
In the United States, the pro-life ministry in the mainstream focuses a great deal on the changing of laws that allow abortion. This goal is a good one, a necessary step to ending the practice of abortion in the United States. But what our chaplain said when he gave us this challenge resonated with me and made me think. There should be a larger goal of not only trying to amend laws to prohibit abortions, but also trying to offer resources to pregnant women. I firmly believe that abortion should not be legal, but until there is a time where that is the case, shouldn’t we work just as hard to make abortion not as common?
Of course this still leaves the question of how: how do we as Catholics strive to make abortion something less common? On the large scale this involves better counseling resources for pregnant women unable to care for their unborn children, showing these women that there are options available that are alternatives to abortion. But how do we, on a smaller, individual scale help reach this goal? That question I do not have an answer to quite yet. But it certainly will be on my mind and in my prayers.
For an inspiring story of one man’s change of heart about his daughter with Down’s Syndrome, watch this video below:
Rebecca Ruesch is the Blog Editor for the Catholic Apostolate Center
My name is Alex, and I’m a pro-life Catholic. Am I simply pro-life because I am a Catholic? That is a question that I have pondered over these last few days as our nation commemorates the 39th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. My conclusion is that my Catholic faith informs my conscience (as it does on issues of morality), but that I believe that I would still be pro-life if I were an atheist or agnostic.
In his homily at last night’s Opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Texas spoke to a swelling crowd of bishops, priests, deacons, seminarians, and laity:
“The sad anniversary recalled each year on January 22 has become an invitation to you, one that calls for prayer and vigil, marching and testifying, and a joyous love for human life that is unable to be defeated.”
The “joyous love for human life” that Cardinal DiNardo spoke of echoes the pleas of hundreds of thousands of Americans who march, walk, and pray today for an end of legalized abortion in the United States.
I suppose that my views on the pro-life movement (abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty, and all other forms of ending human life prematurely) are grounded in my belief in the Ten Commandments (“You shall not kill”) and the Declaration of Independence (“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”). I am pro-life because I am Catholic and American. The Ten Commandments and the Declaration of Independence really tap into human nature because they both capture something transcendent and universal, moving beyond the boundaries of nations, beyond the boundaries of self and the familiar. Lawmakers will not protect an unborn child, but are quick to outlaw euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.
But how does the abortion issue relate to the New Evangelization? In Pope Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio Ubicumque et Semper establishing the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, the Holy Father explains the mission of the New Evangelization: “Although this task directly concerns the Church’s way of relating ad extra, it nevertheless presupposes first of all a constant interior renewal, a continuous passing, so to speak, from evangelized to evangelizing.” The task of evangelization is directed both ad extra (to the world) and ad intra (to the Church). The Church’s renewed mission is to proclaim the same gospel message of Jesus Christ in the modern world.
Legalized abortion is certainly one of those issues that all people, both Catholics and non-Catholics alike, need evangelization in order to continue a conversion of heart and conscience. In the same decree, Pope Benedict XVI writes that “there has been a troubling loss of the sense of the sacred, which has even called into question foundations once deemed unshakeable such as … a common understanding of basic human experiences: i.e., birth, death, life in a family, and reference to a natural moral law.”
In an attempt to reclaim the sacred, let us join today in prayer for the unborn. May we continue to pray for the evangelization and re-evangelization of all people, so that all people, born and unborn, can enjoy life to the fullest.
Alex R. Boucher is the Program & Operations Coordinator for the Catholic Apostolate Center. Follow Alex on Twitter at @AlexBoucher.