Professing our faith in a culture of life

In 2013, the theme for Day for Life was a little more general and focussed on being strong in faith to promote a culture of life. Here’s the message released for the day.

Care for Life: It’s Worth It!

Some years ago, when celebrating Mass in honour of St Raymond Nonnatus, the Patron Saint of expectant mothers and midwives, Pope Francis spoke simply and beautifully about what promoting a culture of life really means:

“Jesus teaches us to care for life because it is the image of God, who is absolute life. We cannot announce anything else but life, and from the beginning to the end. All of us must care for life, cherish life, with tenderness, warmth… to give life is to open the heart, and to care for life is to expend one’s self in tenderness and warmth for others, to have concern in my heart for others.

“Caring for life from the beginning to the end. What a simple thing, what a beautiful thing… So, go forth and don’t be discouraged. Care for life. It’s worth it!”

Homily of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, given during a mass in honour of the Holy Protector of Pregnant Women, Saint Raymond Nonnatus Church, Argentina (August 31, 2005)

In response to Pope Francis’ words – how can we promote a culture of life?

We can build a culture of life by our compassion and care for others, especially those who are vulnerable. It means seeing life as a whole, caring for it as a “seamless garment” stretching from conception to natural death. Three issues from within this seamless garment of the culture of life are of particular concern at this time:

Care for unborn children and their mothers

The Church strives to protect the lives of unborn children and their mothers and to support them – practically, emotionally and spiritually.

As parishioners, parents, politicians, members of the legal, caring and medical professions we have a duty to do all we can to build a culture of life by encouraging our society in its laws and medical practice to care for and protect the life of unborn children and their expectant mothers. From conception to natural death, life is a precious gift. The life of a mother and her unborn child are both sacred and deserve to be equally protected.

God, our loving Father, through the Sacrament of Reconciliation is always ready to embrace with understanding and compassion all those men and women who feel remorse over an abortion and come to confession seeking forgiveness, reconciliation and absolution.

Care for the elderly

Caring for the elderly is a noble vocation. Throughout the centuries the Church has played a leading role, and is prominent today, in providing such care.

Whether I am a carer in the home or a professional carer, I contribute to a culture of life when I look beyond the challenges that can be part of caring for a person with special physical or mental needs and see the inherent dignity and eternal nature of the person I am called to care for. As Christians we can also offer up the challenges that sometimes come with caring for others as a spiritual sacrifice and an opportunity to grow in personal holiness and grace.

While many individuals and institutions provide outstanding care for the aged, there have also been recent disturbing reports of very poor care for the elderly and the infirm. Often this has its roots in a prevalent attitude which, was described by Pope Francis as effectively saying, ‘this elderly man, this elderly woman, is useless; discard them, like we hang up the raincoat during the summer… because they’re now disposable, they’re useless’.

The culture of life, on the other hand, embraces a love that inspires self-giving. It is a love that allows us to see in every person another self and compels us to protect and care for that person as we would our very selves. It is expressed in practical terms as compassion and care, especially for the most vulnerable. It embraces those whose lives would otherwise be neglected or rejected because of the consumerist, ‘cost-benefit’ approach to life and care that is increasingly evident in our society.

As a society we need to care for our carers and ensure that they have the resources and support they need to do their job well.

Care for those who are suicidal and their families

The increased incidence of suicide, especially among younger men is a matter of grave concern.

The Church wishes to show its care for and closeness to those who, for whatever reason, believe their own lives are no longer worthwhile and are tempted to give up on life itself.

We appeal to all those who may find themselves with suicidal thoughts to seek help and support from others around them, especially from those voluntary and statutory agencies with experience of providing appropriate support and care in this area. We appeal to you to choose life, not death. We appeal to you not to be deceived by the lie that taking one’s own life, in any circumstances, is a helpful, humane or dignified solution to any problem.

Often, when someone dies by suicide, the difficulties for those left behind are simply multiplied many times over. A long shadow of grief, pain and confusion is cast over the lives of family, friends and the wider community.

It is important to avoid the impression that a certain level of suicide is inevitable in society and therefore quietly tolerable. In their most recent annual report, the Samaritans express the view “that a reduction in suicide is not only possible but that it is an urgent and important priority” . We take the opportunity as a Church to echo that sentiment today. We call on Government to give priority to strategies and services that seek to prevent suicide and which provide adequate support and care for those who are feeling suicidal and their families. We encourage individual Christians and Parish Communities to consider ways in which they can reach out and care for those around them who may be vulnerable to suicide as well as to those who continue to suffer as a result of the suicide of someone close to them.

Working together for the culture of life

The culture of life affirms the inherent value of life at all of its stages. It seeks to build an environment of compassion and care that nurtures and sustains life, even in the midst of the most challenging of human events and personal circumstances.

Catholic social teaching holds up the vision that no person should ever be marginalized or set aside. All have an inherent value and worth that comes not from Governments or the State, but from the very heart of God. The Year of Faith is an opportunity for each of us to renew our commitment as Christians to building up the culture of life and leading others to Christ by the quality of love and care we show to others in His name.

As Christians we also take this opportunity to invite all people of good will, all those who wish to build a society more worthy of the human person, to give renewed value to the place of selfless love and care for others in social, political, economic and cultural life, making respect for the inherent dignity and preciousness of life, from conception to natural death, the constant standard by which all our decisions are made.