Bishop Hying

Respect for life teaches us that all lives matter; all are children of God

        October is my favorite month—sunny, warm days radiant with light, trees on fire with deep reds and yellows, crisp nights, and harvest moons make this time beautiful and glorious. Nature puts on her finest dress before she surrenders to the death of winter. I was driving through Starke County early last Saturday morning, admiring the wonder of the world, praising the Lord just for the gift of being alive!

        This month is Respect Life Month, a time when we lift up the dignity and glory of the human person, made in the image and likeness of God, destined for eternal greatness, worthy of respect and love.  This year’s theme is “Every life is worth living,” a reminder that every human being, no matter how short or long, capable or limited, rich or poor their existence may be, is infinitely valuable, a unique unrepeatable miracle created by God Himself.

        This past week, I was blessed to celebrate a Mass of Hope and Healing for anyone who lost a child, whether through miscarriage, still birth, SIDS or any other tragedy. At the beginning of the celebration, the cantor chanted the names of 100 children whom we remembered, prayed for and lifted up to the Lord of Life, as candles were lit in their memory. I don’t know if there was a dry eye in the church as we prayed such a moving litany. This experience will always remain in my heart, as we were privileged to share the grief of mothers and fathers, grandparents and siblings of lost children.

        This month, I also attended fund raising dinners for Nazareth Home, which cares for infants and young children who have been abandoned, abused or neglected and the Women’s Care Center, which surrounds women in crisis pregnancy with the help and support they need to choose in favor of the life of their children. 

        Recently, I also visited the Crisis Center in Gary, Campagna Academy in Schererville and the Carmelite Home in East Chicago. All of these organizations do remarkable and transformative work, caring for the most vulnerable in our midst. I am so grateful they are here among us.

        The first self-evident human right that Thomas Jefferson articulates in the Declaration of Independence is the right to life. This truth simply makes sense. If I do not have the right to be born, the other rights are meaningless, because I will not be here to enjoy them.

        For the last 42 years, our country has lived with legalized abortion. A pregnant woman can unilaterally choose to end the new life within her. Painfully we know that many women who choose abortion are in the throes of a crisis, not knowing where to turn, pressured to make this decision, feeling there are no alternatives. We need to help them as effectively and generously as we can. We also need to ceaselessly work for the end of abortion in this country and around the world. 

        If human life does not begin at conception, when does it begin?  At three months or at six months?  When the baby is born? Technology allows us to see with growing clarity the wonder of life in the womb.  All of our genetic code and human potential is present at the moment of our conception. As Mother Teresa said, a country that aborts its own children has no future.

        This month, we also think of prisoners, especially those on death row, the homeless, those who struggle with mental illness, the unemployed and the underemployed, people with special needs, the sick and the elderly, the poor and those who suffer violence. When we study the social teaching of the Catholic Church, most recently articulated by Pope Francis on his trip to the United States, we clearly see the cohesive and integrated vision of the human person offered here. 

        People need food, clothing and shelter, a stable and loving family, safety, productive work that pays a living wage, health care, education, access to culture and a place within society in order to discover and live their rich human potential as children of God. 

        A “Respect Life” vision begins with protecting unborn life at the most vulnerable stage of development, but goes on to embrace all of the other rights and all of the people who suffer, those who live a diminished existence because they do not have access to the resources they need, because their rights or even their human dignity is not recognized.

        This month of October is a sacred time for us to glorify the Lord for the gift of our human dignity, the sheer grace of being alive!  We also rededicate ourselves to the arduous but satisfying task of working tirelessly for the flourishing of the most vulnerable in our midst.  Every human life is worth living!

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