Being pro-life means ‘walking the talk’By: Bishop Edward M. Rice
As I write this column, I can look out the window of my office in Springfield and read the sign across the street at the Methodist Church: “All Are Created in Dignity and Worth.” This message takes on greater meaning as many of our youth and adult leaders in the diocese prepare to travel Jan. 17-20 to Washington, DC, for the 45th Annual March for Life. March for Life is the largest pro-life rally in the world and I am proud to say we have busses once again making the pilgrimage to our nation’s capital as well as to the march in Chicago on Sun., Jan. 14.
I want to offer a word of thanks to those who work directly with women who find themselves in a crisis pregnancy. Our own Catholic Charities LifeHouse Crisis Maternity Home in Springfield, Birthright, and our partners in Joplin, to name a few, all testify to the “dignity and worth” of each individual life. In addition, I have met so many faithful volunteers who answer phones, collect food and baby items, and run baby pantries. Together, they volunteer countless hours witnessing to the “dignity and worth” of the most vulnerable among us, the unborn. Whether a woman has an unintended pregnancy, an imperfect life situation, or may be carrying a child with special needs, the support they receive helps them to choose life.
Life can be messy at times. Some of these women are in abusive relationships, experience drug or alcohol addiction, unemployment, poverty, depression, joblessness, or loneliness. When we support them in their pregnancy, we do our part to create a “culture of life.” Only by advocating for both the mother and the baby with the support they need, will they choose life in their “climate of chaos.” And this is more than simply offering temporary services, as important as those may be as well. We need to meet them where they are, walk with them on their journey, intercede for them, and be open to sharing the life-giving love of Christ!
How to begin
We begin the journey by listening to them. Pray with them and for them. They may not have anyone to turn to and so when we listen, we build trust, we affirm dignity and respect, and help shoulder their burdens. Studies show that “when a woman is facing a difficult pregnancy, the reaction of the first person she tells tends to set the tone for her decision-making” (www.usccb.org/respectlife). In other words, your words of support will and do make a difference. Once you listen, you can offer assistance through LifeHouse, Birthright, or other pro-life pregnancy resource centers. It is important to educate ourselves about local resources and provide this information as it offers women practical hope for the immediate future. With knowledge of the many resources available to them other than abortion, women in crisis can then see beyond what they feel is an “immediate emergency” and empower their future.
Our actions speak louder than our words. And, if we do indeed believe that “All Are Created in Dignity and Worth,” then it is essential to the Christian message of love that we put our theology into action. I recall the words of Pope Francis at the close of the Year of Mercy in 2016, “May our works of mercy never end.” Our pro-life efforts are part of a larger picture of “dignity and worth.” If we ever forget that simple principle, our culture will indeed descend into the Dark Ages. The Catholic Church is pro-life at each and every stage of life: from the womb to the tomb. It is because of that position that we are so often attacked from forces outside the Church, and even from misguided voices within the Church, who would like us to “loosen” or change our stance on many life issues. Sometimes it feels as if we are the only voice promoting “dignity and respect” for life. And, if the Catholic Church is that lone voice of dignity and respect for life then so be it. God will give us the grace to be the voice for the unborn.
Witness to life
I am grateful to our youth who will witness to the sanctity of life at March for Life. I am grateful to the various organizations that offer resources for families, women, and children in need. I am grateful for the countless volunteers and organizations such as the Knights of Columbus who courageously and consistently offer their time, talent, and treasure to advocate for life and support the family, offering free ultrasounds, for example. As we mark the sad anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court Decision, Roe v. Wade, I end with the quote etched into the wall of our own Missouri Senate Chambers: “Nothing is Politically Right that is Morally Wrong.”
God bless our pro-life pilgrims.