No matter what, at every stage, in every circumstance, every life is worth living. Many of the situations encompassed in this statement are addressed in this year’s Respect Life Program, Every Life is Worth Living, from the Pro-Life Activities Office of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Check for materials at your parish, and at www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/respect-life-program.
Pope Francis consistently demonstrates that every life is worth living. During his recent visit to the U.S. he made a point of connecting with people from all walks of life, in spite of the security challenges. In his speech to Congress he touched on the poor, the unborn, immigrants, laborers, families and more, noting the value of each and the importance of policies that are life-giving, especially for the most vulnerable. He specifically called for an end to the death penalty, acknowledging again that every life is worth living.
The writings of Pope Francis also consistently highlight these principles. While focusing largely on our responsibility to value and take care of common home, his recent encyclical, Laudato Si’, made clear that this includes every human life.
“A sense of deep communion with the rest of nature cannot be real if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings. It is clearly inconsistent to combat trafficking in endangered species while remaining completely indifferent to human trafficking, unconcerned about the poor, or undertaking to destroy another human being deemed unwanted” (par 91).
Even those who agree in principle can be severely challenged in living this out. Two of the articles in this year’s Respect Life Program tell stories of relying on our faith to appreciate the gift of every life.
Maggie, inspired by her father’s faith and courage in facing his own demise, wrote about living with the same terminal brain cancer that led Brittany Maynard, whose story went viral on social media, to tragically end her own life. Maggie accepted the care of others as she recognized that her value didn’t lie in what she can or can’t do. Through it all, she knew “that my life is, always has been, and always will be worth living” (Maggie’s Story: Living Like Dad). Meet her and two others at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/assisted-suicide/to-live-each-day/assisted-suicide-videos.cfm.
In A Perfect Gift, a developmental psychologist writes of the gift of parenting a son with Down syndrome. She laments of reading about a woman who chose to abort her child with Down syndrome after seeing a family hand-feeding their son with Down syndrome. While she still feeds her 7 year old son, she insists that “love illuminates our life with Charlie. What may seem dreary to others, perhaps even unbearable, is actually filled with beauty and color.”
Whether facing our own decline or that of a loved one, dealing with chronic illness or disability, facing a difficult prenatal diagnosis, or a number of other challenges, we can rely on the rock of our faith to reaffirm that every life is really worth living.
Stack is life-issues coordinator for the Diocese of Rochester.