This weekend, the United States Bishops encourage the celebration of Respect Life Sunday, which is meant to bring awareness and renewed vigor to a whole host of pro-life issues in the world: abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, genocide, contraception, reproductive technologies, and more.
The Bishops, various Catholic media outlets, and pro-life organizations within the United States rightly suggest that Catholics should enter the public discourse to promote individuals, groups, and policies that uphold the sanctity of human life. But what is one to do when voting for anti-abortion candidates isn’t enough? What if Roe v. Wade is never overturned? Should Catholics look around, shrug their shoulders, and congratulate themselves for a good effort?
This Respect Life Sunday, here are 5 suggestions to promote and protect life at its earliest stages. These are not public policy positions, but actionable items that take place within the most basic units of society: our families and our immediate communities.
1. Consider announcing a pregnancy as soon as possible
According to 2012 CDC statistics, more than 90% of abortions take place before 13 weeks of gestation. It is difficult to promote a culture that respects life from the moment of conception if couples, extended families, workplaces, and societies consider the first trimester of pregnancy to be a medical condition a woman should hide. Instead, share and celebrate the creation of a new life as soon as possible!
2. Don’t be quiet about miscarriage
Many couples choose not to announce their pregnancies until 13 weeks gestation or more because the risk of miscarriage greatly decreases. If Catholics believe that life begins at conception, then a miscarriage is a loss of a life and that life can be acknowledged. If miscarriage happens within your own family, contact a the church or a funeral home about the different options for prayer and rituals on the occasion of miscarriage or stillbirth. If you know someone who experiences a miscarriage, acknowledge it. Often, families are dealing with grief that most of society doesn’t acknowledge. Say something as simple as “I’m so sorry.” Take a meal. Offer a mass. Consider anything that you would use to show sympathy if the person had lost a relative that had been alive for many years.
3. When an unmarried woman says she’s pregnant, do anything and everything you can to support her.
Congratulate her, and mean it. Be excited that a life has been created. Bring her gifts for the baby. Buy diapers. Let her live with you. Let her know you love her, no matter what. Statistically, the woman most likely to seek an abortion is a white, single, Catholic woman in her 20s who lives on less than 200% of the federal poverty line and already has at least one child.
4. Offer free babysitting, help with chores, or do any other job that can help a mother feel less overwhelmed.
Almost 60% of women who have abortions have already had at least one previous birth, and the three most common reasons given for seeking an abortion are 1) the child would interfere with the mother’s education, employment, or ability to care for other dependents 2) the woman cannot afford to have a baby and 3) that she is/would be a single mother or is having relationship problems. Help a woman to feel secure in her ability to provide for her family and not overwhelmed by her responsibilities.
5. At appropriate times, show children pictures of babies in the womb
When there is a pregnancy in the family or when it’s time for “the talk”, consider showing children pictures of developing children. Knowing and seeing that the beginnings of a mouth, eyes, and nose are present in a 5-week old embryo can shift a perspective that otherwise might consider it “just a cluster of cells.
To be clear, abortion is not the only pro-life issue the catholic church stands for. For more ways to be pro-life across the entire spectrum of living, see this great list of 100 by Meg Hunter-Kilmer.
In the Liturgical Calendar, the last week of September includes the feast days of some heavy hitters in the Communion of Saints! Here's five feast days to recognize and celebrate:
Cosmas and Damian (Sept 26)
Patron saints of surgeons, physicians, dentists, pharmacists, barbers, and protectors of children.
Not much is known about these twin brothers. They lived and studied in Syria in the 3rd century, and became famous for being skilled physicians. Cosmas and Damian were known as Anargyroi – the moneyless ones – because they accepted no payment for their services. They were martyred during the persecution of Christians under the Emperor Diocletian. They were honored by the Christian community as early as the 4th century, with many legends growing around them. There is also an unusual controversy about which cathedral reliquary houses their skulls.
Liturgical Living: Honor the feast of Cosmas and Damian by taking care of those medical needs: Make that appointment you’ve been putting off, help a loved one or neighbor get to a medical appointment, or send a cheery note or take dinner to someone who is dealing with a medical condition.
St. Vincent de Paul (Sept 27)
Patron of charitable organizations
Born in France in 1581, St. Vincent de Paul was ordained a priest in 1600. After being captured by pirates and sold as a slave, he finally returned to Paris, where, preaching a mission to the peasants, he realized he should direct his efforts toward alleviating the suffering of the poor, including instructing them in the faith. With the help of others, Vincent founded two religious orders, the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul and the Vincentians. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a charitable organization dedicated to the service of the poor, was started in 1833 by French university students. It is now in 132 countries.
Liturgical Living: Honor the feast of St. Vincent de Paul by making a plan to serve the poor. You can get more information about St. Helen’s St. Vincent de Paul chapter here and the Dayton area efforts here.
Archangels: Michael, Raphael, Gabriel (Sept 29)
We celebrate the Feast of the Archangels. Archangels are chief angels, distinct from guardian angels, who serve as messengers from God in significant matters. The three archangels named in Scripture – Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel – are celebrated on this feast day, though tradition names additional archangels.
Michael is known as the leader of the heavenly host, who cast Lucifer and the fallen angels from heaven, and protects us from evil. He is the patron of the military and police.
Raphael, named in the book of Tobit, is known to be the angel of healing and acts of mercy, because of the healing of Tobias’ blindness. He is the patron of travelers, the blind, and the bodily ill.
Gabriel, whose name means “God is my strength,” is best known as the angel of the Annunciation, appearing to Mary to tell her she will give birth to the messiah. He is the patron of communication, journalists, and messengers.
Liturgical Living: This feast day, before adding Raphael and Gabriel, was known as Michaelmas – the Feast of St. Michael. Folklore suggests that, when St. Michael kicked Lucifer out of heaven, Lucifer landed in a prickly blackberry bush, and so Michaelmas was the last day of the year to pick blackberries. Eat some blackberries and ask for the Michael to defend you from evil, Raphael to heal all your hurts, and Gabriel to help you communicate with others.
Jerome (Sept 30)
Patron of translators, Biblical scholars, students, and librarians
There’s a bumper sticker that says, “If you can read this, thank a teacher.” There perhaps should be one that says, “If you can read the Bible, thank St. Jerome.” Living in the late fourth and early fifth centuries, St. Jerome is most known for translating the Bible from the original Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament) into what became known as the Latin Vulgate or “common” language. This version of the Bible is the one that Christians read for the next thousand years. As vernacular languages developed, St. Jerome’s work was used to translate the Bible into the language of the people.
St. Jerome is known as a Doctor of the Church – a category of saints who, through virtue and wisdom, made significant contributions to teachings of the Church. In addition to translating the Bible and writing important commentaries on Scripture, he is famous for having a sharp wit and being sarcastic. He also had a pet lion.
Liturgical Living: Honor his feast day by reading some Scripture. Don’t know where to start? Try the upcoming Mass readings!
Therese of Lisieux (Oct 1)
Patron of missionaries, florists and gardeners, orphaned children, France, Russia and Alaska
For being such a popular saint, Therese of Lisieux, also known as Saint Therese of the Child Jesus or “The Little Flower,” did, well, relatively little. Born in France in 1873, she had a conversion experience at age 14 that would lead to her insisting on joining the convent at age 15. She was so determined to become a nun that she traveled to Rome to personally petition the Pope after being refused entry by several orders, due to her age. Having suffered ill health most of her life, St. Therese was committed to the “little way” – doing little things with great love for the glory of God. St. Therese died at age 24 from tuberculosis. Only a few people attended her funeral. A year later, her autobiography, “Story of a Soul” was published, introducing the “little way” to the world. She was canonized only 27 years after her death, and 500,000 people attended. In 1997, she was declared a Doctor of the Church, proving that little things done with great love can make a huge difference.
Fun fact: St. Therese’s parents, Louis and Zelie Martin, were also canonized in October 2015, becoming the first married couple to be canonized together.
Liturgical Living: Honor the Feast of St. Therese by completing little acts with great love: complete another family member’s chore, surprise a loved one with their favorite meal, or visit someone who may be lonely.
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The cause for sainthood of Mother Teresa of Kolkata (Calcutta) reaches its pinnacle on Sunday, September 4, 2016. Canonization is the final step in a complicated process to name someone a Saint of the catholic church. Fr. James Martin tweeted earlier this week, "God makes saints. The church only recognizes them."
1. It takes a lot to be declared a Saint.
There is a multi-step, multi-year process to become a saint. Mother Teresa passed away 19 years ago, and her cause was fast-tracked by Saint Pope John Paul II when he dispensed her case from the required five-year waiting period. Instead, her cause was opened almost immediately. Learn what is involved to be named a saint in this short 6-minute video.
2. Two miracles have been attributed to her intercession.
As with all sainthood causes, two miracles must occur and be verified as miracles before the person can be named a saint. The two official miracles both included healings of the body, the first of which took place on the first anniversary of her death. The second occurred in 2008, but wasn't reported until 2013 because the doctor that witnessed it wasn't catholic, but was later inspired by Pope Francis' visit to Brazil.
Read more about the miracles here, but the Mother Teresa Cinnamon Roll was not one of them.
3. Mother Teresa spoke often, including in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
She made a visit in 1974 that included stops at the College of Mount Saint Joseph and the Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains.
She was a highly sought-after speaker, and gave many commencement speeches throughout the United States. Watch her 1982 commencement speech at the Thomas Aquinas University commencement. The text can be found here.
4. Mother Teresa had doubts about her faith
During the investigations into her cause, many of her journals and letters were discovered and published. Many people, including those who knew her best, were surprised to learn of persistent doubts and "darkness" that kept Mother Teresa from feeling close to God.
"If I ever become a saint," she wrote," I will surely be one of darkness."
Read more about her writings in this interview with the chief investigator in her case, Fr. Brian Kolodiejchuk.
5. Mother Teresa may not have said it...
An entire website has been dedicated to debunking mis-attributed Mother Teresa quotes. One of the most common quotes attributed to her that she did not write are the so-called Paradoxical Commandments (...love them anyway), which was written by a Harvard graduate and hung on the wall of her children's home in Calcutta.
Tune in to the Canonization Mass of Saint Mother Teresa of Kolkata on September 4 using the SaltandLightTV Live Stream. The full schedule of coverage and events can be found here.
Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation.
The unofficial end of summer. The beginning of pumpkin-spice-everything season. Labor Day.
Whether you plan to pay tribute to the contributions of workers by camping, shopping, or working, consider taking a few moments to reflect on how your work -- and dignity as a worker -- connects you to God's work.
"We need to remember that men and women have 'the capacity to improve their lot, to further their moral growth and to develop their spiritual endowments.' Work should be the setting for this rich personal growth, where many aspects of life enter into play: creativity, planning for the future, developing our talents, living out our values, relating to others, giving glory to God." -- Laudato Si, 127
Examination of Conscience for Workers
St. Helen Parish
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