Father Robs Weekly Respect Life Reflection

October 28, 2020


In this fourth, and final column in a series for Respect Life Month, I turn to racism. The issue has plagued our nation for decades and the recent tragic deaths of our African-American brothers and sisters enraged communities, heightened frustration, and reminded our nation that there is still much work to be done. As Catholics we have to understand what racism is, what it does to humanity, and how we can eradicate it by our life in Christ and in the Church. I think the U.S. Bishop’s Pastoral Letter on Racism (1979) still speaks to this topic with clarity and vision:

“Racism is a sin: a sin that divides the human family, blots out the image of God among specific members of that family, and violates the fundamental human dignity of those called to be children of the same Father. Racism is the sin that says some human beings are inherently superior and others essentially inferior because of races. It is the sin that makes racial characteristics the determining factor for the exercise of human rights. It mocks the words of Jesus: ‘Treat others the way you would have them treat you’ (Matthew 7:12). Indeed, racism is more than a disregard for the words of Jesus; it is a denial of the truth of the dignity of each human being revealed by the mystery of the Incarnation.

In order to find the strength to overcome the evil of racism, we must look to Christ. In Christ Jesus ‘there does not exist among you Jew or Greek, slave or freedom, male or female. All are one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:28) As Pope John Paul II has said so clearly, "Our spirit is set in one direction, the only direction for our intellect, will and heart is -- toward Christ our Redeemer, toward Christ the Redeemer of [humanity]" (Redemptor Hominis, 7. Pope John Paul II. 1979). It is in Christ, then, that the Church finds the central cause for its commitment to justice, and to the struggle for the human rights and dignity of all persons.”

Created in the image of God and called to live together as children of God, our prayers and actions should be directed to change thinking, promote understanding, and bring about an end to racism. Our motivation is the desire to cooperate with God’s vision for humanity which “bears the imprint of the Creator and are enlivened by the breath of His one Spirit.” (US Bishop’s Pastoral Letter on Racism, 1979)

May the Lord of Life bless you!
- Fr. Rob

October 21, 2020

This past Saturday we held an event that we called “Something Like Emmaus.” The COVID-19 restrictions prevented us from having the usual weekend Emmaus Retreat, so we offered a condensed version of the traditional Emmaus. As a part of the one-day experience of prayer, worship, and reflection, we viewed Bishop Caggiano’s recent video entitled “Masks.” The Bishop reminded us that wearing a mask in this time of pandemic is an act of charity. The face-coverings we sport these days protect others, and so our compliance with the “simple ask to wear a mask” demonstrates our care for our brothers and sisters, especially those who are more vulnerable.

As disciples of Jesus, we are often called to make sacrifices for the sake of others. Any meaningful relationship, whether it’s a marriage or a friendship, has its share of give-and-take and dying to self so that the other may truly live. We pray that our masks will come off sometime soon, but until it’s safe to do so, we make the sacrifice so that all may live safely and stay healthy.

In this month that the Church sets aside for the respect of life at every moment, we give thanks for the gift of life and we recognize our call from God the Creator to promote a culture of life. As a part of that responsibility, we wear masks, but we should never hide behind anything that will prevent us from speaking boldly, listening attentively, and acting with compassion when life is compromised or threatened in any way.

October 15, 2020

If we identify as “pro-life,” we must defend life at every stage and in every circumstance. When chronic or terminal illness become part of the journey, the challenges can be overwhelming and for some, the desire to “end it all” seems to be the solution to alleviate the suffering. The Church offers a life-giving path for those given the feared diagnosis. The path is a wholistic approach that includes the best of medicine to manage pain, a sensible plan for facing challenge without compromising dignity, and spiritual support.

For me, this reality hit home in a powerful and grace-filled way this summer when my dad was diagnosed with cancer. During the 18 months prior to his diagnosis, dad had been hospitalized frequently. While I shared his frustration with inconclusive tests and short-lived solutions, I admired my dad’s positive attitude and ardent desire to get back home to be with my mom and live his life. In July of this year, the symptoms that usually brought him to the hospital became more acute, and an aggressive cancer was discovered. Even though he and I had “the conversation” (about end-of-life directives) the year before, my satisfaction and joy at having helped him create a living will that was in line with the Church’s teachings was overcome by a deep sadness. All of the usual treatment options were more toxic than the pathology itself, and I had to acknowledge that my dad would die from this disease, and each day it became clearer that his death would come sooner than later.

Fully cognizant of what was happening to his body, my dad’s spirit was not crushed. He reiterated his desires that had been articulated in his health directives and palliative care began. Palliative care is where medicine, social and physical sciences, and spirituality work together to relieve suffering and provide the best possible quality of life for patients and their families. It is at odds with what euthanasia and physician suicide offer. The latter options offer a false hope of “freedom” from suffering. Palliative care offers life with dignity and the gift of time with loved ones and a time to be with God and the Church to prepare well for what “God has ready for those who love Him.”

My dad’s days in palliative care were filled with frequent visits from the chaplain, a caring staff that worked to keep him comfortable, and ample opportunities to be alone with family. In addition, the care team kept our family informed and feeling at home in the hospital. On his last day, dad was at peace, and I was confident that nothing was rushed and that his discernment about living, illness, treatments, and dying were respected.

I encourage you to read the Church’s documents which respond to euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. They can be found on the pro-life page of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s website: https://www.usccb.org/prolife. I also encourage you to pray about “having the conversation” with parents, grandparents, and your spouse. Planning for what is inevitable with an understanding of what the Church teaches is a life-giving and consoling experience. I guarantee it will make you respect life and inspire you to work to protect life.

-Father Rob

October 7, 2020

You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know. -Psalm 139

An understanding of the Church’s teaching about the sanctity of human life derives from an acknowledgment that God is creator, that humanity is created in God’s image, that we are “wonderfully made,” and that our very being is formed – in love – by God. When we believe all of that and surrender to it, we create hearts and minds that respect life, call it holy, and work to protect it. The fact that abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, (and other actions or words that harm or destroy life and compromise the dignity of the human person) are even in our vocabulary is sad and disturbing. That the government can transform a culture from life to death in an act of legislation is counter-intuitive to the bedrock on which the nation stands: “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

October is Respect Life Month, and as Catholic Christians, we should take the time to pray for an end to all that takes life away from the innocent and the vulnerable. We should educate ourselves, and inform our conscience in order to act to promote life and work to help our nation live out its pledge as a “nation under God” – the same God who knit us in our mother’s womb. I’m grateful to our parish Pro-Life Ministry for educating us this month by way of our parish bulletin and website.

- Father Rob