My wife Genevieve and I have become fast friends with a married couple that lives nearby. A few weeks ago, we were out for drinks, and they told us exciting news: they’re expecting their first child.
It was early on in the pregnancy, and Gen and I were among the first people to find out. (After their parents; before some siblings.) I’ve never been in the loop so close to the beginning of a pregnancy, and the updates we hear each time we get together are literally awesome.
The miracle of life starts off so tiny and so fast. The child is the size of a poppy seed, then, before you know it, a blueberry, then a grape, then a lime with arms and legs stretching. Our friends have talked about the wonder of this life emerging from nothing. It has blown me away.
This experience has me reflecting on miracles – extraordinary happenings that reveal God’s presence to us. Wendell Berry, a farmer and influential American author, argues that miracles are all around us, and we’d notice them if we just paid attention:
“[The miraculous] is our daily bread,” he writes in The Art of the Commonplace. “Whoever really has considered the lilies of the field or the birds of the air and pondered the improbability of their existence in this warm world within the cold and empty stellar distances will hardly balk at the turning of water into wine – which was, after all, a very small miracle. We forget the greater and still continuing miracle by which water (with soil and sunlight) is turned into grapes.”
We are so busy that we often miss the miracles of life all around us. But if we can stop for a moment and notice them, they can change the way we think and act. My friends’ joy and wonder have deepened my reverence for life.
Inspired anew by life in the womb, how can I respond? How we can Catholics respond together? To borrow a model from Catholic Relief Services, we can pray, learn, act and give.
This coming Wednesday, January 22, is the 41st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court Decision, which assured the legality of abortion nationwide. The Church in the United States has designated the 22nd as a “Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children.” Here in the diocese, Bishop Sullivan will celebrate a special Respect Life Mass on Wednesday at 12:05 pm at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Camden. You are invited to join us that day to pray for the end of abortion and for a greater respect for the miracle of life. If you can’t make it that day, I ask that you pause for a moment at 12:05, wherever you are, and offer a short prayer for all children and their families.
Issues surrounding the protection of human life and dignity are incredibly complex and interwoven. For instance, in Washington, DC, 41% of all pregnancies end in abortion. Also, Washington’s poverty rate higher than any state’s is. What factors lead to abortion? Why do some families welcome life with joy, and others reject it with trepidation? What methods of supporting families have effectively reduced abortion rates and poverty rates? There is so much learning to do so that our actions and advocacy are well informed. The USCCB’s website for Pro-Life Activities is a good place to start.
Wednesday’s day of prayer for the protection of unborn children is also a day of action. Thousands of disciples from all over the country, including from the Diocese of Camden, will participate in the March for Life in Washington. The marchers will fill the streets and draw the attention of our elected leaders and news outlets, raising their voices in support of the voiceless. Dozens of buses will head to the March from the diocese. Click here if you’d like to sign up last-minute for a bus.
Also, many parishes in the diocese have Life & Justice coordinators and committees. If your parish doesn’t have one, start it. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like some assistance in growing a Life & Justice ministry.
There are so many good ways to share your treasure with respect life efforts and organizations. I’ve seen one parish with a playpen set up in the back of the sanctuary as a baby supply drop-off point. There are great agencies out there worthy of financial support, like Good Counsel Homes, which welcomes and cares for homeless expectant mothers and their children here in South Jersey. It’s important for Catholics to support pro-life organizations in concrete ways.
Together, uniting our prayer, education, and action, there is so much we can do to lift up and protect the miracle of life in our communities. How might God be calling you to respond?