As most of you are hopefully aware, October has been designated as “Respect Life Month.” It’s a month where we pay attention in a special way to the dignity and beauty of human life.  Unfortunately, we’re reminded on a daily basis that all human life is not valued in our culture.  We all know the hot-button political issues — abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment – that remind us how little some lives are valued.  The need for a conversion of our culture is clear.  There’s a lot to pray for.

One of the reasons that Respect Life Month is such a beautiful observance is that it reminds us that all of these different issues are not separate and distinct, but rather are all related.  They are all symptoms of a common sickness, and that sickness is a lack of respect for the dignity of human life.  As Catholics, we believe in what has been described as a “consistent ethic of life”.  That means that we are called to view each human life, from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death, as a precious gift created in the image and likeness of God.  The same respect for human life that shapes our opposition to abortion and euthanasia must also shape how we view issues like war, poverty, health care and immigration.  We honor and respect all human life, from the very first moment until the very last, and at every moment in between.

There are many ways that we are called to challenge our culture’s disregard for human life here in our local community.  First and foremost, of course, is the proposed abortion clinic that is trying to move into South Bend.  We also have many charities in town that serve the working poor, the homeless, single mothers, immigrants, and many other groups of our brothers and sisters in need.  These provide us with great opportunities to show our commitment to respect for life by actively loving people whom many in our “throwaway culture” disregard.  (Your donations in the Respect Life envelopes a few weeks ago supported some of these charities.  Thanks so much for your generosity!)

In these days when so much attention is being paid to the scandals and shortcomings of our leadership, I think our culture is even less inclined to listen to their voice on moral issues, especially when our stance on these issues challenges the predominant views of our society.  Therefore, I think that the laity has a greater responsibility – and a greater opportunity – to be a witness to the world that we can do much better, and that all lives are worth defending.  Please continue to make this a central focus in your prayer throughout the month of October, that our prayers may bear fruit in our words and actions.