Love Life

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Life is Precious and Good (But Everyone is Struggling)

Church teaching on the dignity of life is absolutely crucial. I’d like to propose that we look at “Pro-Life” as a virtue rather than just a political position. It should affect the way we encounter each and every person, with special attention to the most vulnerable (widow and orphan, disabled, poor, elderly).

Make sure you read these: (with Kleenex handy)

10 Years Later, A Pair Of Strangers Revisit A Leap Not Taken
How One Mom’s Extraordinary Love Transforms the Short Lives of Hospice Babies
To the Trader Joe’s Employee Who Noticed My Family in the Parking Lot

Appreciate People

I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God himself became incarnate… And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun. – Thomas Merton as quoted in Catholicism by Bishop Barron

Which reminds me of this wonderful little “short” called Validation.

Pro-Life as a Virtue

Only through an encounter with God are we able to see in the other something more than just another creature, to recognize the divine image in the other, thus truly coming to discover him or her and to mature in the love that ‘becomes concern and care for the other.’ – Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate

I truly believe that if everyone who considers themselves pro-Life strives (even while, of course, failing sometimes – that’s why we have the Sacrament of Reconciliation) to encounter every person they meet or talk about as a person made in the image and likeness of God, that we will quickly defeat the culture of death. Treat every person as a person!

Watch: Looking upon Drug Addicts with a Pro-Life Attitude

Whenever I dehumanize another, I necessarily dehumanize all that is human – including myself. – The Anatomy of Peace, from the Arbinger Institute

Remember Who The Enemy Is!

We are all fallen and fight a common enemy – evil. There is a powerful illustration of this concept in Catching Fire, the second book of the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.

Support the Vulnerable

It seems to me that a certain reverence is owed to the disabled, not only because they are particularly vulnerable, but also because they’re sort of like veterans of abortion – they’ve survived “to tell the tale” and serve as a reminder, too, of those who didn’t.

I married into a family that understands the day-to-day reality of living with the disabled. You can see the beauty and value in their lives and at the same time be faced with the reality that many are denied that chance to live.

But this isn’t an evil that weighs only on the doctors and parents involved in aborting such lives. We need to consider what WE can and should do to make a difference. Being pro-Life is about so much more than voting! We have many opportunities in our lives to support the disabled – and families of the disabled. This involves patience, understanding and sometimes even a little imagination.

For some reason what comes to mind for me is the old Jimmy Durante song that goes: “It’s so important to make someone happy, just one someone happy…” I know it’s about romantic love, but somehow it works beyond that too. Having the opportunity to share unconditional love with others – without necessarily getting anything in return – is a beautiful and powerful thing.

I’m always pleased when the dignity of disabled people is presented in a beautiful way on television (one particular episode of Extreme Makeover Home Edition comes to mind in which the team re-built a camp for severely disabled children – and fell in love with them!) especially in this aspect of love. The disabled can be such a powerful witness of love in their families and communities that these stories are well-worth sharing. Our society needs to see this sort of example!

We also need to strike from our hearts even the smallest hint of attitudes that lean toward questioning the intrinsic value of those who might not earn an income or be able to live independently. This can be very difficult in a society that tends to value people according to how much money they make.

Suffering with Others

I really love what Pope Benedict XVI said in his encyclical on hope about being willing to share in the sufferings of others. His use of the words “com-passion”(literally suffering-with) and “con-solation” (or “being with the other in solitude, so that it ceases to be solitude.”) were particularly striking to me. Although this is partially a repudiation of modern culture, it should also serve as a reminder of the charity we owe to those who suffer.

A society unable to accept its suffering members and incapable of helping to share their suffering and to bear it inwardly through “com-passion” is a cruel and inhuman society. Yet society cannot accept its suffering members and support them in their trials unless individuals are capable of doing so themselves; moreover, the individual cannot accept another’s suffering unless he personally is able to find meaning in suffering, a path of purification and growth in maturity, a journey of hope. Indeed, to accept the “other” who suffers, means that I take up his suffering in such a way that it becomes mine also. Because it has now become a shared suffering, though, in which another person is present, this suffering is penetrated by the light of love. The Latin word con-solation, “consolation,” expresses this beautifully. It suggests being with the other in his solitude, so that it ceases to be solitude. Furthermore, the capacity to accept suffering for the sake of goodness, truth, and justice is an essential criterion of humanity, because if my own well-being and safety are ultimately more important than truth and justice, then the power of the stronger prevails, then violence and untruth reign supreme. Truth and justice must stand above my comfort and physical well-being, or else my life itself becomes a lie. In the end, even the “yes” to love is a source of suffering, because love always requires expropriations of my “I,” in which I allow myself to be pruned and wounded. Love simply cannot exist without this painful renunciation of myself, for otherwise it becomes pure selfishness and thereby ceases to be love.                                                           – Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi

I think Thomas Vander Woude, who gave his own life to save the life of his disabled son, is a perfect hero for us to emulate, even in the small ways that we can do good for the “least” of our brothers. The opportunities we come across to show our love and support to the disabled (and, by extension, the sick and the elderly too) don’t generally involve giving our lives and probably the most difficult part will be to learn to be comfortable treating them as a person with needs, desires and dignity. Prayer and practice will help us see to Christ in them.

One more thought on the value of suffering (from Pope Benedict XVI on St. Paul – General Audience, November 8, 2006):

…although faith unites us closely to Christ, it emphasizes the distinction between us and him; but according to Paul, Christian life also has an element that we might describe as “mystical”, since it entails an identification of ourselves with Christ and of Christ with us. In this sense, the Apostle even went so far as to describe our suffering as “the suffering of Christ” in us (II Cor 1: 5), so that we might “always [carry] in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies”

I’ve done my share of griping about the amount of parking spots reserved for the handicapped. So maybe the government has gotten a little carried away in places, but honestly, it’s nice to see them overdo it on behalf of (and even out of respect for the dignity of) those in need. In the future I’ll try to remember to offer my frustrations up for those less fortunate than me.