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Respect life, again

Fr. Kevin Nadolski | Tuesday, October 29, 2013

As we approach the close of October, we mark another year where we Catholics have attended more closely to the call for all people to value life, from its earliest moments until its natural ends. While Pope Francis has caught some negative feedback from parts of the church for not emphasizing key life issues as much as some would prefer, he could not be clearer in his support. “Every baby who is not born, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of Jesus Christ,” he said last month to a group of gynecologists.
The pope has also amplified this theme, with urgent emphasis, in his call to respect the aged in our world. “The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old. The old need care and companionship,” he said in his now-famous interview published in Jesuit publications throughout the world. Further, he has encouraged his flock to visit retired and infirm religious and priests, calling them “sanctuaries of holiness.”  
Certainly, our American culture values youth and beauty and energy. And, its emphasis on productivity could tempt us to identify ourselves and personal value with what we do, how much we accomplish or the wealth we earn. For older people, youth has passed, beauty may not be so obvious and income sources are static. Nevertheless, their human dignity and respectability remain honorable beyond measure.  
To help mark the Respect Life month and a dimension of its multivalence, the parish where I regularly celebrate mass in Delaware invited its homebound and ill parishioners to one Sunday mass where we prayed for them, anointing them in the Sacrament of the Sick.
It was a powerful experience for all, especially the young grandchildren of older parishioners. The youth appreciated the opportunity to “make a fuss” over their grandparents in church, “because they think that church is so important,” as one child said. Indeed, the older worshippers reveled in having their families bring them to church, wearing their Sunday best with their hairdos to top off the care they put into their preparation. One octogenarian confessed she didn’t even feel sick that day because she got so dressed up.  
Neither this transgenerational experience of prayer at church nor the celebration of this sacrament at Mass is novel. However, it did mark a moment for us worshippers to realize respecting life is beyond any sort of political or ideological issue, or something to vote for or debate. More importantly, respecting life includes praying together, caring for one another, letting ourselves be cared for, being honest about vulnerability and trusting support will be available when needed – all as a community of faith.  
As we have seemingly privatized life issues – from abortion to eldercare and the numerous other relevant issues, I wonder whether we, at times, forget about the community’s responsibility to assert itself as a primary actor in helping to bring life to full term and to care for the dying and those on death row – and to provide resources and support for those who love these people in need.    
We are born into a world and baptized into a network of relationships. While we must never forget this, we must also celebrate it. Not just at one Mass or during one month in the year, but every day when we reach beyond ourselves to care for others in need: No matter who they are or where their lives are found – in the womb, prison cell, hospital bed or at our nation’s borders.
Yes, each life is sacred, and so is the community who respects it.

Fr. Kevin Nadolski, a priest with the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, works for his community as director of development and
communications. He has served the church as a Catholic high school teacher, campus minister and
principal, as well as vocation and
formation director for the Oblates. He lives with his community in Wilmington, Del., and can be reached at [email protected]
The views expressed in this
column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.