Put Out into the Deep

The Importance of Respecting Life in All of Its Stages

A woman holds up a sign during a rally against assisted suicide in 2016 on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable.” (Photo: CNS/Art Babych)

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

The month of October has been designated by the Bishops of the United States as Respect Life Month. This gives us the opportunity as Catholics to remind ourselves of our obligation to cherish, defend, and protect those who are most vulnerable from the beginning of life and at every point in between until natural death.

The theme for this year’s Respect Life Month is “Christ our Hope in Every Season of Life.” Life has various seasons. We can perhaps compare it to a football game where there are four quarters. Roughly life has four quarters at 25-year intervals; the beginning of life, the maturing of life, the graying of life, and the decline of life.

All four periods are marked with special events that give meaning to life and which give us the clues that we need to respect the dignity of life at all of its stages. In the first quarter of life, for the child in the womb, it is the preparation to be born. Unfortunately, as we know, today many children already conceived alive in the womb will never come to full term because of human intervention and a lack of understanding of where life begins.

This is life in its most vulnerable form. The child in the womb cannot defend itself; it cannot speak on its own behalf and is completely dependent on the other humans around it, especially its mother.  In no way do we condemn a woman who would submit to an abortion. But, how can we support that decision as an appropriate way to deal with problem pregnancies, lack of resources, or any other excuse that might intervene? Life in any form is worth preserving. Life is a gift from God, not subject to human intervention to end it.

As we enter the second quarter of life, a certain maturing occurs. It is in this phase of life when many are called upon to give new life and to bring new life into the world. This is a tremendous responsibility with all of its difficulties. It is also at this stage of life where we become life-givers and certainly protectors of children entrusted by the Creator to our care. How important it is that we instill in young parents the understanding of the responsibility that they have, but also the tools they need for parenting their children in such difficult and complex times.

Recently, in one of my parish visitations, our discussion centered around the difficulties that parents have in passing on the faith to their children because of the tremendous impact of the media on their lives. In the third quarter of life, we recognize that humans, by this time, have accomplished much of their contribution to the world in which they live. They have reared their children, they have pursued vocations and careers, and they have come to a time of recognizing that more than half of their life is behind them. This is a time when we recognize the beginning of human frailty and how great the gift of life itself is.

In the fourth quarter of life, we see the debilitating effects of the aging process. Truly, it is never easy to recognize that life in this world will come to an end, but that a new life in God’s kingdom awaits us. Again, at this stage, life becomes so vulnerable, so dependent on others along with the chronic and debilitating illnesses, as well as the catastrophic illnesses that make life much more difficult to appreciate.

In our own society today, we must fight against the feeling that life should be without any pain or difficulty, and that anyone should have the right to end their life for any reason whatsoever. If we truly respect life, we know that in this stage of life, those who are aging need all of our assistance to recognize the meaning of life, which God has given to them.

As we put out into the deep understanding of the mystery of life during this month, we recognize that Christ is our hope in every season of life. It is only through the Lord that we can go and find the courage and grace to make every quarter of life count, and to make ourselves victors with Christ over death, which is not the end of our life but the door to a new and eternal life.

Follow Bishop DiMarzio on Twitter @BpDiMarzio