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Gospel calls not for ‘vague compassion’ but gift of ourselves

Debra Niesen is the archdiocesan consultant for the pro-life office.

by Debra Niesen

For the past 50 years, the Catholic Church in the United States has designated October as a time to focus on the value and dignity of human life. How can you make this celebration meaningful for your family?

First, know and share the beautiful “gospel of life” message with those you love.

In his Respect Life Sunday homily, Archbishop Naumann said, “Just gaze upon a crucifix if you want to see a visual image of the worth that God places upon every human life, no matter age or stage of development, no matter the level of intellectual or physical gifts, no matter ethnicity or race, no matter poor or rich. In God’s eyes, the embryo in the womb has the same dignity as an elite athlete; the elderly person with signs of dementia is no less valuable than a Rhodes Scholar; the child with Down syndrome has no less worth than the class valedictorian. Each and every human life is sacred — not because of what we can do or produce, but because we are children of God.”

If you have children, be intentional about helping them to know that they are created by a God who loves them, desired their existence and made them as his son or daughter. This is our true identity that gives us our dignity and value.

The “gospel of life” also reminds us that as Christians, we are called to defend and help those who are vulnerable. The Respect Life Month theme, “Radical Solidarity,” asks us not to simply have a “vague compassion or shallow distress” at the  misfortunes of others, but rather “to make a sacrificial gift of ourselves for the sake of our neighbor. (See the website at:

Most importantly, pray for a culture and leaders in our country that cherish and protect the most innocent and vulnerable among us.

Here are some concrete suggestions for making the most of Respect Life Month:

• Read St. John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical “The Gospel of Life” and the archdiocesan Catholic Guide for End of Life Planning to know and understand the church’s teaching on difficult life issues.

• Pray a rosary while participating in 40 Days for Life.

• Show a video of the development of a baby in the womb to your children.

• Make a meal for a family with a new baby.

• Donate diapers to and visit a local pregnancy center.

• Mentor a child in a foster residential home.

• Become an extraordinary minister of Communion to the elderly or dying.

• Remain joyful and hopeful, and remember Archbishop Naumann’s episcopal motto, “Life Will Be Victorious!”

For more ideas and resources, explore the website at:

About the author

Debra Niesen

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