This week, as the Church is in the midst of a painful realization of how vulnerable members of the Church were abused, I’ve been praying with Saint John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America, which he gave in 1999 to all of the Americas – the address was given in Mexico City.
Saint John Paul II speaks with a prophetic voice to the Americas. This week it feels as if he were speaking directly to us in our time, not nearly 20 years ago. He unflinchingly calls out the “culture of death” that is being cultivated here and describes this entropic system:
“Nowadays, in America as elsewhere in the world, a model of society appears to be emerging in which the powerful predominate, setting aside and even eliminating the powerless: I am thinking here of unborn children, helpless victims of abortion; the elderly and incurably ill, subjected at times to euthanasia; and the many other people relegated to the margins of society by consumerism and materialism…This model of society bears the stamp of the culture of death, and is therefore in opposition to the Gospel message. Faced with this distressing reality, the Church community intends to commit itself all the more to the defense of the culture of life.”
We here at Options United advocate with mothers to create a culture of life – this is a ministry that calls us to accompany women and their partners on the path to life. As children go back to school in these weeks, I am reminded of the continuing journey. I am reminded that being a “culture of life” continues as we nurture and raise children and beyond; a culture of life means advocating for the marginalized in all steps of the journey.
So many of the women who have given testimonials about how they chose life talk about the encouraging staff or the kind doctors. I was particularly struck by “Diane’s” story who dwelled on how the doctor “had treated her with nothing but kindness and respect.” Young, pregnant women are overlooked and mistreated in a society that values efficiency and productivity most highly. Yet this doctor recognized the innate human dignity and gave Diane respect. In this example we see how by acting as Jesus acted, recognizing the dignity in the most marginalized, a culture of life blossoms.
Step by step, prayer by prayer, we are creating a culture of life that begins at conception and carries everyone through their journeys of life. We are reminded this week that Saint John Paul II called for us to be aware of all the marginalized.
I think it is best to end with excerpts from the prayer that he finished his exhortation with, a prayer that again speaks with prophetic power to the times in which we live:
We thank you, Lord Jesus…
You who, in becoming man,
chose to belong to a human family,
teach families the virtues which filled with light
the family home of Nazareth.
May families always be united,
as you and the Father are one,
and may they be living witnesses
to love, justice and solidarity;
make them schools of respect,
forgiveness and mutual help,
so that the world may believe;
help them to be the source of vocations
to the priesthood and the consecrated life,
and all the other forms
of firm Christian commitment….
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America,
pray for us!