This October the Catholic Church in the United States of America celebrates Respect Life Month for the 40th year. It was in October of 1972 that the bishops began the tradition of designating this month to celebrate the sanctity of life from conception until natural death. With over 54 million unborn babies aborted in our nation since January 22, 1973, countless states looking to legalize physicians assisted suicide and a general lack of respect for human life as seen in the violence on our city streets, there is still much work to be done.
On October 7, Respect Life Sunday, Catholics across the nation renewed their personal commitment to defend all human life, especially the most vulnerable members of the human family. They demonstrated this commitment by participating in prayer vigils in the parish or at the local abortion clinic, collecting spare change to help pregnant women in need, engaging in peaceful public witness at Life Chains and 40 Days for Life vigils, and helping to offer church and community services to those in need.
The theme of this year's Respect Life Program from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is "Faith opens our eyes to human life in all its grandeur and beauty." Pope Benedict XVI echoed this vision during his recent visit to Lebanon:
“The effectiveness of our commitment to peace depends on our understanding of human life. If we want peace, let us defend life! This approach leads us to reject not only war and terrorism, but every assault on innocent human life, on men and women as creatures willed by God. … The grandeur and the raison d'être of each person are found in God alone. The unconditional acknowledgement of the dignity of every human being, of each one of us, and of the sacredness of human life, is linked to the responsibility which we all have before God. We must combine our efforts, then, to develop a sound vision of … the human person. Without this, it is impossible to build true peace.”
This year the U.S bishops have asked that Respect Life Month be connected to the Church’s efforts to maintain Religious Liberty. Archbishop William Lori, Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty stated that the issues of “Life and Liberty are joined at the hip. The right to life, religious liberty, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly are linked intellectually, morally, and legally, and this link finds its home in the human person made in God’s image and likeness and endowed with inherent and inalienable dignity.” In a quote from Thomas Jefferson which is inscribed on the wall of his memorial, he stated that “God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are a gift from God?”
As we continue to celebrate Respect Life Month in this month of the Holy Rosary during the Year of Faith, the bishops invite us to take the time to pray the Rosary with them on behalf of human life wherever it is threatened and for the protection of religious liberty.