RESPECT LIFE SUNDAY Church teaching call us to respect life at any stage of being
By Father Theodore Mens
“Siempre Adelante” meaning “Always look ahead” was the motto of Father Junipero Serra, whom Pope Francis canonized as a saint at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C. on Sept. 23. People, like Junipero, always look ahead to serve, to establish a better future for others in this life and forever.
They are motivated by the love they have experienced from God and long to share this love with all. They accept the sacrifices involved in this life long effort and struggle.
At the age of 35 in 1748, Father Serra looked ahead and stared a new career. As a well-educated Franciscan, he left Spain and traveled all over in Mexico and, what is today, California. Why there in particular? He desired to bring the good news of our solutions to the Indians. He built new and safe communities or missions, protecting the natives from the violence and abuse of Spanish soldiers and traders. He proclaimed their dignity, defending them from tribal kidnappings, rapes and human sacrifices. He spared no efforts, walking thousands of miles on a leg that never healed.
As we begin a new “Respect Life” year on this first Sunday of October, we would do well to make Father Junipero Serra our model. We can make his motto, - “always look ahead” - our own. Like him, we believe in the truth that all human beings count, no matter how old, how young, or how different.
Like him we have a heart capable of compassion’ we wish to help to make a difference. Like Father Serra, we have the perseverance needed to do God’s work until God calls us home.
Our teaching is consistent and it addresses all human life from conception till natural death. The Church’s teachings on the need to respect life is concerned not, only with abortion, but with the death penalty, human trafficking, child abuse, violence of all kinds, social injustice, marriage, family, war and peace. All hold in common the concept of human dignity. They are all connected. While we cannot meet every challenge, we are called to make a difference in at least one or a few of these concerns.
Jesus was told by his followers that his mother and relatives were waiting outside. Jesus said: “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.” (Luke 8:21)
Our newest saint, Junipero Serra did hear and act. He saved lives. He gave meaning and direction to many, many people who did not know God’s mercy, did not have hope.
We can all do this. Let this special Sunday be the start of a new year of respecting all life, from inception to natural death, thus celebrating God’s love for us and for all.
There is so much to be done. Go ahead. Siempre Adelante. Always go ahead!
Father Theodore J. Mens is the diocesan director of the office of pro-life activities and pastor of St. Mary Parish in Griffith and St. Ann in Gary.