This blog was contributed by Jonathan Login, Digital Project Coordinator at the National Catholic Educational Institution (NCEA) in Arlington, VA.
Throughout her history and tradition, the Church has upheld a unique and solemn respect for human life. There is a wide variety of ministries and activities by which the faithful live out this reverence for life during the year, one of which is the Respect Life Program organized by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This initiative is a “year-round, nationwide effort to help Catholics understand, value, and become engaged with building a culture that cherishes every human life.” While this effort is year-round, the USCCB leads the Church in the United States in giving special attention to the sanctity of life during Respect Life Month in October.
The theme for this year is Christ our Hope: In Every Season of Life, which is unpacked in the Respect Life Reflection: “Today the gift of life is threatened in countless ways. Those who are most vulnerable, rather than receiving the protection they deserve, are all too often seen as a burden and as expendable. As new attacks on human life continue to emerge, we can be tempted to despair, but Christ instead offers us unfailing hope.” This Christian hope, rooted in the Resurrection, allows us to embrace each day as a gift and an opportunity to experience the goodness of life.
As Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activites, notes in his Respect Life Month letter, this year’s program also coincides with the 25th anniversary of the encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life) by Pope St. John Paul II, whose feast day we celebrate this week. His encyclical affirms the sacredness of life and the great dignity of the human person as made in the image of God. It also encourages a vibrant culture of life and—echoing the Second Vatican Council—decries the destruction of any innocent human life “from the unborn child to the elderly” (20).
These teachings not only possess theological depth, but they also have dramatic implications for every area of our life and work. They inform how we see our students and co-workers, how we view ourselves, and how we engage with the world. We are able to incarnate these teachings in our day-to-day lives by seeing the presence of God in everyone we encounter. Every student and colleague then becomes a great gift, a person towards whom the only proper response is charity. When we embrace our students in a manner that is proportionate to their dignity as children of God, they are able to know with confidence what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI affirms in his 2011 Christmas address: “it is good that you exist.”
Respect Life Program Resources
The USCCB provides a wealth of resources for the Respect Life Program that you can use to explore these topics with your class, school, parish, and family during Respect Life Month and throughout the year. Tools for prayer and study as well as resources for classroom activities and communications are available. A few of these resources are listed below: