Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization

"Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization"

Check out the revised edition of this exciting and unique prayer book, filled with prayers that are sure to nourish the soul as we undertake the New Evangelization.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Catholic Vision of Human Life

Building on the insights of Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, many priests, theologians and faithful have embraced and developed the “consistent ethic of life” – an approach that seeks to value and defend life “from womb to tomb” or “from conception to natural .” Kenneth Overberg, S.J., writing in Catholic Update, describes the Cardinal’s vision:
Cardinal Bernardin stated: "The spectrum of life cuts across the issues of genetics, abortion, capital punishment, modern warfare and the care of the terminally ill." [He] also acknowledged that issues are distinct and different. Capital punishment, for example, is not the same as abortion. Nevertheless, the issues are linked. The valuing and defense of life are at the center of both issues. Cardinal Bernardin told an audience in Portland, Oregon: "When human life is considered 'cheap' or easily expendable in one area, eventually nothing is held as sacred and all lives are in jeopardy." Along with his consistent linking of distinct life issues, Cardinal Bernardin acknowledged that no individual or group can pursue all issues. Still, while concentrating on one issue, he insisted in another address, the individual or group must not be seen "as insensitive to or even opposed to other moral claims on the overall spectrum of life."
A complete approach to life issues seeks to value every human person and defend every life against injustice.
At the same time, in making choices for our lives, in making decisions about how and when to apply our energy in defense of life, and in exercising our civic duty, we rely on a Christian moral framework. At the heart of Christian morality is an understanding of the moral value of our actions. There are some actions which are wrong in every instance, regardless of the circumstances and because of the very nature of the act. Abortion, euthanasia and embryonic stem cell research, each of which involves deliberate attacks on life, fall into this category of intrinsically evil acts. The U. S. Bishops, in Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, remind us that such actions “must always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported and condoned.” Opposition to these intrinsic evils is our first priority, for a society that permits deliberate attacks on life demonstrates negligence toward all life. If it is acceptable to kill babies, eventually all life becomes viewed as expendable and not worthy of concern.
In describing seven key themes of Catholic social teaching, the bishops place the sacredness of life and the dignity of the human person – “the foundation for a moral vision of society” – at the top of this hierarchy of values. They also place emphasis on these three intrinsically evils acts and further state that “human life is especially under attack from abortion.”
There are other “life issues” as well, which do not have the same moral weight as the others, but which also deserve prayer and action. Capital punishment is not an intrinsically evil act. It remains a legitimate option for the defense of the state in the teaching of the Church. At the same time, it contributes to an anti-life mentality and, in the thought of Pope John Paul II, is undesirable and unnecessary, particularly in developed countries that have other means of protecting the citizenry. Every decision of countries to enter into war is evaluated individually according to the Church’s just war theory. Further concerns about life include the needs of the living – poverty, hunger, health care, and unjust discrimination. These issues deal not with the deliberate action of attack against lives, but with the unjust condition of human persons. Nevertheless, such suffering and injustice demand a response from every Christian.
At Saint Michael Parish, we seek to embrace a consistent ethic of life. In January, several members of the parish gathered to form the Respect Life Committee, which now includes at least 25 members under the leadership of Debby Bentivegna. The committee seeks to promote the defense and understanding of the sanctity of human life, with an emphasis on prayer, educating the parish regarding life issues, and active witness in defense of life. They are responsible for the display featuring white crosses outside of our church for Respect Life Month (October), which draws the public’s attention to the tragedy of abortion; the beautiful memorial to human life by the school entrance; the annual bus trip to Washington, D.C. for the March for Life in January; and the First Step program to benefit Catholic Charities. They prayerfully witness outside the abortion facility in Akron and have participated in the “Life Chain” in Canton. Through their efforts, our parish and the local community are becoming more informed about attacks on life, and many heartfelt prayers are rising to Heaven for the sake of the defenseless unborn, elderly, and infirm.
Responding to the needs of the poor, hungry and underprivileged in our community is the 12-member Social Concerns Committee, under the leadership of Chris Fricker and the guidance of Sister Dorothy. This committee sponsors the annual “Meager Meal” and food collection in Lent; the sale of Catholic Relief Services items; the recycling efforts in the parish (proceeds benefiting emergency assistance outreach); and various social justice related speakers. In addition, they support the annual Thanksgiving Collection, Giving Tree, and Coats for Christmas. Finally, our parish sustains an extensive outreach to those in need by providing emergency assistance vouchers, food and household items to those in need. Through these efforts, the lives of many men and women in our community are strengthened and made whole.
Together, these two committees, and all of our parishioners who share in their work, are confidently and joyfully embracing a consistent ethic of life and demonstrating their sincere love for human life. Praise be to God, indeed!

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