Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.

October: Praying the rosary and respecting life

October 11, 2009

October started with a lot of people disappointed that Chicago, after so much preparation, was not chosen to host the Olympic Games in 2016. The psychological reaction to the decision might lead one to stoicism or depression. The political analysis of the decision lends itself to guesswork. The practical reaction to the decision entails falling back and re-thinking the neighborhood development plans that were part of preparing for the games.

Those for whom faith is the context of their lives can put disappointing news in a larger framework of belief that God faithfully accompanies us throughout life and brings new hope in every situation. We place ourselves in this framework when we pray the rosary, because the various mysteries put us in touch with the central events in the lives of Jesus and Mary and bring us forward to our own destiny in God’s kingdom. October is the month dedicated to the rosary, and the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary is celebrated on Oct. 7. The rosary is a powerful prayer because it helps us identify our lives with those of the Lord and his Blessed Mother. We insert what happens to us into what happened to them.

Seeing our life through God’s eyes helps us to understand the infinite worth of every human being and the dignity of every member of the human family. Respecting life means, before everything else, that no one is to be deliberately killed unless they are directly threatening the life of another. Danger to human life is obvious in warfare and is, unfortunately, also obvious on our streets and in our public schools. Domestic violence also puts people in danger in their own homes. All of these life-threatening dangers are challenges to the church’s work for peace.

Always immoral is the killing of innocent people before they are born and of dying people too weak to defend themselves. Our laws should protect those who cannot protect themselves, and Catholics will work to help pregnant women practically and to protect their unborn children legally. Coming to the assistance of women with unplanned pregnancies is the task of the various Women’s Centers in the archdiocese and of various agencies and programs of Catholic Charities.

The theme for Respect Life Month this October is: “Every child brings us God’s smile.” This is a phrase used by Pope Benedict XVI when he speaks about children as gifts. A gift changes everything because it is undeserved. The pope recently suggested that, even in economic transactions and in commercial relationships, the logic of gift as an expression of generosity and delight in our common human nature should find a place. All the more so when it is not the exchange of things but the giving of life are we in the realm of pure generosity. Give and take, tit for tat, pay to play — so many of the “normal” ways of dealing with things don’t apply when it comes to children. No one deserves to be born and no parent deserves a child. Life is pure gift; it speaks to us of God, who is pure generosity, pure self-giving. Because life speaks of God and is his gift, it must always be respected and protected.

In a society that supports and protects the gift of life, women hold a place that is unique. A true feminism will lead women to be at the service of life, not its destroyer. To the search for equality between women and men, the new feminism adds delight in their differences. Since 2003, an organization called ENDOW (Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women) has helped many women in western countries to meet and find the meaning of their lives within the context of faith.

This October, pray the rosary for children threatened with abortion and for their mothers and fathers. Find and support an agency that reaches out to pregnant women and helps their children and families. Join those concerned that the widespread presence of pornography contributes to the sexual exploitation of children and the degradation of women. Become aware of how human trafficking is destroying young women and some young men, who are transported from country to country as slaves in the sex industry.

This October, pray with children; learn from them again how life is a gift and teach them to love and respect their own lives and those of others. God bless you.