Respect Life Month

10-13-2019Letter from the PastorFr. Don Kline, V.F.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

A few years ago, I was blessed to be able to visit the Island of Molokai where St. Damien De Veuster and St. Marianne Cope ministered to lepers. Several people afflicted with Leprosy or Hansen's disease, who are now cured, remain on the Island. If I had to guess, I would say they prefer to be hidden from the world after being treated so harshly when diagnosed.

Many people refused to touch lepers for fear that they will contract leprosy themselves. But Father Damien was different. He would hug those with leprosy and hold their hands to make them feel better and in the process restored their sense of human dignity. The lepers realized that Damien didn't care what they looked like or if they were sick. He saw them for what they truly were - children of God.

Fr. Damien later contracted leprosy and many would see this as a tragic consequence of his decision to love as Jesus loved. Even his religious superiors criticized him for taking too many risks. Fr. Damien witnessed to human dignity by sacrificing his own life. He is truly a Saint for our times.

Fr. Damien comes to mind as we observe October as Respect Life Month as designated by our Bishops. During a homily, Pope Francis reminded us of the dignity of the human person. He said, "even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God's creation, made in His own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect."

Saints like Fr. Damien challenge me. I'm not sure that in the same situation that I would be blind to the risks of touching or hugging a person diagnosed with Hansen's disease. It is a good idea to pray to St. Damien asking him to help us to see every person as God sees him or her and that we will never shy away from a human being who is sick, or dirty, or ignorant, or mentally ill. There is a beautiful prayer that I pray every day that reads: Forgive us for failing to see Christ in the poor, the distressed and the troublesome, and for our
failure to reverence your Son in their persons. Perhaps it could be part of your daily prayers too.

Of course, respecting life is a large umbrella. There are countless things one can do to improve the lives of others. Along with prayer, I challenge you to do something--pray at an abortion clinic, be a part of the Culture of Life committee at our parish, which helps to promote the sacredness of life. Maybe you feel called to serve the poor with our St. Vincent de Paul Society. Perhaps Our Lord is calling you to visit the elderly or our brothers and sisters in prison. This is a short list of ideas that I am sure you can add to. In the end, Our Lord is calling us to do something! May God bless us with His wisdom to see every person as made in His image and likeness

God Bless,
Father Don Kline, V.F.