Respect Life Sunday/Month

10-03-2021Letter from the PastorFr. Don Kline, V.F.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Peace and Joy in Our Lord Jesus Christ!

A few years ago, I was blessed to travel with a brother priest and some friends to island of Molokai where St. Damien De Veuster and St. Marianne Cope ministered to lepers (both Saints are now painted in the apse of our church). There are a few people who afflicted with Leprosy or Hansen’s disease who are now cured remain on Molokai. We did not get a chance to meet any of these people on the island because they prefer to be hidden from the world after being treated so harshly when diagnosed.

Normally, people refuse to touch lepers for fear that they will contract leprosy themselves, but Fr. Damien and Sr. Marianne Cope were different. They 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 Fr. Damien and Sr. Marianne 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, in his love for Our Lord and his desire to be a disciple, enabled him to witness to human dignity by sacrificing his own life.

Fr. Damien comes to mind as we observe October’s Respect Life Sunday that flows into Respect Life Month designated so by our Bishops. Pope Francis once said that 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 and Sr. Marianne 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. Perhaps it would be a good idea to pray to St. Damien or to Sr. Marianne asking them 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 often 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 that should also be your prayer.

Of course, respecting life is a large umbrella. There are countless things one can do to improve the lives of others. This month is meant to encourage you to do something. Maybe you are called to pray at an abortion clinic or help with our parish’s respect life activities. Our apostolates are meant to help people in need of love and compassion. Perhaps you feel called to serve the poor with St. Vincent de Paul or visit an elderly person and bring them Our Lord in Holy Communion. Maybe you feel called to visit the imprisoned, commit to a Holy Hour in Adoration of Our Eucharistic King, support our seminarians, or teach the young children of our parish the faith at religious education. This is a short list of ideas that I am sure you can add to. In the end, Our Lord is calling all of us to do something! May God bless us with his wisdom to see every person as made in his image and likeness.