By Judie Brown
St. John Paul II wrote extensively on the meaning of suffering. One of my favorite quotes is from his 1984 encyclical Salvifici Doloris in which he writes: “Suffering is also an invitation to manifest the moral greatness of man, his spiritual maturity. Proof of this has been given, down through the generations, by the martyrs and confessors of Christ, faithful to the words: ‘And do not fear those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul.’”
If we apply these challenging words to our work in defense of life, we can see exactly what it takes to be an effective pro-life witness. There are many enemies of truth, just are there are many enemies of Christ. We see these enemies in the hypocrites of His own age, in His persecutors, and of course in His executioners. But we also see it today in those who scoff at and have little regard for God’s children.
Let me get real for a moment.
When you stand in front of an abortion mill—sign in hand and praying the rosary—there are more individuals who ridicule your efforts than there are those who are drawn to your message. The remarkable evangelizers who participate in 40 Days for Life testify to these facts again and again. And yet they persist; their numbers continually grow and hundreds of babies are saved. Such heroic men and women “do not fear those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul.”
We see this persistence as well in the teachers and students who proudly defend life as they learn more about why it is never right to abort a child no matter the circumstance. And we see this persistence in those in education who teach plainly that contraception is a sin against the body and against the soul. Such words are anathema to the enemies of truth and life whose response is to revile the messenger, spitting out profanities of every sort instead of examining their actions and analyzing why the truth makes them uncomfortable enough to be ravenous in their hate.
Those teachers and students who stand their ground are heroes who “do not fear those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul.”
Think also about the pro-life Americans who battle Planned Parenthood in their communities. Think about the stark realities they must constantly confront as proponents of this dreadful organization rail against them with all manner of false allegations and statements.
In every one of these examples and so many more we see why it truly requires courage and total faith in Christ and His divine will to do the pro-life work.
The true power of the crucifixion of Christ is lived by each of us who defends life every single day as we toil in a vineyard rife with disdain for the beauty and unrepeatable miracle of the human person from the moment God creates each of them until their death. We understand and believe that the sanctity of life is a gift from God alone. It is not bestowed by politicians; it is not ruled to be or not to be by a court of men. No, it is God’s to give, and indeed He does.
The beautiful words “Be not afraid” are our mantra in this battle. And our insignia, always before our eyes, is the crucifix, for we know as truly as we live and breathe that we need not fear those who kill the body, for they cannot kill the soul!
Fight on, my compatriots. Be strong and know that God is with us always, for He has risen. Happy Easter!