By Madelyn Frawley
My generation is growing up in a society that in many ways has seemingly lost all sense of the sacred. Advances in science and medicine, along with an increasingly secular culture, have blinded many people to that which has always been considered the greatest of gifts, the gift of life itself. The increasing tolerance and support for abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and other destructive measures taken against human life in all its forms has nearly drowned out the voice of the Catholic Church speaking in defense of life—a voice that has lost much of its authority and relevance in the eyes of society as a whole.
Saint John Paul II’s new evangelization, launched in the year 1990, calls for a renewed effort to reach those who have abandoned Catholicism and those who, imbued with the relativism of a largely secular society, do not understand or accept the Church’s teachings on the sanctity of human life from creation until natural death. He wrote: “The new evangelization calls for followers of Christ who are unconditionally pro-life, who will proclaim, celebrate, and serve the gospel of life in every situation.” The pope’s challenge is unambiguous. It cuts to the heart of the Church’s teaching on life issues with the words “unconditionally pro-life.” It does not leave any room for the false compassion that our society employs to justify the appalling methods used to extinguish the most fragile lives in our midst. To be unconditionally pro-life, in every situation, means that the tragic circumstances often used to warrant such destructive measures do not lessen the inherent dignity of the life in question.
To be “unconditionally pro-life” means to be compassionate in the truest sense of the word. The word “compassion” is derived from two Latin words: cum (with) and pati (to suffer) (i.e., “to suffer with”). True compassion demands sacrifice and is grounded in reality. In contrast, society’s idea of compassion is centered on convenience and selfishness. It is a falsehood. Telling a desperate woman in a crisis pregnancy to abort the innocent baby sheltered inside her body is not acting with compassion, not “suffering with” her. Ending the lives of those with terminal illnesses and severe disabilities is not compassionate. And what of the sick or elderly languishing in hospitals and nursing homes with no one to visit them or care about them? Society argues that it would be more compassionate to put them out of their misery—and far less expensive. It would be easier and more “compassionate” to throw these lives away.
Saint John Paul II would emphatically disagree. He challenged Catholics to
be ready and willing to share with others the truth and beauty inherent in the Church’s teachings and promote the culture of life at all costs, without exception. As a high school student, how can I respond to his call? How can I, at age 15, “proclaim, celebrate, and serve the gospel of life”?
Saint John Paul II states that followers of Christ must openly, joyfully, and wholeheartedly “proclaim” the culture of life. The most powerful experience I have had in doing so has been participating in the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. Uniting with Catholics from all over the country and all different walks of life in this common cause is such a beautiful example of what Saint John Paul II intended by the new evangelization. Another way I have publicly witnessed to the sanctity of life has been by peacefully praying outside local abortion clinics with other students. One of the abortion clinics at which we prayed later closed down due to “reduced demand.”1 As Saint John Paul II said, we must “be not afraid” to proclaim the truth in public.
There is no telling how many lives we may transform by our peaceful witness. Saint John Paul II also challenged us to “celebrate” the gospel of life. People feel a natural attraction to another who is full of joy—an attraction that may lead to a conversion! As the oldest of seven children I have had many opportunities to share the hilarity and fun that is part of living in a family that treasures new life. Store checkout lines, soccer fields, parking lots, waiting rooms, and Sunday Mass have all become occasions for sharing this contagious joy with others. Some other ways I have celebrated life are by sewing baby bibs for an expectant mother at my school, preparing meals for new mothers, and helping to throw baby showers.
There are countless ways to “serve” the gospel of life as a student. Volunteering at pregnancy support centers and donating baby items are direct ways to help new mothers in need. I have also offered spiritual bouquets for mothers who have suffered miscarriages, because acknowledging the sorrow of the losses in these cases is an example of witnessing to the precious gift of life in its earliest stages. In addition, I have helped to prepare meals for families welcoming new babies and families caring for sick relatives. Serving the gospel of life also includes supporting those caring for family members with special needs or disabilities and elderly relatives. An example of doing so is offering to babysit for families caring for elderly relatives full-time or families with numerous doctor appointments for a special needs child. My friends and I have spent afternoons at nursing homes playing Bingo with the elderly residents, who are always overjoyed to visit with us! I also write to my great-grandmother, who is thrilled each time she receives a letter from me. Aside from these examples, there are still many more ways to serve the gospel of life as a student, but of course, the most powerful method is by prayer.
Society and modern culture argue that abortion, euthanasia, and assisted suicide are comparatively easy, effective methods to relieve people overwhelmed with suffering, anxiety, and pain. The Church earnestly combats this societal culture of death and defends the true dignity and miracle of every human being from creation until natural death. Saint John Paul II put a special emphasis on this importance of promoting the culture of life during the launch of the new evangelization. Proclaiming, celebrating, and serving the gospel of life is achievable by everyone, unquestionably including high school students! Defending human life in all its stages “unconditionally” is truly essential for Catholics, because Catholics correctly recognize every human being as a creation of God, designed in His mind for a special, unique purpose. Every single human being has an immortal soul and is created in the image and likeness of God, meant to be happy with Him in heaven forever!
1. Bilger, Micaiah; Life News website, lifenews.com; copyright 2017, viewed 11/25/17; lifenews.com/2016/02/29/planned-parenthood- closes-abortion- clinic-that-had-been- killing-unborn- babies-for- 35-years/
Bilger, Micaiah; Life News website, lifenews.com; copyright 2017, viewed 11/25/17; lifenews.com/2016/02/29/planned-parenthood- closes-abortion- clinic-that-had- been-killing- unborn-babies- for-35- years/.
Berube, Margery S., Joseph P. et al. Student Dictionary. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003.
Madelyn Frawley won third place in Category 2 of CLSP and IEW’s Pro-Life Essay Contest.