Life is beautiful in all stages. Think about that for a second. It sounds so simple, but it’s a pretty profound statement and not that easy to accept. It’s tough in the middle rotten day, when nothing is going your way, to pause and think “Wow! Life is beautiful!” Now think outside of yourself, think about the elderly woman facing the onset of Alzheimer’s, the homeless man on street, the young teen who just found out she’s pregnant, the ‘unwanted’ child growing inside that girl, the murderer on death row, the child with severe disabilities. The list can go on forever. Are you able to look at them and say “yes, their life is a beautiful thing?” Can you see the beauty? Do you think they can?
It’s not easy, but that’s what we’re called to do, especially here at Notre Dame. As Catholic university we have a particular mission to stand up for the dignity, sanctity, and worth of all human life from conception until natural death.
In a statement issued last week on behalf of the United States Council of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Rigali wrote: “Since 1972 the Catholic bishops in the United States have set aside the first Sunday in October as Respect Life Sunday. On October 7, Catholics will again pray for – and renew their resolve to bring about – a culture of life and an end to the killing of innocent human beings, especially those who are vulnerable due to their age, size, health or dependency.”
Notre Dame cannot let this call go unheeded. Consequentially in these days leading up to October 7 we celebrate Respect Life Week – dedicated to further our understanding that each and every life is beautiful regardless of its stage or condition and deserves the utmost respect and love. This year ND Right to Life is pleased to welcome the co-sponsorship of Campus Ministry and the Center for Ethics and Culture in taking up this challenge to respect life.
While all men and women are called to this challenge, in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II set an even higher standard for universities, especially Catholic universities such as Notre Dame. He writes: “A special task falls to Catholic intellectuals, who are called to be present and active in the leading centers where culture is formed, in schools and universities, in places of scientific and technological research, of artistic creativity and of the study of man. Allowing their talents and activity to be nourished by the living force of the Gospel, they ought to place themselves at the service of a new culture of life by offering serious and well documented contributions, capable of commanding general respect and interest by reason of their merit.”
Thus our mission is even more challenging than that of others. We have at our disposal gifts that many do not, and – as we all know – with great power comes great responsibility. John Paul explains at length how we must go about this enormous task of revolutionizing our world; so I’ll simply refer you to his writings rather than filling this entire paper.
But if you’ll take any last words from me, let them be that life is truly beautiful at all stages. The questions I raised at the beginning of this article are difficult ones I can’t answer here and now - they require serious contemplation and profound understanding that is not easily grasped. But consider them, read JPII, consider your own life, come to the next Right to Life event – particularly one this week – and know that life is beautiful and live accordingly.