This week in our nation’s capital, the annual National March for Life will include masses, prayer vigils and services, stirring talks will be given before Government buildings and marching for life on the major boulevards and thoroughfares of Ottawa. The main event, the March itself starting at Parliament Hill and continuing through downtown Ottawa, occurs on Thursday May 14. However, we have events occurring throughout the day and also the day before (Wed) and the day after (Fri). The full schedule of events reflects the multi-faceted, public, prophetic teaching moment that this week offers to us:
Wednesday May 13
7:30 pm Pro-life Mass
St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Parish, 95 Somerset Street West.
7:30 pm Pro-life Prayer Service
Christ the Saviour Orthodox Church, 721b Somerset Street West.
9:00 pm Candlelight Vigil
The Canadian Tribute to Human Rights monument, Elgin and Lisgar Streets
10:00 pm to 7:00 am Eucharistic Adoration
All-night Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, ending with 7:00 am Mass. LOCATION: St. Patrick’s Basilica, 220 Kent Street, in basement Scavi, enter by side door on either Gloucester or Nepean Streets.
Thursday May 14
10:00 am Catholic Pro-life Mass # 1 (Bilingual)
Notre Dame Cathedral, 385 Sussex Drive, Ottawa
10:00 am Catholic Pro-life Mass # 2 (English)
St. Patrick’s Basilica, 220 Kent St, Ottawa
10:00 am Catholic Pro-life Mass # 3
St. Therese of the Child Jesus Parish, 95 Somerset St. W.
10:00 am French Catholic Mass / messe pro-vie
St. Joseph Cathedral, 245 boul. St-Joseph, Gatineau (Hull sector)
10:00 am Ecumenical Prayer and Worship Service
Sts. Peter and Paul Anglican Church, 152 Metcalfe Street, Ottawa
Organized by Anglicans For Life
10:00 am Lutheran Worship Service
St. Luke’s Lutheran Church
326 MacKay Street, Ottawa
Organized by Lutherans For Life Canada.
11:00 am Reformed Christian Prayer Service
First Baptist Church, 140 Laurier Ave. W.
Co-hosted by Jubilee Canadian Reformed Church of Ottawa and ARPA Canada
Rally on Parliament Hill
March through downtown Ottawa
Closing Prayer Service by Eastern Catholic Chaplaincy of Ottawa, Parliament Hill
6:00 pm Rose Dinner
6:00 pm Youth Banquet / Dinner (for youth and chaperones only)
Keynote Speaker: Matt Fradd, popular youth speaker on issues of sexuality, pornography and chastity
Location: Hampton Inn Ottawa, Conference & Event Centre, 200 Coventry Road, Ottawa, ON
Friday May 15 – Youth Conference
7:30 am Catholic Mass for those Youth Conference attendees who are interested
8:00 am to 3:00 pm Youth Conference & Workshops: an intensive workshop for young people, designed to arm youth with expert knowledge and the necessary communications strategies to go back into their communities, tackling the culture of death head on, and transforming it into a culture of life, one person at a time.
A consistent ethic of life
The Roman Catholic Church holds a consistent ethic of life. The Church offers a teaching on the inviolability, the sacredness and dignity of the human person. However, opposition to abortion and euthanasia does not excuse indifference to those who suffer from poverty, violence and injustice. Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or willful self-destruction, whatever violates the dignity of the human person such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself, whatever insults human dignity such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children, disgraceful working conditions where people are treated as instruments of gain rather than as free and responsible persons – all of these things and more poison human society.
Human life and human dignity encounter many obstacles in the world today, especially in North America. When life is not respected, should we be surprised that other rights will sooner or later be threatened? If we look carefully at the great dramas of the last century, we see that as free markets toppled Communism, exaggerated consumerism and materialism infiltrated our societies and cultures. Aging populations, especially in the west, and resulting smaller workforces are now creating a market push towards euthanasia. As St. John Paul II wrote: “a right to die will inevitably give way to the duty to die.”
Today we are living in the midst of a culture that denies solidarity and takes the form of a veritable “culture of death”. This culture is actively fostered by powerful cultural, economic and political currents that encourage an idea of society exclusively concerned with efficiency. It is a war of the powerful against the weak. There is no room in the world for anyone who, like the unborn or the dying, is a weak element in the social structure or anyone who appears completely at the mercy of others and radically dependent on them and can only communicate through the silent language of profound sharing of affection. Human life has a sacred and religious value, but in no way is that value a concern only of believers.
Abortion is the most serious wound inflicted not only on individuals and their families who should provide the sanctuary for life, but inflicted as well on society and its culture, by the very people who ought to be society’s promoters and defenders.
Pope Benedict XVI on openness to life
In Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s 2009 landmark encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, (Charity in Truth), the Holy Father addressed clearly the dignity and respect for human life “which cannot in any way be detached from questions concerning the development of peoples.” Benedict wrote, “In economically developed countries, legislation contrary to life is very widespread, and it has already shaped moral attitudes and praxis, contributing to the spread of an anti-birth mentality; frequent attempts are made to export this mentality to other states as if it were a form of cultural progress.” “Openness to life is at the centre of true development,” writes the Pope. “When a society moves toward the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man’s true good. If personal and social sensitivity toward the acceptance of a new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away.”
Pope Benedict summed up the current global economic crisis in a remarkable way with these words: “Human costs always include economic costs, and economic dysfunctions always involve human costs.” The Roman Catholic Church offers a teaching on the inviolability, the sacredness and the dignity of the human person: a 20/20 vision for which we must strive each day if we claim to be “pro-life.” We must strive to see the whole picture, not with tunnel vision.
Pope Francis’ opposition to abortion
Last year on April 11, 2014, Pope Francis addressed the Italian Pro-Life Movement with this very moving words:
“One of the gravest risks our epoch faces, amid the opportunities offered by a market equipped with every technological innovation, is the divorce between economics and morality, the basic ethical norms of human nature are increasingly neglected. It is therefore necessary to express the strongest possible opposition to every direct attack on life, especially against the innocent and defenseless, and the unborn in a mother’s womb is the example of innocence par excellence. Let us remember the words of the Second Vatican Council: “Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes” (Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, n. 51).
…Anyone who is Christian has a duty to bear witness to the Gospel: to protect life courageously and lovingly in all its phases. I encourage you to do this always with closeness, proximity: so that every woman may feel respected as a person, heard, accepted and supported.”
Under the watchful gaze of Christ
In his address to the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations on September 20, 2013, Pope Francis categorically condemned abortion and euthanasia. But his speech did not emphasize the customary philosophical, scientific and legal arguments. Rather, his critique appealed directly to the face of Christ. “Each one of us is invited to recognize in the fragile human being the face of the Lord, who, in his human flesh, experienced the indifference and loneliness to which we often condemn the poorest.”
The condemnation of abortion drew a parallel to the infant Jesus marked for destruction by Herod even before his birth. “Each child who is unborn, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, bears the face of Jesus Christ, bears the face of the Lord, who, even before he was born, and then as soon as he was born, experienced the rejection of the world.” Similarly, the condemnation of euthanasia pointed to the face of Christ present in the elderly targeted for elimination. “Each old person, even if infirm or at the end of his or her days, bears the face of Christ. They cannot be discarded.”
Being pro-life is one of the deepest expressions of our baptism: we stand up as sons and daughters of the light, clothed in humility and charity, filled with conviction, speaking the truth with firmness, conviction and determination, and never losing joy and hope. Being pro-life is not an activity for a political party or a particular side of the spectrum. It is an obligation for everyone: left, right and centre! If we are pro-life, we must engage the culture around us, and not curse it. We must see others as Jesus does, and we must love them to life, even those who are opposed to us.
The litmus test for being pro-life is not only attending rallies or marches during the year in major cities of the world. The real test is what we do for life the remaining 364 days of the year, and what efforts, great and small, do we embrace to consistently and systematically oppose any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or willful self-destruction, violations of human dignity, and coercions of the will. How do we advocate for those who endure subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, human trafficking and disgraceful working conditions? All of these things and more poison human society. Let us pray that we may have a strong, consistent ethic for life.
In the words of Pope Francis: “Each child who is unborn, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, bears the face of Jesus Christ, bears the face of the Lord, who, even before he was born, and then as soon as he was born, experienced the rejection of the world.” Again: “Each old person, even if infirm or at the end of his or her days, bears the face of Christ. They cannot be discarded.”
Let us stand up for life, and see in the face of the weakest and most vulnerable people in society, the face of Christ.