As the week began with news of the 37 foreigners killed during the Algerian gas-plant hostage-taking, I began thinking about what else is happening around the world:
Court watches video of the death of Ashley Smith. Ashley killed herself in her prison cell while guards looked on from the outside. They say they were told by supervisors not to intervene.
A Canadian kills two in a Philippine courtroom before being fatally shot by police.
Woman acquitted after hiring a hit-man to kill her abusive husband.
Three students wounded in Lone Star College shooting.
12-year old boy to be charged after he shoots and kills his 16-year-old brother.
Man admits stabbing and strangling his niece after she refused to have sex with him.
A British grandmother gets sentenced to death by firing squad for smuggling cocaine.
Man shoots estranged wife then kills himself at their daughter’s 16th birthday.
A 9-year old boy is killed in a shooting dispute between neighbours.
woman is stabbed multiple times and then set on fire in by the father of her children.
a 15-year old accused of murdering his family said he planned to keep killing at local Walmart.
And in Iran, thousands show up to watch a public hanging.
Meanwhile, groups in the US are fighting to keep their high-powered rifles because “the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.” And in Quebec some people think that killing the terminally ill is healthcare.
I don’t want to depress you, because there are just as many, if not more, good-news stories – stories of hope – but let’s not ignore that the way human beings see life seems to have changed; or has it always been this way?
We have to stand for life: For all life. If we allow, the legal killing of anyone in our society, for any reason, under any circumstances, we are opening a door that cannot easily be closed. If we allow parents to kill their unborn children, how are we going to stop grown up children from killing their own parents?
On this week, when many of us are thinking about life, here is part of Pope Benedict's homily at the Vigil for All Nascent Human Life, Nov 27, 2010:
Love for all, if it is sincere, naturally tends to become a preferential attention to the weakest and poorest. In this vein we find the Church’s concern for the unborn, the most fragile, the most threatened by the selfishness of adults and the darkening of consciences. The Church continually reiterates what was declared by the Second Vatican Council against abortion and all violations of unborn life: “from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care ” (ibid., n. 51).
There are cultural tendencies that seek to anesthetize consciences with misleading motivations. With regard to the embryo in the womb, science itself highlights its autonomy capable of interaction with the mother, the coordination of biological processes, the continuity of development, the growing complexity of the organism. This is not an accumulation of biological material, but a new living being, dynamic and wonderfully ordered, a new unique human being. So was Jesus in Mary’s womb, so it was for all of us in our mother’s womb. With the ancient Christian writer Tertullian we can say: ” he who will be a man is already one” (Apologeticum IX, 8), there is no reason not to consider him a person from conception.
Unfortunately, even after birth, the lives of children continue to be exposed to abandonment, hunger, poverty, disease, abuse, violence or exploitation. The many violations of their rights that are committed in the world sorely hurt the conscience of every man of good will. Before the sad landscape of the injustices committed against human life, before and after birth, I make mine Pope John Paul II’s passionate appeal to the responsibility of each and every individual: ” respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life! Only in this direction will you find justice, development, true freedom, peace and happiness!”(Encyclical Evangelium vitae, 5). I urge the protagonists of politics, economic and social communications to do everything in their power to promote a culture which respects human life, to provide favorable conditions and support networks for the reception and development of life.
To the Virgin Mary, who welcomed the Son of God made man with faith, with her maternal womb, with loving care, with nurturing support and vibrant with love, we entrust our commitment and prayer in favour of unborn life.
-Visit Vatican Radio to read full homily
If you’re wondering why hundreds of thousands are marching in Washington, in the bitter cold today, and have been every January for the last 40 years, that’s why: Because life has to be respected, protected, loved and served at every stage, no matter what. That’s why we march.
But don't stop there. Don't just march. On this Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, let us pray for his intercession. May he who was transformed from being a persecutor of Christ into a vessel of his grace, pray for us that all hearts will be transformed to create a society where life is valued at all times, in every case, no matter the cost:
Father and maker of all, you adorn all creation with splendor and beauty, and fashion human lives in your image and likeness.
Awaken in every heart reverence for the work of your hands, and renew among your people a readiness to nurture and sustain your precious gift of life.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.
-From Catholic Household Blessings & Prayers
Photo credit: CNS photo/Bob Roller