By Anne McGuire
In the midst of the many attacks on human life these days, we are called to help establish a “culture of life” that has at its heart the understanding that each of us is deeply loved by God, created to be with him, and offered redemption through Christ’s death and Resurrection. We can vote in a way consistent with respect for life, take part in Respect Life Month observances each October, and participate in events like the March for Life each January. But is there anything else we can do?
Establishing a culture involves more than occasional prayers, practices, or participation in events and cannot be reduced to isolated actions or private beliefs. Our understanding of each person as created in the image and likeness of God must inform our day-to-day lives. Building up a culture of life requires sacrificial, life-affirming acts every day.
First and foremost, we can turn to God in prayer. We may be tempted to brush past this, thinking, “I know I can pray, but what can I do to effect change?” But as St. John Paul II wrote in his encyclical on building the culture of life, “Jesus himself has shown us by his own example that prayer and fasting are the first and most effective weapons against the forces of evil (cf. Mt 4:1-11)” (Evangelium Vitae, no. 100). The U.S. Catholic bishops invite us to pray for the protection of life throughout the year.
For example, we are invited to annually participate in “9 Days for Life,” a special time of prayer during the days surrounding the anniversary of Roe v. Wade in January. Throughout the year, a monthly devotional email is also sent to those who have subscribed to receive the novena (www.9daysforlife.com). Additionally, we can join thousands in the bishops’ Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty prayer campaign. Visit www.usccb.org/pray to watch the promo video at the bottom of the page and sign up for a weekly prayer intention by email or text message.
Second, we can become informed about what is happening on life issues at the national and local levels and respond accordingly. On the national level, the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities publishes a monthly e-newsletter with news on pro-life issues, people, events, resources, prayers, and ongoing efforts to build respect for human life. Consider subscribing pro-life resources from the USCCB at www.usccb.org/prolifesubscriptions.
Third, we can follow the words of Pope Saint John Paul II: “[T]he Gospel of life is to be celebrated above all in daily living, which should be filled with self-giving love for others. …there is an everyday heroism, made up of gestures of sharing, big or small, which build up an authentic culture of life” (EV, no. 86). This can mean saying a little prayer for a homeless man receiving care from an EMT on the side of the road. It can mean responding with compassion and gentleness to loved ones facing an unexpected pregnancy or struggling to support a sick or dying loved one. It can even mean simply giving up a cup of coffee and donating that money to a food bank.
We are each called to help establish a culture of life in our own unique way; we only need to discover how. With God’s help, our eyes can be opened to the countless ways in which we can build this culture in our daily lives.
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Anne McGuire is assistant director of education and outreach for the USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. To learn more about the bishops’ pro-life activities, please visit to www.usccb.org/prolife. Join the Bishops’ Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage & Religious Liberty! www.usccb.org/pray