A Pro-Life Lenten Journey
Brought to you by the Culture of Life Studies Program
Written by Susan Ciancio
Welcome to Week 3!
Let us thank God for His abundant blessings, then let us go out and bless others.
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Parents are the principal and first educators of their children. In this sense the fundamental task of marriage and family is to be at the service of life. – Catechism of the Catholic Church
To be “at the service of life.” Do we understand what that really means? The family is the foundation of society. As parents, grandparents, godparents, or aunts/uncles, we are tasked with cherishing the children in our lives and helping them grow into Godly people. This is the most important job that we will ever have. We are responsible for the souls of these children. This means that we must treat them well, help them understand that they are valued, and serve as good examples to them in all we do. We cannot help build a culture of life if we don’t live a culture of life. When our children see us treating others well, taking time out of our lives to help others (or them!), and teaching them about the inherent dignity in all people, they will grow to live a culture of life as well. To be at the service of life means to serve all life. This means not only our children, but the elderly, the disabled, the forgotten, and the preborn. Our secular world will not teach this to our kids, so we must.
Think about how you can “serve life” today. What are some ways that you can live out the direction of the Catechism and teach your children to do the same?
Give something, however small, to the one in need. For it is not small to one who has nothing. Neither is it small to God, if we have given what we could.
– St. Gregory Nazianzen
Building a culture of life entails a lot of giving. We give ourselves, we give our time, we give resources, and we give money. Sometimes we erroneously think that we have nothing we can give, but if we really think about it, we know that that’s not true. While our finances may be tight and not allow us to donate money, we all have some time to give to help others in some way. Remember what St. Gregory said, “Give something, however small.” It’s difficult to carve out time for others when we work and have to take care of a family, but think about the small things you can do to brighten someone’s day, to let someone know he’s valued, or to affirm the dignity of a neighbor. Maybe you take 20 minutes out of your nightly routine to call an aging grandparent or family member. Maybe you pick out a nice card and write a heartfelt message to a friend who is sick or going through a tough time. Or maybe you and the kids put away the phones, turn off the TV, and make cookies for someone who needs some cheer. You will find that your small things are really not small at all—to the recipient or to God.
Think about three people in your life who need to feel valued. As a family, come up with ways to let these people know that you care about them.
Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love. – St. Therese of Lisieux
Why does the Church encourage us to make sacrifices? First, we must understand that there are two different kinds of sacrifice—ones like those mentioned above (a smile, a kind gesture, etc.) and the denial of something from ourselves for the sake of someone else. This could include giving up a favorite show to pray for the repose of someone’s soul or for someone who is sick or suffering. It could be giving up a meal or a dessert so that the small amount of suffering we do alleviates someone else’s suffering or draws us closer to Christ. Anything we do for those who are suffering helps build a culture of life because it helps unite us and them to Christ and it teaches us empathy for others. Making small sacrifices is something even small children can do. That is why we must guide them with our words and examples. Teach them that prayer and the denial of something they like will not only benefit others but will bring them closer to God.
Think about one thing you can sacrifice today and about why you want to make this sacrifice. Remember that we can make sacrifices any day, not just during Lent.
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That one is like a person building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when the flood came, the river burst against that house but could not shake it because it had been well built. – Luke 6:48
Sometimes we feel like the river is bursting all around us. We see examples of the culture of death everywhere: the lack of belief in God; the killing of preborn babies, the elderly, and the disabled; senseless shootings; hatred for others; and the list goes on and on. But for those of us who work to build a culture of life in our homes and our communities, we know that this foundation we build cannot be shaken. The outside world can try, and sometimes it seems as if it’s succeeding, but we have built it to be strong. We have built it to sustain the winds and the rain. We need only hold on and persevere. God is on our side. We just need to ask His help and rely on Him. His words and His Church have taught us how to build that foundation—that culture of life—and our faith keeps it growing. So next time you feel discouraged, remind yourself that you are standing on solid ground, because it’s ground that you have labored over, ground that you have toiled over. And resolve to keep working, because while the building may be done, the maintenance will never be done. And building and sustaining a culture of life takes time and effort every single day to ensure that it won’t weaken.
Continue to work on the foundation of the culture of life that you have built—whether in your family or in your community. Then think of ways you can maintain this culture every day.
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. – 1 Corinthians 13: 4-6
The type of love that St. Paul speaks about in his letter to the Corinthians is a self-giving love. This is the type of love that we need to build a culture of life in our families and in our communities. With this selfless love, we see the value in others, and we treat them with generosity, kindness, and dignity. We put their needs before our own. We can translate this love to speaking up for those who have no voice—the preborn baby. The preborn baby is the most innocent among us, yet many are sentenced to death for the crime of just existing. Not only must we love them and speak for them, but we must love their mothers and fathers, too. We must teach them that their child is a child of God, with his own dignity and worth. Every person—every preborn baby—is unrepeatable. The love that we have for them must reflect this uniqueness. We help build a culture of life by loving babies enough to be their voice.
Show your love for all of Christ’s children by giving voice to preborn babies today and showing their humanity to at least one person.
Those whose lives are diminished or weakened deserve special respect. Sick or handicapped persons should be helped to lead lives as normal as possible. – Catechism of the Catholic Church
Just because someone is sick or disabled doesn’t mean that he has less dignity than someone who doesn’t have these crosses to bear. We are all equal in the eyes of God, and we all have the same dignity and worth—no matter what we can or cannot do. We can spread the culture of life by helping people with disabilities or a sickness—and helping them with a joyful heart. We should never make anyone feel like a burden or unworthy of our time. When we give of ourselves, we must give of ourselves fully. That means we help with a smile on our faces. We look people in the eye and ask them what they need. And we never forget that, though they may have difficulty doing things for themselves, these people are all children of God. Think about how you would feel if you were in their shoes. You know that you would want your friends and family to help you in a way that made you feel loved and cherished. Build a culture of life by doing this for others.
What kind of special respect can you show to someone you know who is sick or disabled? Take some time out of your day to give your attention to someone who truly needs it.
I am not capable of doing big things, but I want to do everything, even the smallest things, for the greater glory of God.” – St. Dominic Savio
This is a great lesson for all of us, but especially for our children. Not many of us are in a position to do “big” things, like change laws or influence government policy, but we all have the ability—and the responsibility—to do little things to build a culture of life. And when we do them for the greater glory of God, we can’t help but do them with a happy heart. Building a culture of life starts with each and every one of us, and every action we take has ramifications. It should be our desire for our actions to have positive ramifications on others. The little things we do for others may not change their lives in drastic ways, but rest assured that they do go a long way to creating a culture where people feel valued and loved. And what may seem small to you may actually be huge to someone else. Think about a time when you did something for someone and he later told you that it meant the world to him. You didn’t even know! Let this be a part of your daily life. Don’t do things for people to receive accolades, but to give all the glory to God.
Do one little thing every day this week for someone and watch how it affects this person. You will see that this person’s outlook on life and his mood are drastically different.
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