A Pro-Life Lenten Journey
Brought to you by the Culture of Life Studies Program
Written by Susan Ciancio
Welcome to Week 5!
Let God’s light shine through you this week!
If you just joined us, no problem. This is a journey where you can jump in any time. Please consider downloading the free PDF and sharing with your family.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.
– Peace Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi
These lines come from one of the most beautiful prayers we’ve ever heard. Read the words and then close your eyes and reflect upon them. It’s the perfect prayer when we need encouragement to help to build a culture of life. So many prayers are directed toward asking God for something for ourselves, but this prayer asks God to help mold us into the kind of people He wants us to be so that we can become instruments for Him to work with. We are imploring Him to make us more like He was when He walked on earth. In order to build a culture of life, we must act as peacemakers—within our families and within our communities. Sowing love, offering forgiveness and hope, evangelizing, and bringing light and joy into people’s lives have to be our priorities if we want to make a difference in this world. These outward signs of God’s love shining through us have a profound impact on those we encounter.
Let us all go forth and be instruments of peace. How you choose to do that is up to you.
Every individual, precisely by reason of the mystery of the Word of God who was made flesh (cf. Jn 1:14), is entrusted to the maternal care of the Church. Therefore every threat to human dignity and life must necessarily be felt in the Church’s very heart; it cannot but affect her at the core of her faith in the Redemptive Incarnation of the Son of God, and engage her in her mission of proclaiming the Gospel of Life in all the world and to every creature. – St. John Paul II
The dignity of life is so sacred that it’s felt even in the heart of the Church. Thus, any threat to human dignity and life cuts her to the core. Just as a mother often feels sick when her child is hurt, so too our Mother Church is sickened when one of her children is hurt or suffering. And it is then that she intensifies her mission of proclaiming the Gospel of Life. We are called to do the same, as we are all entrusted to the maternal care of the Church. We have several different families. We have our immediate family—spouse, children, parents. We have extended family—cousins, grandparents, and aunts and uncles. And then we have our Church family. Just as our blood family bond is strong, so is the bond that’s created by Christ’s blood in the Church. When one of our members hurts, we should all feel the pain. Part of building a culture of life is understanding that pain and then doing something to not only alleviate it but to prevent it from happening in the first place. As God takes care of us as His sons and daughters, so must we care for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Doing so will make them feel valuable, wanted, and cherished as a gift from God.
Next time you feel the pain of a member of your Church family, take steps to alleviate it. Don’t wait for someone else to do it.
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have. – Hebrews 13:16
We learned how to share when we were small children, and most of us mastered that skill. But as adults, we often forget about it. We’re busy with our lives and our families, and while we share openly and freely with them, we often forget about those outside our families, especially during the times of the year not conducive to gift giving. Building a culture of life means doing good and sharing all year long. Sharing can take many forms. Certainly we can share our belongings, but we can also share our time and our talents. We may not have a lot to give monetarily, but we all have a little time to give or a talent to share to help make someone’s life better. So whether you donate clothing, teach CCE, or babysit in the nursery during Mass, never forget that everything you do for other people helps them understand that they are valuable and worthy children of God.
Share of yourself today. Do something out of the ordinary for someone else. Involve your children or your spouse so that you enjoy the spirit of giving together. Then talk about the importance of doing good works for others.
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Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me. – Matthew 25:40
That’s a powerful statement, isn’t it? Every single thing we do to and for other people we also do to and for Christ. Do you think about this during your day-to-day interactions with the people in your life or the people you encounter for even just a few minutes? St. Teresa of Calcutta saw the face of Christ in everyone she helped. We must learn to do that as well. As Christ taught us, it’s easy to treat the people you love well. It’s easy to be nice to your friends. But building a culture of life is so much more than being good to the people you love. It’s showing love to people you don’t even know. It’s being kind to the people you don’t particularly like. It’s standing up for the people you can’t see. Christ is in all people, even if some don’t know yet how to let His light shine through. Your act of kindness, your smile, your prayers, and your love could help someone out of the darkness. It’s no secret that the devil has a hold on our world. We can fight this and break his hold by heeding the words of Matthew and making sure we treat others as we would treat Christ. That’s how we build and sustain a culture of life.
The next time you are out, don’t just walk past people you don’t know as if they’re statues who have no worth or value. Look them in the eye. Acknowledge them. Smile. Say something kind. See Christ in them.
Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy. – 1 Corinthians 3:16-17
If you are the temple of God, so is your neighbor. So is your coworker. So are your brothers, your sisters, and the people you don’t get along with. We are all temples of God, with inherent dignity bestowed upon us at our creation. We know this, yet why is it so hard sometimes to treat others—especially strangers—well? Why is it so difficult to see what God wants us to see? It’s because we are often blinded by the teachings of secular society that repeatedly tell us to do what’s good for us, to put ourselves first, to do what we want with our bodies, and that people only have value if you want them to. Society doesn’t understand the fundamental truths of life—that all people have value and should be protected and loved. We understand it, but sometimes we forget it, or we forget to teach it to our kids. We think they know what we know, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Building a culture of life means teaching others, especially our kids, that we are all temples of God.
Take some time to explain to someone you care about that we are all temples of God and deserve respect.
Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. – Matthew 5:16
The light of Christ comes in many formats. One of the easiest ways to shine Christ’s light is to smile at others. How many times have you found yourself lost in your own world, grumpy, distracted, tired, or just irritated? Have you ever looked in the mirror during one of those moments to see how you come across to others? I have, and I can tell you, it’s not a pretty sight. I know if I encountered me, I’d stay away. And it didn’t even occur to me that others might be soured by my stern face. After all, I was merely thinking about something else. But imagine this face on you at work, at church, at the grocery store, and even around your family. It’s a pretty bleak thought to think that people would see that face and feel negatively affected. Think about this the next time you’re lost in your own head. The easiest way to build a culture of life and show others that they matter is to smile warmly. What does this do for them? It puts them at ease. It lets them know that you really see them and find it important to take the time to be kind. It makes them feel special because you have taken time out to acknowledge them. In today’s world of anonymity, people need to feel like they exist. And the best part is, it probably will even make them smile too! That’s the light of Christ!
Stand in front of a mirror and make faces at yourself. Or make faces to your family. Which would you want others to see on you? Which face brightens up your children’s faces? When you find it, practice using in on others. You’ll be amazed how people react.
America you are beautiful . . . and blessed. . . . The ultimate test of your greatness is the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenseless. . . . If you want equal justice for all, and true freedom and lasting peace, then America, defend life. – St. John Paul II
St. John Paul II commands us to defend life. He doesn’t ask; he doesn’t say it might be a good idea. He doesn’t say defend life only on Tuesdays and every other Thursday. Defending life is something we must do each and every day. Building a culture of life isn’t a part-time job. It isn’t even a full-time job. It’s a way of life. And a huge part of the culture of life is how we treat others—especially those who are weak and defenseless. When the former pontiff states that only when we defend life will we get equal justice for all, true freedom, and lasting peace, he is giving us a roadmap for how to behave. Peace and justice do not flow through unkind acts or forgotten tasks. They flow through our kind actions; they flow through the words and deeds that show people they matter to us. They flow when we express to people that they are valuable and that we cherish them, no matter what they can or cannot do. Ability should have no bearing on how we treat others. We simply must see the face of Christ in all His children and treat them as we want to be treated.
Think about how you can defend life in your words and deeds. Talk with your family about how, together, you can all defend life.
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