Respect Life Month began on Sunday with the theme “Be Not Afraid.”
That night, one of the largest mass shootings in U.S. history took 59 lives and injured more than 500. Thousands more are traumatized.
To “be not afraid” seems like an impossibility in the wake of so much violence.
Leaders of the church in the United States have offered some guidance to help.
“At this time, we need to pray and to take care of those who are suffering,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a statement released Oct. 2.
Then he went on to say something essential about how we can respond as followers of the Prince of Peace: “In the end, the only response is to do good — for no matter what the darkness, it will never overcome the light.”
Thanks to the media, we have seen countless stories of first-responders and concert-goers alike doing great good in the immediate aftermath of the massacre.
Across the country, there are ways every person can also respond to the suggestion to do good — and possibly to feel less powerless and afraid.
As Catholics, we’re called to be active in the public square — that means reaching out to lawmakers and other officials.
Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago noted after the Las Vegas massacre that this country must provide better access to mental health care and sensible gun control laws. He echoed past statements of the U.S. bishops, who in years past have urged lawmakers to do both.
Think of it: One man was able to shoot nearly 600 people in just a few minutes. That should not be possible for an ordinary citizen. Only the rapid popping sounds that accompanied the shower of bullets alerted the crowd to the threat.
Yet, earlier this week federal lawmakers were considering a bill that loosens restrictions on silencers. Thankfully, they have tabled the bill, for now.
Catholics can raise their voices to demand such recklessness be abandoned once and for all and replaced with common-sense measures that balance Second Amendment rights with the right to life.
Just as we are called as Catholics to respond in the public square, we are also called to more personally respond to the challenges of the day — with prayer and a new urgency to follow the Gospel call to love each other.
One wonders how a terrorist can fail to recognize the precious humanity of the 22,000 souls gathered at that music festival in Las Vegas. At the most basic level, it comes down to dehumanization, which is thoroughly embedded in our culture.
We dehumanize when we demean people with whom we disagree, dismiss a child in the womb as a mere bundle of tissue, crack racist jokes or laugh at a person’s disability.
Each of these actions — just a few examples of many — chip away at our respect for the dignity and sanctity of human life.
One chip will eventually break it. And when it’s broken, there’s no limit to the harm we do to one another.
It takes courage to resist the culture that surrounds us. But we have been called to “be not afraid” with Christ at our side.
Respect Life Month presents an opportunity to ask ourselves, “Am I building a culture of death or a culture that values life?”