By Ed Harpring
In October, we enter into Respect Life Month, set aside by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to call attention to the dignity of human life. The urgency is greater than ever for Catholics to become even more engaged in becoming a voice for the voiceless.
The theme for this year is “Be Not Afraid” and it has timely significance. This month also marks the 100th anniversary of the final apparition of Our Lady of Fatima and the “Miracle of the Sun,” witnessed by 70,000 spectators in Fatima, Portugal, on Oct. 13, 1917.
As Mother Mary revealed to Sister Lucia, a child at the time, in Fatima, “Look, my daughter, at my heart encircled with thorns, with which ungrateful men wound it at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude.”
Certainly, in our day and time, we have been deluged with seemingly unending inhumane offenses to our fellow man, including abortion on demand, ever-increasing euthanasia, human trafficking, suicide, religious persecution, use of the death penalty and eroding rights of those with disabilities.
Recently, Pope Francis has called attention to another major human rights issue — the unprecedented 65.6 million people around the world who have been forced from their homes due to persecution, wars and natural disasters. Among them are nearly 22.5 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. Entitled “Share the Journey” the new campaign is focused on providing practical ways for Catholics to break down barriers of fear and build bridges with migrants and refugees.
“Man’s inhumanity to man” and disregard for God’s natural law were referenced by Our Blessed Mother in the messages to the three children in Fatima. We know that Our Lady of Fatima’s descriptions of evil in the world are all too real. The battle between good and evil is raging. Sister Lucia related before her death in 2005 that “the final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan will be about marriage and the family.”
Family and marriage is under attack like never before.
St. John Paul II, who credited Our Lady of Fatima with saving his life from the attempted assassination in 1981, said in his encyclical, “Evangelium Vitae,” “We are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil, death and life, the “culture of death” and the “culture of life.”
Despite these unsettling examples of disrespect for human life, Our Lady of Fatima provides her tender motherly solace through her Immaculate Heart.
“In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph.” Similarly, Respect Life Month echoes this theme to “be not afraid” and to courageously stand up for life. Christ calls us to see the face of God in everyone, for as Christians, there is no other view. The dignity of every human being must be upheld — even when this positions us in direct opposition to secular cultural norms.
Respect Life Month in the Archdiocese of Louisville provides opportunities to learn, advocate and get involved with a variety of life-affirming ministries and events during the month of October.
n Disabilities awareness, a program at St. Patrick Church.
n Religious Persecution, Refugee and Immigration, a program at St. Peter the Apostle Church.
n End-of-Life Decisions and Catholic teaching, a profgram at St. Agnes Church.
Finally, Respect Life Month calls us not only to take action on life issues, but to pray. We can bring our many concerns about the dignity of life to prayer as we commemorate the centennial of Our Lady of Fatima by attending the Living Rosary Procession at Trinity High School Oct. 8. Archbishop Kurtz will consecrate the Archdiocese of Louisville to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Ed Harpring is the coordinator of pro-life ministries for the Archdiocese of Louisville.