During this Respect Life month I started thinking about the saints and which ones I would most identify with the life issues today. Thus I came up with “Saints for Life.” There are many saints that could fit all of these categories, but I’ve kept my list to four. I hope you find this little journey interesting and that it gives you some food for thought.
Respect for the Unborn
Abortion is, without a doubt, the top life issue. And I couldn’t think of a better saint who would be working hard in defense of life if she were alive today than St. Gianna Beretta Molla. As a doctor and a mother she knew when life started and she knew how precious it was. So much so that she risked her own life, and eventually lost it, to save the life of her unborn baby. Abortion is such a horrific tragedy in our world today. We must work in every way we can to stop it and to demonstrate the importance of life at all stages. St. Gianna knew that her child was a life just as important as her own. Her unborn child deserved to live and it ultimately cost this great saint her own life. What an incredible gift she gave to her daughter. According to the Guttmacher Institute (the research arm of Planned Parenthood) 1,212,350 women obtained abortions in the U.S. in 2008 (latest available numbers). That is over 3300 abortions each day in this country! Lives destroyed before they are given the chance to live. Can you imagine how different our world would be if every mother gave the gift of life to her unborn child.
Please pray for an end to abortion. St. Gianna, pray for us.
Respect for the Disabled
Bl. Margaret of Castello was born in 1287, blind, lame, dwarf, and hunchbacked. Yet she persevered in life and with the help of many in her community lived an amazing life before her death at age 33. She has become an inspiration in the pro-life movement. The respect for people with disabilities is strongly connected to the abortion issue. More and more in our society we see people aborting children because they learn that the child has Down Syndrome or some other physical disability. Bl. Margaret’s parents abandoned her when their prayers that she be healed were not answered. What do you think they would have done if they had the ability to see some of her disabilities before she was born? And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Once abortion becomes mainstream in society, the loss of respect for lives that are not so-called “perfect” in society diminishes quickly.
There have been some amazing and miraculous healings attributed to the intercession of Bl. Margaret of Castello. But I think it is also important to take away from her life that everyone, no matter who you are, has gifts and talents to share. Some are small, some are big. Not everyone is going to find a cure for cancer or write the next great American novel or whatever; most of us will have ordinary jobs, raise ordinary kids, and live ordinary lives. But they are lives that are important because God created them.
Please pray for a greater respect for all life, especially the disabled. Bl. Margaret of Castello, pray for us.
Respect for the End of Life
I once read an article about a British orchestral conductor who went with his wife to some other country (Switzerland, maybe?) in order for them to be euthanized together. She was dying from cancer or something (sorry that I don’t remember all the details) and he decided that he couldn’t live without her so he’d rather die with her. Britain would not allow them to do what they wanted, thus they traveled somewhere that would. I was horrified when I read this article. This was a perfectly healthy man who wanted to die with his wife, and so he did. This was suicide. And his wife? Sick or not, this was also wrong for her. No one wants to suffer greatly at the end of their lives, but sometimes that is the cross God gives us.
We can look to the example of Bl. John Paul II for how we should really bear this cross. “Getting old is for the birds,” is what my grandmother used to tell me when she was suffering from dementia. True, it isn’t always fun, but it still has purpose. Bl. John Paul II suffered with Parkinson’s Disease for several years. Through it all he remained true to his calling as the Holy Father. He set an example of what redemptive suffering truly is. It is not easy and certainly not anything any of us would ask to go through. But sometimes God calls us to things we don’t expect. Do we run away from what God places before us or do we accept it and offer our sufferings up in union with Christ’s sufferings on the cross?
In a similar way as respect for the disabled, discussed above, respect for the end of life becomes easier for society to forget as abortion becomes more acceptable. This is illustrated best by the death of Terri Schindler Schiavo and all the controversy that surrounded her life and death. This was a woman that was not dying but was in need of assistance in order to receive food and water, the basic necessities of life. She was not in need of any extraordinary means to sustain life, only the basics which we should never deny to anyone. Follow the link above to the foundation set up in her name to learn more.
Please pray for a greater respect for the end of life for all individuals. Bl. John Paul II, pray for us.
The Death Penalty
In contemplating this issue, St. Dismas comes to mind for me. St. Dismas was the good thief crucified alongside Jesus in the Gospels. He committed crimes, we can presume, that were serious enough to receive the ultimate punishment. He was probably a hard core criminal and considered a threat to society. And yet, at the very end he asked for forgiveness from Jesus and received it. He was redeemed of his sins so that he could enter Paradise on that very day.
Would he have felt the need to receive forgiveness for his sins had he not been facing death? We have no way of knowing. But we do have the example of the bad thief also crucified that day. He did not ask for forgiveness, instead he demanded that Jesus save himself and them. The bad thief was not a man who was sorry for his sins.
Please pray for those on death row. St. Dismas, pray for us.
These are just a very small group of saints from the Communion of Saints that I have associated strongly with these different life issues. What saints would you add to this group and why?