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We are living in a very special time for the Church. We have just begun The Year of Faith, proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI to be observed throughout the world from October 11, 2012 to November 24, 2013. The Year of Faith is a great opportunity to reexamine and appreciate anew the value and beauty of the Church’s teachings and to strengthen our commitment to living out our Catholic faith. In January 2012, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued some recommendations to help Catholics in living this time of grace. A few of the recommendations are especially encouraging for pro-life witness.
One recommendation emphasizes a devotion to Mary, a model of virtue. We see Mary as a model of true womanhood and an example of fidelity and trust in God. She has special significance in pro-life efforts, because she herself carried the unborn Jesus in her womb and she is a comforting representative of God’s gentleness and mercy. Mary always lifts us higher and points to Christ. Her greatness lies in her humility, and her radiant reflection of God’s love to the world.
A second recommendation calls for renewed study of the documents of the Second Vatican Council and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Two of the most uplifting concepts expressed at the Second Vatican Council are the Church’s openness to the world, and its sincere concern for the authentic development of the person. This is beautifully expressed in the Council’s document Gaudium et Spes: “[T]he Church knows that her message is in harmony with the most secret desires of the human heart when she champions the dignity of the human vocation…. Far from diminishing man, her message brings to his development light, life and freedom” (no. 21). The Church’s teaching that each person is made in the image and likeness of God and has incredible dignity and worth is at the heart of the pro-life message, and it is a very motivating and freeing realization.
A third recommendation encourages Catholics to share their faith with others in an open and joyful manner, leading others to Christ through personal example. The secular, competitive, utilitarian perspective present in our society narrowly defines the worth of a person by what he or she can contribute or accomplish. In sharp contrast, the Catholic perspective offers a refreshing view of the person that is especially visible in pro-life efforts.
In pro-life work, the focus on the sacredness of the person and the dignity of each individual is emphasized constantly for both the mother and her unborn child, for the elderly, ill and disabled, for the weaker and more vulnerable members of society, and for every single human being. Pro-life witness is an important part of sharing the faith because it gives hope to many who would otherwise feel dismissed, disregarded and unloved. Each of us can be an instrument of God’s love to others, wherever we are.
In his October 2011 Motu Proprio letter to help Catholics spiritually prepare for the special time of grace that is The Year of Faith, Pope Benedict says: “Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy” (no. 7). If we take the time to delve into the riches of our faith and discover more profoundly the hope and beauty the Church offers us, it will inspire our pro-life efforts and strengthen our testimony to the rest of the world.
For more information on the Year of Faith, go to www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach/new-evangelization/year-of-faith.
Kimberly Baker is a staff assistant for the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. For more information on the bishops’ pro-life activities, please visit www.usccb.org/prolife.
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