On a recent drive home from work, I pushed "play" on my audiobook to pass the time in traffic. It's not an unusual activity for me, but what I didn't anticipate was my own bittersweet heartbreak.
As the author shared stories of her visit to Kenya, she spoke of one place preserved from the destitution she had witnessed elsewhere. One building in particular, though small and simple, was nicer than others she had seen. But the reason for its better conditions cuts to the heart: it was a hospice home for children.
In this home lived a little girl, with whom the author became fast friends the day they met, each blessing the other with the love they both needed. As the author continued reading, she shared her desire to do something to help the people she'd fallen in love with.
It's so easy to feel discouraged by the thought of all that is wrong in our world, to feel that our personal efforts wouldn't really matter or make a difference. But the author's reflections reminded me of the incredibly personal nature of large-scale issues.
Our world's tragedies aren't faceless. They are the experiences of individual people who have faces, names, and their own stories. It's hard to wrap our heads around large-scale suffering, but its personal nature means that anyone can make a concrete difference—person to person.
One of my favorite parts of Pope Francis's official Jubilee of Mercy proclamation (Misericordiae vultus) describes God's mercy as "a concrete reality with which he reveals his love as of that of a father or a mother, moved to the very depths out of love for their child. . . . It gushes forth from the depths naturally, full of tenderness and compassion."
Having been made in God's image and likeness, we are called to love as he loves, to be moved as he is moved. Everything we believe and do as Catholics is rooted in this love. Just as God cherishes each person, so too, we are called to cherish one another.
The 2016-17 Respect Life Program, beginning in October with the celebration of Respect Life Month and continuing through next September, explores what this means through the theme "Moved by Mercy."
New, easy-to-read brochures give practical tips on providing compassionate support that respects and protects life from beginning to end. A resource guide provides tools for Catholics to go deeper into the message of merciful reverence for life—either by integrating it into their respective efforts in Catholic education and ministry, or for personal enrichment. A poster, flyer, folder, and catalog round out the printed materials.
These as well as other online-only resources (downloadable images, a social media toolkit, bulletin inserts, and more), can be ordered or downloaded from www.usccb.org/respectlife.
During Respect Life Month and throughout the year, let's allow God to move our hearts with mercy for those who are marginalized, ignored, and especially those at risk of losing their lives. How does God want to work through you today?
Anne McGuire is the Assistant Director for Education and Outreach for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. Visit www.usccb.org/respectlife for NEW Respect Life Program resources!