On Sunday, Jan. 11, the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, Pope Francis baptized 33 babies in the Sistine Chapel.
During the ceremony, he asked people to pray for the world’s mothers whose poverty keeps them from providing enough food for their children.
“Let us pray and try to help these mothers,” he said, according to a report by Catholic News Service. Encouraging mothers in attendance to nurse their children during the service if they became hungry, the pope said, “Let us thank the Lord for the gift of milk and let us pray for those moms — and there are many unfortunately — who are in no condition to feed their own children.”
These mothers live in communities large and small around the globe, in third-world countries and right here in the Archdiocese of Louisville. Some in the United States are immigrants, some are addicted to drugs or alcohol, some are victims of domestic violence, some simply lack the education or skill to earn more than the paltry minimum wage.
Statistics vary widely, but there’s no doubt a firm link between poverty and abortion exists.
Ed Harpring, the Archdiocese of Louisville’s pro-life coordinator, noted in a recent presentation that these issues and others are interconnected.
“All life issues are connected to one another. Faithful Catholics are committed to the protection of all human life, which is threatened in today’s world by war, abortion, poverty, racism, the death penalty and euthanasia. We believe that these issues are universally connected to one another and while we believe that some life issues have a higher priority than others — all life issues are vitally important and deserve our collective attention.”
He added, “we can disagree on the correct political policy,” but, “as faithful Catholics, we can never turn our back on those who are in desperate need, whether it be abortion, euthanasia, poverty, immigration or persecution around the world.”
Each of these issues represents a multitude of human beings with every right to life and dignity.
They also represent, for the Catholic faithful, a call to do what Christ demonstrated for us — love one another.
While the debate surrounding abortion sometimes seems to turn as ugly — on both sides — as the procedure itself, it’s important to remember that at the root of the pro-life effort lies compassion. And we ought to act like it by caring for women and babies alike.
Several local organizations do this well — the Golden Arrow Center at St. Martin of Tours Church provides clothing, food and other essentials to mothers of young children. Catholic Charities offers the Mother-Infant Care program that provides parenting classes and other services.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul and Sister Visitor Center aid impoverished families. Parishioners of St. Bernadette Church have started a flourishing ministry that provides diapers to about 10 local service agencies.
And the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants hold a monthly Mass to pray for an end to abortion.
These efforts are the kinds that may one day quietly curb abortion by making it seem less necessary to impoverished women struggling to make a choice no one wants to make.
At the Memorial Mass for Life at St. Martin of Tours Church last January, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz reminded the faithful about the importance of love when it comes to the dignity of life. He called upon the 700 or so people gathered for the liturgy to renew their “commitment to loving people.”
Noting that Pope Francis has condemned “the throwaway culture” of today’s society, the archbishop said, “We’re tempted to treat people that way — ‘if they become burdens for us, let’s just throw them away.’
“And so it is that we are called to renew our commitment to love people, not to use people … but to love people and to use God’s creation to help us in that call,” he said.
This year’s Memorial Mass for Life, sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, is this Sunday, Jan. 18, at 3 p.m. at St. Martin of Tours. And Archbishop Kurtz will again preside at the Mass.
It’s a good time to examine how well we are following the archbishop’s recommendation that we renew our commitment to love.