Respect Life focus can mean celebrating ‘life’ and ‘respect’
Respect Life Sunday … Respect Life Month … Respect Life. For many Catholics and others involved in pro-life efforts, Respect Life emphasizes in another way efforts to end abortion. And why wouldn’t those folks respond in that way? The battle over abortion captures many of the headlines, from court cases to social justice debates to walks and marches for life.
Respect Life also has a more general focus, from the life of the unborn to the life of those near death, from the life of those with physical or mental disabilities to the life of those convicted of murder. Respect Life is the church’s celebration of the dignity of life from conception to natural death.
Of course, there’s another word in the name for this month-long observance – respect.
It’s a simple word. Seven letters. Used in everyday conversation. A basic value touted in one way or another by most people, institutions and organizations.
But in many ways, respect sometimes seems out of style or unimportant in today’s society. Respect for elders, respect for authority, respect for people who have a different opinion, respect for those of other faiths, respect for people of other races, respect for the poor – those standards of respect are not a given.
And that’s why Respect Life might be applied in the broadest sense, valuing life not only by protecting life, but also by respecting the lives we protect.
ALWAYS AT HOME
A word often used in discussing our faith is universal. For theologians, that word has significance in terms of Christ’s presence and in the church’s presence to the whole world.
Universal also might be a synonym for joy.
Traveling to the North Shore of Lake Superior for a brief getaway, my wife, Pamela, and I attended Sunday Mass at St. Odilia in Shoreview, Minn. Both the sign outside the church and the bulletin referred to the parish as the "Catholic Community of St. Odilia."
Community seems to be the operative word, and it was evident at the Mass we attended. Catholics always are "at home" no matter where they attend Mass, but that seemed to be especially applicable at St. Odilia.
It wasn’t a matter of being overpowered by greeters, and there wasn’t any special mention of visitors. But along with the familiarity of the Mass, there was a sense of warmth, a sense of community at this Twin Cities suburban parish. The music was excellent, the parishioners seated near us were welcoming, the deacon gave the homily (always a plus for me!) and the pastor was engaging.
The building was different, the people were different, but we really were at home … our universal home. And it was a joy.
A SPECIAL YEAR
Early this past summer, a priest well known in the archdiocese, Augustinian Recollect Father James Brown, celebrated the 70th anniversary of his ordination and his 95th birthday at his home in the St. Augustine Priory in Oxnard, Calif. And people of the archdiocese showered him with cards and notes for the occasion.
Reflecting on his years as a priest, he wrote in the Mass program about the various ministries in which he served, but gave special mention to the joy of parish work, including 21 years at a parish he considered home, St. James in Omaha, before moving to California 10 years ago.
His service to the church has been impressive, but apparently he’s not finished.
"May the Lord be praised for his goodness," he wrote in concluding his reflection by thanking God for his priesthood. "I’m ready for 70 more."
Deacon Randy Grosse is editor and general manager of the Catholic Voice. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.