On Thursday of this week we shall hold our annual March for Life. Coinciding with the national March in Ottawa, this will be our opportunity to participate in a nation-wide effort towards the formation of a culture of life.
In his encyclical Evangelium Vitae (the Gospel of Life), Pope John Paul II outlined the three basic actions upon which a culture of life can be fashioned: speak, celebrate and serve. Whenever the opportunity presents itself we must speak to our contemporaries of the beautiful gift of life, and witness to our conviction that basic human dignity demands that every life, from fertilization to natural death, should be welcomed with love and is deserving of protection.
Since it is a wondrous gift, life should always be celebrated as good and beautiful, in a spirit of profound thanksgiving. Precisely because it is gift, life must be stewarded carefully and served so that it might develop to its full potential and reach its ultimate destiny in God.
Many organizations in the Archdiocese of Edmonton are dedicated to the service of life. We need think only of the many groups that surround a mother and her unborn child with love and encouragement as the child grows in the womb and is brought to birth, the many works of Catholic Social Services that uphold the dignity of human life through service to the poor and suffering, and the attentive care given by the staff of Covenant Health to the sick, especially the sensitive palliative care offered to the dying. Our March this week will be a wonderful opportunity to undergird our service with a celebration of life’s beauty, and to extend it to the community through word and witness.
On Wednesday evening we gather at St. Joseph’s Basilica for a prayer vigil with our young people. On Thursday morning we shall celebrate Mass there at 10:30, and then gather at the provincial legislature at 1:00 p.m. to begin the March.
Together with the other Alberta Bishops, I participated in last year’s March and will do so again this week. It is a very peaceful event, and a great occasion for us to witness to the beauty of all life. Having given thanks to God through the Mass for his gift of life, we walk quietly through the streets of Edmonton to share with our fellow citizens our conviction that every human being is “willed, loved and necessary” (Pope Benedict).
Our message and celebration is inclusive of all. We reach out to both mother and unborn child, to both the elderly and their caregivers, to both those who agree with us and those who do not. Sadly, the life issue for many has become a hopelessly polarized debate with little hope of resolution. Others, equally sadly, see it as somehow politically settled, particularly as it pertains to the question of abortion. We do not share either conviction. What we need today are radically transformed human relationships, not defined by an extreme individualism and a false notion of freedom, but by a self-giving love that welcomes the other person as gift. This is not a hope beyond the realm of possibility. It is a very real prospect when we recognize and accept the truth of our creation in the image and likeness of God, who in Christ has revealed himself as a perfect communion of persons, Father, Son and Spirit, and allow this “image and likeness” to be the guiding principle of our own human relationships with both God and one another. This was strikingly explained in the reflections offered for our Nothing More Beautiful series by Bishop John Corriveau of Nelson, B.C.
I invite you to join with me this week for the March for Life. Let us together speak, celebrate and serve, and thus make our own contribution toward a culture of life.