by Deirdre A. McQuade
May 2, 2008
I'll remember those sunny spring days for a long time. The skies here in Washington, DC were clear and blue...the temperature, perfect with colorful banners waving in the breeze. The very daffodils stood tall and fresh – all to welcome His Holiness Benedict XVI during his first apostolic visit to the United States. It was as if creation itself were giving witness to what his predecessor had called the "new springtime of evangelization" already blossoming in the Church.
What fruit might the papal visit now bear as we continue working for the protection of all life?
The theme of the visit was "Christ Our Hope." Throughout his various addresses, Pope Benedict XVI invited Catholic Christians to enter more deeply into relationship with Jesus Christ. Happiness, peace, freedom and justice cannot authentically derive from any other source, even though the secular influences in culture might have us believe otherwise – that it is possible to live without Christ and still live well.
The Holy Father cautioned against "a growing separation of faith from life: living 'as if God did not exist'," and exhorted us to remain steadfast in objective truth:
May you find the courage to proclaim Christ...and the unchanging truths which have their foundation in him...They are the truths which alone can guarantee respect for the inalienable dignity and rights of each man, woman and child in our world – including the most defenseless of all human beings, the unborn child in the mother's womb (Pope Benedict XVI, Homily at Yankee Stadium).
Cultivating this kind of faith takes some work on our part. As it says in Hebrews, "faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen" (Heb 1:11), and so much remains "unseen" in our fight to defend the unborn: When will we have enough justices on the Supreme Court with the wisdom and courage to overturn Roe v. Wade...and when that finally happens, will States be ready to enact laws protecting women and their children from abortion? What other cultural and legislative measures will help make abortion unthinkable to men and women alike? Will the multi-generational wound of abortion ever start to heal? Will the most hardened abortion advocates come to see their deep error and start defending innocent life?
Given all the unknowns, we may sometimes be tempted to discouragement. And yet, we are called to remain bold and joyful in our work, confident that Jesus Christ has already won the war against death. As the pope encouraged us at St. Patrick's Cathedral:
The proclamation of life, life in abundance, must be the heart of the new evangelization. For true life – our salvation – can only be found in the reconciliation, freedom and love which are God's gracious gift...[O]ur most urgent challenge is to communicate the joy born of faith and the experience of God's love (Pope Benedict XVI, Homily at St. Patrick's Cathedral).
The pope's visit surely gave witness to God's love in the world. Let us pray that it will inspire all Christ's followers to do the same – in service to neighbor and enemy alike. The most vulnerable members of our human family are counting on it.
Deirdre A. McQuade is Assistant Director for Policy & Communications at the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.