During this month of October the Church calls our attention to the Sanctity and Dignity of Human Life. Life, after all, is God’s special gift to us. And, it is a gift which we cannot purchase or produce by any human invention or thought of our own. Rather, it can only be given to us by God Himself. Therefore, life must be protected and cherished and respected at all stages and at every moment of existence from conception until natural death.
I thank the members of the Holy Rosary Society who, last Sunday, led us in a Rosary for Life at the Altar of the Blessed Mother just prior to the 10:15 AM Mass. And, I thank the Ave Maria Guild, and other parish organizations which are working during this month especially to recognize and pray during the special time dedicated to Human Life.
Last Sunday at the 12 Noon Mass I used, as part of my homily, the letter which Cardinal Cooke wrote on the occasion of Respect Life Sunday in October of 1983. The striking contents of the letter are made even more powerful by the fact that the Cardinal dictated the letter literally from his deathbed and it was read in all of the parishes of the Archdiocese on October 7th, the day after his death from cancer. Several people mentioned to me after the Mass that they were impressed by the letter and so I offer it, in part, to you here:
“Dear Friends in Christ:
How often we speak of “the gift of life, God’s “gift of life” to us, His sons and daughters. What a beautiful phrase! How filled with meaning it is! In the Book of Genesis, we read of the origin of this gift: “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
It is at times when life is threatened – such as times of serious illness – that the Lord gives us a special grace to appreciate the “gift of life” more deeply as an irreplaceable blessing which only God can give and which God must guide at every step. From the beginning of human life, from conception until death and at every moment between, it is the Lord, Our God who gives us life, and we, who are His creatures, should cry out with joy and thanksgiving for this precious gift.
We are made in God’s image and likeness, and this fact gives a unique dimension to “the gift of life.” We have even more reason to be grateful. It is tragic that in our time, concepts which are disastrous to the well-being of God’s human family – abortion, euthanasia and infanticide – are falsely presented as useful and even respectable solutions to human, family and social problems. Human life is sometimes narrowly viewed in terms of being inconvenient or unwanted, unproductive or lacking arbitrarily imposed human criteria.
From the depths of my being, I urge you to reject this anti-life, anti-child, anti-human view of life and to oppose with all your strength the deadly technologies of life-destruction which daily result in the planned death of the innocent and the helpless. Together we must search for ways to demonstrate this conviction in our daily lives and in our public institutions. In doing so, we must never be discouraged or give up. Too much is a stake – “the gift of life” itself.
The “gift of life”, God’s special gift, is no less beautiful when it is accompanied by illness or weakness, hunger or poverty, mental or physical handicaps, loneliness or old age. Indeed, at these times, human life gains extra spendor as it requires our special care, concern and reverence. It is in and through the weakest of human vessels that the Lord continues to reveal the power of His love.
At this grace-filled time of my life, as I experience suffering in union with Jesus, Our Lord and Redeemer, I offer gratitude to Almighty God for giving me the opportunity to continue my apostolate on behalf of life. I thank each one of you, my brothers and sisters in the Archdiocese of New York and throughout our nation, for what you have done and will do on behalf of human life. May we never yield to indifference or claim helplessness when innocent human life is threatened or when human rights are denied.
With you, I entrust our efforts to the care of Our Lady who, from the first moment of her Immaculate Conception to the present, has been the refuge for the poorest and most forgotten among God’s people. I assure you of a special share in the prayerful offerings of my sufferings to the Father, in union with Jesus and through the Spirit of Love Who is ours in abundance.
May God bless you always and give you His peace.”