LIFE LINE—Pro-life supporters brave rainy skies on Respect Life Sunday, Oct. 7, as they join the Life Chain on Route 22 near Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Scarsdale. Similar Life Chains formed in more than 1,500 cities and towns across the United States and Canada that day. The women are, from left, Roberta Gross, Edna May and Marille Garfield.
The defense of human life is not only an option or a choice for Catholics, it is a mandate delivered by the example of the life of Jesus, said the homilist at the annual archdiocesan Mass for Respect Life Sunday.
Speaking in the sanctuary of a crowded St. Patrick’s Cathedral on the morning of Oct. 7, Msgr. Robert Ritchie, the cathedral rector and principal celebrant of the Mass, said Catholics and others who follow Christ should look to his actions on behalf of the community and world around him as a model for their lives.
They can look to the concern Jesus expressed for those who did not live according to the norms of the time and even those who had fallen into sin, Msgr. Ritchie said. “He invited people who were living imperfect lives to changes their lives,” he said.
In much the same way, he said, believers have to stand up when we see violations of human dignity today, especially as defenders of the rights of the unborn.
“The Church has to be one of the first to stand up and point out that this (abortion) is not what God wants,” Msgr. Ritchie said. “It’s not something we can close our mouths about.”
“(A belief in the) dignity of the human person says that we have to open our mouths and we have to make our statements in defense of other people,” he said.
The cathedral was filled with worshippers on the holiday weekend, with the Pulaski Day Parade ready to step off on Fifth Avenue shortly after the Mass and the Columbus Day Parade scheduled a day later.
(Cardinal Dolan was not able to celebrate this year’s Mass because he was in Rome at the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization, which began that day.)
The first pews were occupied by the Sisters of Life, whose presence was a reminder of their prayerful apostolate on behalf of life in all its stages.
To those who say Catholics should only be concerned about themselves and not worry about the lives and circumstances of others around them, Msgr. Ritchie said that approach doesn’t work because it doesn’t fit the pattern of Jesus’ example on earth.
“The reason we can’t do that,” Msgr. Ritchie said, “is that when the Lord came, he didn’t care just for his own people…He came for all people.”
“When the Church stands up for human life…it’s talking not only to us and our country but to the whole world,” he said.
Later that afternoon, pro-life activists across the archdiocese and the nation did precisely what Msgr. Ritchie suggested as they stood together in Life Chains in front of churches and on main streets and highways, holding posters and signs affirming the dignity of all human life and decrying the tragedy of abortion and other threats to life in our time.