How can each one of us build up a culture of life?
Last December, the Argentine congress approved a bill that legalizes abortion until the 14th week of pregnancy. This sad news has been widely shared, and in deluge of bad news that we see in the media every day, returning to it may seem unnecessary. But one of the comments posted at the time caught my attention and seems to justify a return to the subject.
The date the bill was passed in Argentina, December 11, almost coincided with the 41st anniversary of Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. In her acceptance speech, she voiced a harsh condemnation of abortion.
At the time, the saint declared that:
… the greatest destroyer of peace today is the cry of the innocent unborn child. For if a mother can murder her own child in her own womb, what is left for you and for me to kill each other? … To me the nations who have legalized abortion, they are the poorest nations. They are afraid of the little one, they are afraid of the unborn child, and the child must die because they don’t want to feed one more child, to educate one more child, the child must die.
Many years later, in 1994, she expressed herself in similar terms at the “National Prayer Breakfast,” an annual event organized by the U.S. Congress in partnership with the Christian foundation The Fellowship.
The message of the saint from Calcutta
What interested me was to know what else Mother Teresa had said about abortion, besides condemning it. Here is another part of her speech when she received the Nobel Prize:
And so today, let us here make a strong resolution, we are going to save every little child, every unborn child, give them a chance to be born. And what we are doing, we are fighting abortion by adoption, and the good God has blessed the work so beautifully that we have saved thousands of children, and thousands of children have found a home where they are loved, they are wanted, they are cared. We have brought so much joy in the homes that there was not a child … But I am sure in the families and many of our homes, maybe we are not hungry for a piece of bread, but maybe there is somebody there in the family who is unwanted, unloved, uncared, forgotten, there isn’t love. Love begins at home. And love to be true has to hurt.
St. Teresa was not concerned only with the actions of the state and with national legislation. The greater focus of her discourse was on families, on the love that is lived at home, on our capacity to welcome those in need.
This approach is something worth remembering and reinforcing. Our indignation with injustice will always be necessary, but love is what will endure (1 Cor 13).
A task that belongs to everyone
The vast majority of Christians only show their support for pro-life legislation when they choose which candidate to vote for, when they sign a petition, etc. A minority are engaged as activists or educators, more directly involved in pushing for legislation that protects the unborn. Even fewer serve as politicians, and stand up to propose or support pro-life legislation. Not everyone is able or obligated to be involved in this legal aspect to the same degree. But we all have an abiding duty to create a favorable environment for the defense and acceptance of life.
At every moment misfortune, heartbreak, hardship, indifference and violence are causing people to lose sight of the beauty of life and of hope. At each moment, through our actions and our witness, we can create a culture of life.
We can show our children, relatives, friends, and acquaintances that love is not an illusory and fleeting feeling. We can show that kindness and solidarity can create a different world, and that evil will not have the last word where there is love.
This universal obligation was evident to St. Teresa. She, of course, condemned laws contrary to life. But she knew that manifestations of love, solidarity and acceptance are what definitively expose the falseness of the supposed good intentions that defend abortion.
Many support life by adopting children, as St. Teresa recalled in her speech. Others do it by supporting pregnant women and mothers in difficulty. We are all called to be ready and available, not to excuse ourselves when need knocks on our door.
To ensure that these needs are met, it’s fundamental that we create and live in communities that are sensitive to the needs of mothers and families in difficulty, and that are educated in solidarity. Alone, we will often feel small in the face of the magnitude of the challenges. But in community, with the help of grace, we will find that everything is easier and possible.
Laws contrary to the dignity and inviolability of life prosper, not only due to the force of evil, but also because of our own weak adherence to good. Where communities do not follow the example of love Mother Teresa showed us, there will be lawmakers who will easily manage to pass evil laws and confuse those who do not understand clearly what is at stake.