There’s the official story. Then there’s the more likely story. Officially, choral music started with the ancient Greeks, who seem to get lots of credit for lots of things. But given man’s 200,000-year old history, it must have started earlier. More likely, a family of cave people was making such a racket that the next-door cave dweller beat them with a stick. It was the first choir, in five-part harmony, complete with choral director.
Whatever its origin, choral singing is one of the more beautiful forms of artistic expression. It’s the blending of different voices singing different parts at different times. The sopranos sing way up here; the baritones sing way down there. The mezzo-sopranos, contraltos, and tenors take up the middle. Each must start singing on a different note, one that the singer usually doesn’t hear before starting to sing. Begin on the wrong note, and things can get awfully funky mighty fast. It’s easy to slip into the familiar melody line, and quite often really temping. It takes concentration to not get distracted by others singing their parts. And following the words while trying to keep up with the notes can make the eyes spin. But when the different voices come together, the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. The harmony, made one with a song’s message, can be sublime.
With its emphasis on sacred works, choral music finds a welcome home within the Catholic Church. And it’s only fitting because like a choir, the Catholic Church is so diverse. Differences abound. The Church is made up of men and women, boys and girls, of all different ages. They are red, yellow, black, white, and brown. Some are very rich, others are very poor, and the rest somewhere in the middle. They are married, single, widowed, separated, and divorced. Some have been Catholics since birth, while others converted years later. Some have given over their entire lives to the Church as priests, sisters, and religious; others not. Even our religious practices are different. Some are daily Communicants, others only on Sunday, still others only on the big days. Some always pray with a Rosary in their hands, others have long forgotten the Rosary.
Despite our many difference, there are similarities that bring us Catholics together. The first is our creed. We believe in one God in three persons. We believe that God is our loving Father, from Whom everything came and everything comes. We believe that His Son Jesus came to die for us when through false pride we fell into the trap of thinking that we are gods and that life is all about us. And we believe in the Holy Spirit, Who inspires and teaches and counsels and strengthens and consoles and leads us in right paths. Through both word and sacrament instituted by Jesus Himself, our God has shown us the right way to live. And there lies the greatest common denominator of all. Life. Each of us is gift. He gave each of us a mind and a free will and asks us to serve Him by serving each other, all that our joy may be complete. His gift of life allows us Catholics to be one with each other and one with everyone in the world.
But it does not seem to include the unborn. Fifty years ago, it was unthinkable that anyone could morally, let alone legally, take the life of an unborn baby. The Catholic vote would reject anyone who dared run for president on a platform of legal abortion. That is no longer true. Recently, the misguided Catholics for Choice began an ad campaign claiming that legal abortion is consistent with Catholic social teaching. Bishops place immigration and economic issues on par with ending legal abortion, as if where and how people live is as important as whether they are allowed to live. The silence from the pulpits about abortion is deafening. Those in the pews don’t seem to care. All the while, over 58 million unborn have been legally killed. Why?
It may well go back to those differences. Too often, we identify ourselves as Democrats, Republicans, and Independents rather than what we really are. Catholics. Fully aware of what God has given us, we fail — or refuse — to see the gift He has created in each and every unborn baby. And so we must ask ourselves: who are the unborn to us? Are they nobodies, literally and figuratively? Are they an “issue,” but just one of many? Are they a pesky interference with our personal and political agendas? Or are they our brothers and sisters, gifts of God like us, yet more voiceless and defenseless than any person who walks the face to this planet?
This election will answer that question. Legal abortion will end only through a vote of the people because the next president will probably choose three Supreme Court justices. We can save the unborn for generations to come, or we can condemn them for as long. Their fate is on us. But the unborn will live only if we are willing to die. Die. That is our mission. There is no other way. We must die to self and our own personal and political agendas. It’s not easy, but then, there was no other way for Jesus if He was going to save us. His task was harder than ours.
The reality of this year’s election is that we must choose between two very imperfect candidates. But God never said that living our faith would be easy; at times it gets tested. And as much as we’d like better choices, this election isn’t about our wants. It’s about the needs of the unborn. They cannot save themselves. The Catholic vote can.
St. Teresa of Calcutta is a saint because she understood that love is shown one person at a time. From now until the election, we can do the same. Each of us — every cardinal, archbishop, and bishop, every priest, sister, and religious, everyone in the Body of Christ — can spiritually adopt one unborn baby. Name your baby. Pray for him or her every day. Come to understand your baby’s most critical need. And decide who will best meet it: Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine, or Donald Trump and Mike Pence? The answer will become apparent.
The Catholic vote and the unborn. A choir can always use more voices. And together, we can make such perfect harmony.
Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics. He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois and have six children.