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October 2021

When God made us, He didn’t use unbreakable parts. But we’ll know what to take when they fail. There’s Trulicity and Jardiance for diabetes, and Emgality for migraines. Austedo and Trintellix sound good for depressive disorders. Eliquis will deal with those irregular heartbeats leading to strokes. Abilify comes in handy for psychosis. Xeljanz works on ulcerative colitis. Tremfya can get rid of psoriasis. With all the commercials we’ve been watching, who needs doctors? They should be asking us for advice.

We’ve probably all heard, seen, and read enough medical advertisements to last us our lifetimes. But there’s an ad campaign that strikes a chord in me. A local hospital organization’s message is a mere three words: “Here, it’s personal.” But those few words say a lot. They say that a patient is not just another body to be worked on. A patient is a someone, a someone needing to get healthy again, a someone needing understanding and attentive care. And they say that those who care for them will treat them like precious loved ones, like family, like they would want to be treated themselves. Whatever their jobs, they won’t stop being concerned. They won’t stop thinking about solutions. They won’t stop doing their best. They won’t stop because they can’t stop. It’s become personal.

Our national problem with smoking is still with us, but we have made significant gains. There was a time when doctors recommended cigarettes for weight loss. Baby boomers probably remember celebrating Christmas with extended families. A blue haze hung over the dining room table as parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, sometimes brothers and sisters puffed away. But then in the mid-’60s the U.S. Surgeon General came out with a report about smoking’s toll. Over time people who probably never read the report took notice. They saw what was happening to themselves. To their loved ones. To their workmates and neighbors. Smoking had finally becomes personal. Millions stopped, and millions more never started.

Here we are, at a month that at one time the Catholic Church promoted as Respect Life Month. Now it’s just October, a pass-through to year’s end. There were homilies about the tragedy of abortion. Rarely, if ever, anymore—don’t want to “offend.” There were posters hung in churches reminding us of the dignity and sacredness of each human life. Now rather large church walls are largely bare. There were respect life ministries at the diocesan and parish levels fighting against the madness of abortion. Now those groups are mostly silent. The killing of over 63 million unborn babies has just become another issue to so many in the Church, including so many in high leadership positions. They, the living, can’t even agree about the priority of ending it. The Catholic Church is not the only problem. Some Christian denominations support abortion as a supposedly loving choice. How they got there only God knows.

We have an opportunity to see what our collective silence, our collective indifference has wrought. Next time you’re in church, look around. But don’t look at the people you see. Look at the people you don’t see. There are reasons commentators give for their absence. But one never seems to get mentioned: millions of those absentees were persons whose lives were taken from them. Legally. They died by choice, but not their own.

So who were the people we don’t see? They were people of all races and ancestries. The oldest would have been 48 this year.  In those 48 years, many millions of them would have been baptized in our churches. They would have received religious instruction, made their first confessions and communions, and later been confirmed in them. They would have gone to our schools, where some would have made lifelong friendships and even met their spouses. Millions would have raised families in our parishes. Some likely would have turned out to be the very persons we desperately needed at particular times in our lives.

Those missing people would have provided vital sparks in our parish life. They would have been our lectors and communion ministers. They would have guided our pre-school kids and taught in our religious education programs. They would have been part of all sorts of ministries and programs. They would have organized scout troops or coached sports teams. Look at your choir section and see the many seats empty even before COVID silenced the voices. The emptiness isn’t because people are shy about singing. It was because people who would have loved to sing weren’t allowed to live long enough to sing.

Now look at the altar and see a priest who is getting older by the minute. A priest whose time is so limited that he cannot offer the touch people so need to feel in difficult moments. And as you wonder about who will replace him, wonder about how many humans God has sent who would have said “yes” to religious vocations—if only they were allowed to say it. Who will say our Masses and hear our confessions? How many deacons and religious who should have been there to help us and our children and grandchildren just aren’t there?

Who were these people we don’t see, the ones we have ignored? They were our brothers and sisters in Christ. And if we only see them as just another issue, there will be plenty more. Their loss must be our loss, one we feel to the depth of our being. To end abortion, we must commit ourselves to a message: here, it’s personal. Very personal.

 

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.
© Paul V. Esposito 2021.  Culture of Life.  Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted.  Visit us at http://www.the-culture-of-life.com/ and on Facebook.

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