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Long Lost Relatives

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August 2020

Describe life in a single word. For those B.C. years (before COVID), many people might choose “blur.” In our never-ending running around trying to complete our bottomless to-do lists, we have little time to think, much less appreciate.   Life becomes all about the immediate, and so all about us. We forget about lots of stuff, including our roots.

It should be different. Except for Adam and Eve, everyone has ancestors. For many of us, our grandparents immigrated to this wonderful land in search of a better life. They left behind parents and siblings, who had their own parents and extended families, who had their own, all the way back. They built from scratch the institutions and ways of life we take so much for granted. We might give them titles like “great” and “great-great,” but we don’t know their names or accomplishments. Perhaps it’s why ancestry finders have become so popular. People want to know the story of their families.

From a faith perspective, we need not provide DNA samples or search through dusty records to learn about them. And it turns out that we have many, many relatives in common, even some who lived B.C.—the real B.C.   There was Eleazar, a noble, elderly Jewish man whose captors forcibly stuffed pork in his mouth. Eating it would have violated God’s law. Eleazar spit it out, an act carrying a death sentence. Acquaintances encouraged him to save himself by pretending to eat the pork while eating something else, but Eleazar refused. It would dishonor his old age and be a poor example to the young. As he was being beaten to death, he spoke of the ultimate joy that came through his devotion to God.

We have relatives we’ve come to know only as a mother and her seven sons. For their   refusing to eat pork, each son was brutally tortured and killed, one by one, as the mother and other sons were forced to watch. The mother encouraged each to die nobly. The frustrated king tried to convince the last son to save himself, offering promises of riches and power. The mother begged her son to trust in God and die with honor. He did, telling the king that his punishment will be far worse than anything he could possibly inflict. After killing the mother’s sons, the king killed the mother, too.

Our relatives are Ethiopians. In the late 19th century, Charles Lawanga was made to serve as a page in the court of a pedophile king. Himself only 25, Lawanga tried to protect other boys, ages 13-25, from the king’s perversions. Learning that some boys were being instructed in the faith, the king separated the Christians from others. The boys professed that they would keep the faith “until death.” The king tied them together for nine days. His henchmen separated Lawanga from the group and slowly burned his feet, promising release if he renounced his faith. Luwanga told them that the fire was like water. As the flames enveloped him, Lawanga exclaimed, “My God!” The others soon followed him in death.

And we have Asian relatives. Korean-born Magdalena Son So-byok and her husband lost their property because of their faith. In 1839, she was arrested and asked to identify other Christians. Her captors gave her a choice: freedom for herself and family, or death. “My life is not mine. I cannot deny my God in order to save my life.” Soldiers beat and imprisoned her. A month after her husband’s execution, she and other Christians were beheaded.

Our faith genealogy is long. We honor these and many other courageous people with a special name—martyrs—witnesses to the faith. They are our long lost relatives. But for whatever reason, we don’t hear much about them anymore. When we do, it is often with the wrong emphasis. We get a kinda watered-down message. We tell ourselves that we will not likely be called to their suffering and death. But what if we trained our military personnel in that way. Wouldn’t that cause them to train less seriously, to drop their guards, and so eventually fail in their missions?

As we might fail in ours. Medical researchers throughout the world are working to create a vaccine effective against COVID. That’s the hope, and it’s a good hope. The problem is that many of the leading candidates for the vaccine are made from the fetal cell lines of aborted babies. Some Democrats are urging President Trump to end restrictions on the use of body parts from aborted babies for medical research of potential vaccines. Pro-life leaders are rightly critical, saying that abortion activists are trying to take advantage of a public health crisis to further their abortion agenda.

For people of faith, there may come a time of testing. How must we respond? In faith.  Our lives belong to God, beginning to end. We must not hold onto life so strongly that we would use the bodies of those wrongfully killed. There are moral lines that must be drawn and not crossed. We cannot use a violation of God’s law for our personal gain. Our faith calls us to be examples for those who follow us, just as the martyrs have been for us. Our bishops have begun to speak out against the use of vaccines derived from aborted babies. We need to listen.

This world has known horrible viruses and diseases. Acting in ethical ways, scientists have discovered treatments and vaccines that have saved untold millions, even billions of lives. The search may be long and difficult, but answers can be found, and in the right ways. God will give us the help we need if we trust in His ways. We must hold on to hope.

And we must act. We must urge drug companies to conduct ethical research. Even more, we must realize that for the Democrats, abortion is the pork they want to jam down everyone’s throat. We cannot let that happen. This election, we can honor the sacrifices of our long lost relatives—and honor the God for Whom they gave their all.


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 2020. Culture of Life. Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted. Visit us at and on Facebook.

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