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December 2021

We have ten fingers. We have ten toes. Why? No kidding, there are people who contemplate the question. In 2001, researcher Mark Changzini came up with a mathematical hypothesis—Limb Law—to figure out how many limbs various animals need depending on environment and body size. Applying it to 190 species, he calculated 4.71 fingers per hand. Thankfully, nature rounds up. Other wonderers think it’s all about evolution.

Whatever the reason, those digits sure do help in learning how to count. Kids can more easily count to ten, and know what it means, if they use their fingers. And that’s important because we love to count. Some people count so much that for them it becomes obsessive. Counting—in moderation—is part of who we are. Sometimes, we just want to know how many. People count all sorts of things. In fact, someone figured out a way to count mountains. As of November 2020, there are 1,187,049 named mountain peaks.

That list probably doesn’t include a biblical one. No one knows exactly where it is, undoubtedly because it’s not anywhere yet. The prophet Isaiah heard about it from God Himself. God told him that someday there would be a holy mountain. And there, unexpected things will happen. A lamb will invite a wolf to its pasture, a leopard will lie with a goat, a calf and young lion will walk guided by a child, a cow and bear will be friends, a baby will play with a deadly cobra. Not one will be harmed. That’s some mountain.

What’s interesting about Holy Mountain is that none of those creatures change the nature of who they are. A lamb remains a lamb, a wolf remains a wolf. Yet there they are, together in peace. But so far, the mountain only remains a nice thought. We are not even at peace within our own species. Violence has become a tragic way of life, not just something that happens in time of war. We kill randomly, indiscriminately, totally without reason. Many times we don’t even see who we are about to kill.

It makes no sense, except that it makes total sense. As a culture, we have bought into the notion that is is acceptable to kill each other. We have legalized the killing—randomly, indiscriminately, totally without reason. We don’t even see who we are about to kill. It’s called abortion, legal in all 50 states. Legal in some states right up the moment of birth. Some people even promote “shouting out” abortions as a way of taking pride in having killed their own children. It’s supposed to remove the stigma. In an eerie kind of way, it makes a certain sense. It’s easier to live with yourself if you kill your conscience, too. It’s all so sad.

But unexpected things do happen around us. One happened in New York City to a teenager we’ll call Julie. Her profile is not uncommon: 18, unwed, and unexpectedly pregnant. Scared, she makes an appointment with the nearby Planned Parenthood, a place always willing to book another customer. Though Julie feels uneasy about it, she goes anyway—but is quietly praying for a sign. She fills out the paperwork, then heads over to a brochure rack, hoping to calm herself as she awaits her turn. There, she finds something she never expects to see. No one would. It’s a brochure. She heads out the door, in tears.

Julie left in search of an answer. She hoped to get it from the ones who wrote that brochure: the Sisters of Life. Their story is fascinating. The order was the heartchild of the late Cardinal John O’Connor of New York. He was a Navy chaplain in 1975 when he toured the infamous Dachau concentration camp in Germany. Putting his hands in a furnace once filled with the ashes of tortured humanity, he had a deep spiritual experience. He promised to give his all to protecting human life. Over the years, he realized that prayer and fasting were needed to counter the culture of death growing out of a profound cultural crisis of faith.

After years of prayer, now-Cardinal O’Connor ran a five-word ad in a local Catholic newspaper—“Help Wanted: Sisters of Life.” He began to write about his vision for a religious community of women devoted to protecting the sacredness of every human life. His vision  spread nationwide. The Cardinal received hundreds of responses. In 1991, eight women gathered in New York to form the Sisters’ first community. Today, the Sisters of Life are 100 women strong. They come from seven countries and serve in six dioceses in the U.S. and Canada.

The Sisters of Life are a contemplative/active order. They profess love of Love Incarnate. They believe that every person is unique, sacred, and irreplaceable. Every person has a meaning, worth, and purpose. The Sisters understand that in the heart of every woman is a longing to be heard, understood, and believed in. Each woman wants to be seen for her own uniqueness, and to see the beauty and goodness that she had missed inside herself. Talking to the Sisters over cookies and lemonade, Julie started to see with new eyes. She kept her child, went to college, graduated with honors, and married a “super awesome guy.

That’s how God works—in unexpected ways. Whatever Isaiah didn’t understand about God, he did understand that God’s ways are not our ways. Who else would send his only Son to pay the ransom needed to free a world of sinners? That Jesus came as a baby should tell us what we need to know about the gift of life. For now, it’s all we need to know.    Merry Christmas!

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 and on Facebook.

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