Life in the balance

Archbishop Aquila

This past weekend close to 4,000 people rallied at the Colorado capitol building to encourage our state to protect life at every stage. It was a beautiful sight to see so many people willing to stand up for the vulnerable – whether they are unborn children or people bravely facing a terminal illness.

Throughout his papacy, Pope Francis has spoken of the “throw-away” mentality that has come to characterize not just how we relate to things but to people. At his March 4, 2015 general audience he said, “a certain culture of profit insists on making the elderly appear to be a burden, an extra weight. They are not only unproductive; they are an encumbrance, and are to be discarded. And discarding them is sinful. We do not dare to say this openly, but it happens.”

This profit-driven approach is apparent in cases like that of Barbara Wagner or Randy Stroup’s. Both of these people were sent letters by Oregon’s state-run health plan stating that it would not provide cancer treatment drugs but would pay for doctor-assisted suicide.

The same attitude lies behind the push to kill the unborn, the disabled, and those who are suffering – even if it’s done in the name of mercy.  How many times have we heard the argument, ‘This child is going to be disabled, so we should abort it,’ or, ‘This elderly woman is suffering from terminal cancer and feels like she is a burden on her family. She should be allowed to end her life.’

St. John Paul II insightfully pointed out another aspect of the disposable culture in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae, where he said that the mindset behind abortion involves a “hedonistic mentality” that is “unwilling to accept responsibility in matters of sexuality” and regards procreation as “an obstacle to personal fulfilment” (Cf. EV, 13).

In other words, the throw-away culture is being driven by a mentality that is both self-centered and profit-centered, and the consequence of this is that all suffering is seen as an obstacle to real fulfillment.

The same can be said for the arguments being advanced by those seeking to legalize doctor-prescribed death. In the name of a false understanding of freedom and “death with dignity,” lawmakers and lobbyists argue that certain circumstances mean life has lost its value. They seem to believe that some disabilities or types of suffering stand in the way of being fulfilled and that the solution is to end that person’s life.

Pope Francis has rightly said that the fear of being weak and vulnerable is the driving force behind this argument, not a desire for freedom or true dignity. As Catholics, we know that true dignity comes from being a son or daughter of the Father and that no amount of suffering, disability, or circumstance can take that away.

We also can see this is true on a purely human level, since each of us can think of a time when we suffered in some way that made us a stronger, better person. The same thing is true of suffering in the face of death, those final moments when God is able to refine us and prepare us for our judgement.

As Colorado’s legislators consider House Bill 1054 and Senate Bill 25 – the two bills that aim to legalize doctor-prescribed death – I urge you to consider what adopting the throw-away culture would do to our state. We Coloradans pride ourselves on being people who are welcoming, hospitable and caring, but if these bills become law, we will saying that certain types of lives can be discarded.

During his March 4 audience, Pope Francis gave voice to gravity of this decision, saying, “We are all a little fragile, the elderly. Some, however, are particularly weak, many are alone, and affected by illness. … Will we abandon them to their fate? A society without closeness, in which gratuitousness and selfless affection — even among strangers — are disappearing, is a perverse society.”

The Colorado I know is a place that comforts the afflicted and is close to those in need. Please join me in contacting our state representatives to speak up for the vulnerable and safeguarding the values of our state. In this Year of Mercy, I call on every Catholic to actively seek out God’s mercy, receive it, and bring it to others.

I encourage you, too, regardless of which political party you belong to, to participate in your caucuses on March 1 to bring Christian values into the public square and help rebuild a culture of life.

To contact your representative and to learn more about the caucus process, visit:

COMING UP: Five Hispanic-American saints perhaps you didn’t know

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The American continent has had its share of saints in the last five centuries. People will find St. Juan Diego, St. Rose of Lima or St. Martin de Porres among the saints who enjoy greater popular devotion. Yet September, named Hispanic Heritage Month, invites a deeper reflection on the lives of lesser-known saints who have deeply impacted different Latin-American countries through their Catholic faith and work, and whose example has the power to impact people anywhere around the world. Here are just a few perhaps you didn’t know.

St. Toribio de Mogrovejo

Born in Valladolid, Spain, Toribio was a pious young man and an outstanding law student. As a professor, his great reputation reached the ears of King Philip II, who eventually nominated him for the vacant Archdiocese of Lima, Peru, even though Toribio was not even a priest. The Pope accepted the king’s request despite the future saint’s protests. So, before the formal announcement, he was ordained a priest, and a few months later, a bishop. He walked across his archdiocese evangelizing the natives and is said to have baptized nearly half a million people, including St. Rose of Lima and St. Martin de Porres. He learned the local dialects, produced a trilingual catechism, fought for the rights of the natives, and made evangelization a major theme of his episcopacy. Moreover, he worked devotedly for an archdiocesan reform after realizing that diocesan priests were involved in impurities and scandals. He predicted the date and hour of his death and is buried in the cathedral of Lima, Peru.

St. Mariana of Jesus Paredes

St. Mariana was born in Quito, modern-day Ecuador, and not only became the country’s first saint, but was also declared a national heroine by the Republic of Ecuador. As a little girl, Mariana showed a profound love for God and practiced long hours of prayer and mortification. She tried joining a religious order on two occasions, but various circumstances would not permit it. This led Mariana to realize that God was calling her to holiness in the world. She built a room next to her sister’s house and devoted herself to prayer and penance, living miraculously only off the Eucharist. She was known to possess the gifts of counsel and prophecy. In 1645, earthquakes and epidemics broke out in Quito, and she offered her life and sufferings for their end. They stopped after she made her offering. On the day of her death, a lily is said to have bloomed from the blood that was drawn out and poured in a flowerpot, earning her the title of “The Lily of Quito.”

St. Theresa of Los Andes

St. Theresa of Jesus of Los Andes was Chile’s first saint and the first Discalced Carmelite to be canonized outside of Europe. Born as Juana, the future saint was known to struggle with her temperament as a child. She was proud, selfish and stubborn. She became deeply attracted to God at the age six, and her extraordinary intelligence allowed her to understand the seriousness of receiving First Communion. Juana changed her life and became a completely different person by the age of 10, practicing mortification and deep prayer. At age 14, she decided to become a Discalced Carmelite and received the name of Theresa of Jesus. Deeply in love with Christ, the young and humble religious told her confessor that Jesus told her she would die soon, something she accepted with joy and faith. Shortly thereafter, Theresa contracted typhus and died at the age of 19. Although she was 6 months short of finishing her novitiate, she was able to profess vows “in danger of death.” Around 100,000 pilgrims visit her shrine in Los Andes annually.

St. Laura Montoya

After Laura’s father died in war when she was only a child, she was forced to live with different family members in a state of poverty. This reality kept her from receiving formal education during her childhood. What no one expected is that one day she would become Colombia’s first saint. Her aunt enrolled her in a school at the age of 16, so she would become a teacher and make a living for herself. She learned quickly and became a great writer, educator and leader. She was a pious woman and wished to devote herself to the evangelization of the natives. As she prepared to write Pope Pius X for help, she received the pope’s new Encyclical Lacrymabili Statu, on the deplorable condition of Indians in America. Laura saw it as a confirmation from God and founded the Missionaries of the Immaculate Heart and St. Catherine of Siena, working for the evangelization of natives and fighting or their behalf to be seen as children of God.

St. Manuel Morales

Manuel was a layman and one of many martyrs from Mexico’s Cristero War in the 1920s. He joined the seminary as a teen but had to abandon this dream in order to support his family financially. He became a baker, married and had three children. This change, however, did not prevent him from bearing witness to the faith publicly. He became the president of the National League for the Defense of Religious Liberty, which was being threatened by the administration of President Plutarco Elías Calles. Morales and two other leaders from the organization were taken prisoners as they discussed how to free a friend priest from imprisonment through legal means. They were beaten, tortured and then killed for not renouncing to their faith. Before the firing squad, the priest begged the soldiers to forgive Morales because he had a family. Morales responded, “I am dying for God, and God will take care of my children.” His last words were, “Long live Christ the King and Our Lady of Guadalupe!”