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HomeWorld & NationNational Catholic RegisterLife: Worth Defending, Worth Celebrating

Life: Worth Defending, Worth Celebrating

By Sister Charity, S.V./National Catholic Register

I was 12 years old when it happened. I was alone in my living room, and I came across a pamphlet with an image of a child: a victim of abortion. I was shaken to the core. I heard in my conscience the clearest summons I have ever received: “Do something about abortion.” I could never pretend I didn’t know what was happening. I had to respond. I felt the summons again the first time I prayed outside of an abortion facility in the Bronx and saw the faces of women who were afraid, alone and hurting. I loved them, and I knew they deserved better.

Abortion is a tragedy. The magnitude of the tragedy is hard to comprehend. We can never become desensitized to it. We are approaching the second March for Life in a post-Roe America. It should be no surprise that we continue to march. The overturning of Roe v. Wade was an immense victory, but as long as abortions continue, so will we. This is a matter of life and death. There must always be, at the heart of the pro-life movement, an urgent defense of life.

Jeffrey Bruno Sisters of life life fest
The Sisters of Life and Knights of Columbus hosting thier 1st Life Fest event at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Washinton, DC ahead of the March for Life Event. The next annual event takes place this Friday. (Photo: Courtesy photo)

Yet something else is needed also.

Thousands will gather before the March for Life this year for “Life Fest,” an event hosted by the Sisters of Life and the Knights of Columbus. In light of the tragedy of abortion, it may seem strange to call this event “Life Fest.” A rally for life seems fitting. A march is appropriate. But a festival? Yes. Because we can’t just defend life. We must celebrate it also.

Celebration is sometimes seen as superfluous and shallow. But true celebration is a serious task. We can only celebrate what we affirm as good. Celebration hinges on the most profound philosophical questions: Is existence good? Does life have meaning? If we cannot answer these questions in the affirmative, we are not capable of real celebration. The culture of death empties and falsifies any concept of festivity.

Josef Pieper, in his book In Tune with the World: A Theory of Festivity, wrote, “On what grounds does a specific event become the occasion of our festival and celebration? Can we festively celebrate the birth of a child if we hold with Jean Paul Sartre’s dictum: ‘It is absurd that we are born’? Anyone who is seriously convinced that ‘our whole existence is something that would be better not being,’ and that consequently life is not worth living, can no more celebrate the birth of his child than any other birthday.”

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The culture of life, on the other hand, recognizes every life as a gift. We did not create ourselves. We were given existence by God out of sheer love, and our lives have deep meaning. As Pope Benedict XVI said, “We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed; each of us is loved; each of us is necessary.”

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Mass being celebrated during Life Fest ahead of the March for Life. (Photo: Courtesy photo)

We are the only creatures made in the image and likeness of God. This is reason enough to celebrate. Yet there is more. In order to draw us into eternal union with the Trinity, God himself became man. In the Incarnation, God raised our dignity to unimaginable new heights.

“In every child which is born and in every person who lives or dies we see the image of God’s glory. We celebrate this glory in every human being, a sign of the living God, an icon of Jesus Christ,” wrote Pope John Paul II in The Gospel of Life. 

Since our greatest dignity lies in being icons of Jesus, we have reason to celebrate the gift of life even in the midst of suffering. Trials do not diminish the image of God in us. The splendor of Christ often shines most brilliantly in those who walk the Way of the Cross. The lives of the saints are proof enough of this. Christian celebration is not Martha Stewart-style celebration. It is not always pretty. Christians celebrate a Babe lying on a bed of straw, a Head crowned with thorns, and an empty tomb. We can find Jesus in every person, and this is worthy of celebration.

Every person desires to be celebrated. Children are unabashed in this desire, calling out from the playground to parents and strangers alike, “Look at me! Look what I can do!” As we grow, we tend to conceal this longing. Yet, in the age of social media, you need not look far to see we do not grow out of it. And that is a good thing. God put this desire in our hearts because he longs to fulfill it. We are made to be looked upon with love and delight by the Father.

“He loves you for you,” our founder, Cardinal John O’Connor, used to remind people. “Not for your talents, not for your potential, not for any money you may have, not for your educational experience, he loves you for you.”

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Students pray during Mass at Life Fest just ahead of the March for Life 2023. (Photo: Courtesy photo)

It can be hard to believe this, especially in the face of our own sins and woundedness. One of the great privileges we have, as Sisters of Life, is to accompany those who are suffering after the experience of abortion. Jesus longs to pour out his mercy on them. I will never forget the first time I helped in our Hope & Healing mission. I had the great joy of baking a birthday cake for one of the women we were accompanying. After her abortion, she had stopped celebrating her own birthday. Through the journey of healing, the Lord revealed to her that, in spite of her past, she was worthy of celebration. We want every person to know this.

There is more to the pro-life movement than fighting against abortion, as important and essential as that is. We cringe when we are labeled, simply, “anti-abortion,” and we insist on calling ourselves, instead, “pro-life.” Instead of being only against something, we are also and more fundamentally for something … or, rather, someone. We believe every person is precious, unrepeatable and irreplaceable.

Is a festival for life out of place? Not at all. The theme of “Life Fest” is “Because Love Is the Answer.” Over the years, that initial summons — do something about abortion — has been transformed, for me, into a summons that is infinitely more simple and infinitely more demanding: Love! Love the unborn. Love their mothers. Love the poor, the sick, the elderly. Love every person. The tragedy of abortion will one day end, but the task of love is eternal.  

JOIN THE CELEBRATION
Celebrate every human life at “Life Fest” this Friday, Jan. 19. It will be an inspiring morning of testimonies, music by Sarah Kroger and Damascus Worship, preaching from Msgr. James Shea of the University of Mary, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with Boston Cardinal Seán O’Malley and Baltimore Archbishop William Lori, and more. To register or to access the livestream of Life Fest visit: LifeFestRally.comAlso watch on EWTN.

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