By JOEY MARTINECK, Commentary | Published October 3, 2019
Local comedian Josh Harris is participating in Respect Life Month by using his unique gifts. Moved by compassion for pregnant moms without hope and for the hundreds of babies who are aborted each week in Georgia, Harris has organized a night of clean stand-up comedy “Laughs for Life,” with 100% of profits benefiting the Catholic Pregnancy Aid Clinics in Roswell and Forest Park. The Oct. 11 show with Cyrus Steele from HBOs “Comedy Wings” has already sold out, thus a Saturday show with Wellington Juku from Fox’s “Laughs” has been added. Both nights will be filmed live by the cable television network EWTN. Learn more by searching EWTN at Eventbrite.com.
I love Josh’s example. So often we think that in order to do the will of God we have to quit our secular jobs and work in full-time ministry. That’s the case for some of us, but not most. God calls us to sanctify the space where we find ourselves in life, whether that’s in a high-paced consulting firm, a gym or a comedy theater. The first pope Peter urges us that “as each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10). Employing our unique gifts is essential to Jesus’ work in raising up a respect for all human life.
You may have heard the phrase thrown around before, but might be asking: What is Respect Life month anyway? First, we ought to acknowledge that Respect Life can be used as a broad term. Respecting life includes all efforts to promote human dignity—care for orphans and widows, migrants, the poor overseas, local poverty, the disabled, those in prison and countless other worthy causes. Some even use the terminology regarding the care for all life and our call to be good stewards of God’s creation. All who work toward this culture of life should be praised.
Having said this, there is a narrower sense in which the term “Respect Life” is used by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The USCCB Pro-life Committee guides us in the month of October to focus on the defense of human life at its beginning (abortion, human embryonic stem cell research) and at its end (euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide). Focus on these areas does not undermine other areas of human dignity. Thus, no one should ever be made to feel shame in working, for example, singularly and specifically for the unborn.
So what can you do for Respect Life Month? Before anything else, I encourage you to allow your heart to be moved. The Gospels frequently indicate how Jesus is first moved with pity before performing miracles and healings (see Matt 9:36; Mark 1:41). Then ask the Lord to show you what your gifts are. What are the activities where you find yourself fully alive and creative? That might be an indicator of your gifts.
If your parish has a respect life group, it’d be worthwhile to see what is already planned. A list of activities by parish for Respect Life Month are posted on the Archdiocesan Respect Life website accessible at archatl.com. To highlight a few—Transfiguration Church is participating in 40 Days for Life. St. Clare of Assisi is showing the movie “Unplanned.” St. Oliver Plunkett is having a white cross display on the lawn. St. Benedict is praying a Novena for life. St. Brigid is doing a Life Chain. St. Michael is doing a baby bottle campaign.
If your parish does not have a respect life group, now’s a great time to talk to your pastor and start one! Our office would be happy to help you get started.
Let’s begin this month with a prayer, “Lord, I give my heart and my gifts to you. I allow you to move my heart with compassion for those who suffer injustice. I place my gifts before you, that you would use my gifts to serve those who count for nothing in the eyes of the world. Amen.
Joey Martineck is director of the Respect Life Ministry for the Archdiocese of Atlanta. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.