Enough time has passed since Pope Francis’ spectacular visit to the U.S. that we must ask ourselves, “What difference did the pope’s visit make to me?” Because, that is the question he would most want us to ask. Our Holy Father came to the U.S. specifically to shake each one of us up.
The real challenge from our Holy Father is to go out and do something! And, for a culture that is getting more inward-looking every day (I heard on the radio this morning that there are brides walking down the aisle with bedazzled selfie sticks!?!), his message could not have been more clear.
What are our most profound memories of Pope Francis’ trip? Skipping lunch with dignitaries to eat at a homeless shelter; visiting prisoners; allowing the little girl from California to run up to his popemobile with her message for immigration reform; stopping the Fiat to bless the boy with cerebral palsy waiting on the side of the road.
It is through his actions, far more than his words, that he completely won the hearts of America. And this should be our own example.
We often find ourselves on the difficult side of social issues — abortion, assisted suicide, marriage, immigration, death penalty. And, while we must speak the truth in kindness, those words, accompanied by loving action towards our neighbors in need, speak louder than they ever could alone.
This is why the Office of Life, Justice and Peace is so pleased to partner with the department of Catholic schools on initiatives that encourage our children to connect our religious and moral beliefs with positive action they can do to build a Culture of Life, starting in their own families.
Respect Life Week, October 26-30, invites students grades K-12 to explore (in an age-appropriate way) some of the most important social issues of our day. And, while they learn about the dangers of assisted suicide, they are also given opportunities to make gifts for their grandparents, visit the elderly and sick and advocate for greater access to affordable medication for everyone.
Couple this with Christian Service 4Life, a field trip day on Nov. 4 where students will learn about the example of Dorothy Day (a Catholic woman who never sat on the sidelines) and our students will soon be leading us by their examples of Christian service.
And, on Jan. 23, 2016, we invite everyone to gather in Downtown Los Angeles for OneLife LA! People come together to celebrate the beauty and dignity of every human life while also committing to do something positive in their families, communities and beyond to build a Culture of Life.
It is no accident that evangelization and service go hand in hand. Pope Francis is our most spectacular role model right now, but Catholics throughout our history have done the same. You are invited, during this Respect Life Month, to take up the challenge! Turn to your neighbor/spouse/the homeless man on the corner/the pregnant woman in need and ask, “How can I make your day better today?”