Respect Life Sunday

Today, the Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, is also known as Respect Life Sunday.  There is a wonderful story in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on September 9, 2011 that is worth revisiting in this regard. It is the story of a courageous young girl, Bayza Weeks, and the compassionate support of Principal Barry Lieske and De La Salle High School in downtown Minneapolis, which makes real and genuine what it means to respect life.

She sat outside the principal's office at DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis, embarrassed and alone on a cold day in what had been, for most of her life, a cold world. She shook and cried.


A diligent student, she played first chair clarinet and sang in the a cappella choir.

Several months pregnant at age 15, she faced a dilemma. Abort the child, leave school, or maybe both.

Her father's words had been harsh: Keep the child, ruin your life.

The principal took a deep breath. Pregnancies were rare at the Catholic school. He spoke: We believe in life. We believe in education.

She heard something different: We believe in you.

Please read the rest of the story and see the short video here. The story of this now accomplished woman and her son, himself a freshman this year at De La Salle, is beautiful. In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that my youngest son Sam attends De La Salle. From my own experience, It is precisely this respect for all people in all stages and positions in life which reverberates down the school’s halls and which make it a model Catholic institution.

John W. Martens

Follow me on Twitter @johnwmartens

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Susan Mulheron
7 years 6 months ago
Quite a different response to teen pregnancy that we see currently in some Twin Cities Catholic schools, where the young mom is kicked out and the father faces no consequences. Hopefully those administrators also read and are moved by this success story.
7 years 6 months ago
The pro-life movement's "trenches" are the 3,000 crisis pregnancy centers that are locally operated and funded (by locals) on a shoe-string and a prayer by locals, for locals.

In complete media blacklisting silence and in virtual secrecy since most Catholic parishes don't really make a point of hyping their presence much less promoting the concept among the young and youth groups.... and yet, when the culture of life comes it will be born at such places among such unsung heroes and from such women.

Vast amounts of money is wasted by high profile groups fighting non-existent threats like "nuclear war" with nary a peep about brick and mortar, local, up and running crisis pregnancy centers which exist for such unwed moms.

Almost every pro-life activist is a LOCAL supporter of such groups and such women. They're the church ladies that are despised and looked at as crazies because they're not "green" or hip to other culture war issues.... but they ARE there silently helping the teenage moms not just choose life but make it through pregnancy and child birth and beyond....again, all on a shoe string with zero local, county, state, federal and international dollars that the abortion clinics get for the other "choice".

If you want to see the pro-life movement... look in the yellow pages and visit the Crisis pregnancy center that is located in YOUR zip code. Buy some diapers and wipes, donate them along with other child care or coupons or gift cards. It's easy, it's discrete, no one will know but the women in need.

It's never been cool or hip or popular. But that's all the more reason to reach out on Respect Life Sunday to actually help real girls and women in need in your own neighborhood who but for those privately funded non-profits would only have the Planned Parenthoods of the world to turn to.

You want to have an excellent sex-ed program in school? Bring the kids to those centers to volunteer time and resources. That's the front lines of what happens when their peers become 'sexually active' before marriage.

You want a huge positive, optimistic boost? Go visit one of those places - because the Spirit of God hovers close over those women facing the choice between life and death and the mercy and forgiveness is palpable. There is a huge number of quiet and 'secret' supporters with their widow mites supporting these centers...but they are often of the lower middle classes so they need your help.

C Walter Mattingly
7 years 6 months ago
A great story, John. Thank you.
This story calls to mind several related subjects. Rather than ostracize unwed mothers as in the past, we should recognize them as moral heroines. It would have been so much more convenient had this mother simply taken the easy way out as a million others do in the US each year. Perhaps few or even no one she knew would have been the wiser. Also, De La Salle had the resources to continue this mother's education. Protecting the deductability of charitable donations for schools such as De La Salle that help make this kind of support possible from the current adminstration's plans to reduce them as well as fighting for vouchers to make it possible for such a student to attend such a school of the parents' own volition are important social justice actions.
7 years 6 months ago
Walter, don't you think this is one area where every 'regular' on these posts could not just agree with, but a practical area of personal action which we could all easily take part in this Sunday as a form of Catholic solidarity?

Helping crisis pregnancy centers is THE bi-partizan outreach which everyone on "both sides" ought to agree are worth some form of support inasmuch as both sides claim that a "woman's choice" is worth nothing unless society (that is, us) help them with the means to effect "choice"?

So if you are pro-choice (to abort or not) but not pro-abortion, wouldn't it make perfect moral and logical sense to prove this is so (that you are pro-any-choice) by personally supporting your local crisis pregnancy center?

If you are pro-life of course it's a no-brainer that this is where most of your energies and funds will naturally go as it is the front lines of the culture war and without directly offering women a real option, many will feel FORCED into abortion as their 'only choice'.

So while we can all debate the big picture politics, the best policies and the pie-in-the-sky, "let someone else pay of it" schemes where by we grant ourselves vicarious generosity by stint of our political opinions and not actions...... it is much more mature and real to just get out and do something direct and practical for real women this week.

On Respect Life Sunday, this is one form of social justice that EVERY Catholic can join in. And wouldn't that be a fantastic, wonderful thing to hold hands in solidarity despite our differences and other polarizing forces?

If anyone wants to support the Crisis Pregnancy Centers I know of in the Detroit area, email me.

C Walter Mattingly
7 years 6 months ago
John L.,
I don't think you're going to get that here. The space is too politicized. When an open-minded, largely apolitical person such as John Martens writes about the obvious great social justice good accomplished by this parochial school, this woman, this child, and this admiinstrator, it runs counter to those commentors here who wish to undermine the influence of the church, socialist ones because it places power and influence in the hands of charitable donors and institutions at the expense of the government, enemies of the church leadership because recognizing such acts of social justice done under the auspices of the church do not undermine the esteem, power, finances, and influence of same. I think a similar thing occurred in this space when Cardinal O'Malley produced a sound, comprehensive, forward-looking response to the church abuse problem: only one fervent liberal critic of the church was open-minded enough to recognize it; the rest, who were vociferous when pejoratives on ths subject came out, were conspicuously silent, by their silence sweeping O'Malley's statement under the rug, hoping it would not be noticed. Same thing with the terrible and much larger sexual abuse problem occurring in our public schools according to the major government study: don't dilute our attack on the terrible mishandling of sexual abuse within the church by airing the far greater problem of abuse of innocent children in our public schools. 
President Obama by his actions seems very much involved in attempting to undermine the church. He of course opposes vouchers, so that the good social justice actions Susan M praises contained in such as John Martens's article can be diminished through lack of funding. But the president is also attacking the church and private charities generally by his drive to limit the deductibility of charitable donations. He is attacking the church by attempting to remove universities such as Xavier from certain religious exemptions by having them declared secular institutions. He is attacking Catholic hospitals by weakening the conscience clauses that pertain to abortion and contraceptive issues. He currently even opposes the church in its opposition to the death penalty, although he may very well flip back to his original 1996 opposition to the position if the polls show it is a net voter plus for him by 2012, as he is in the process of doing for gay marriage for the same reason.
So John, support of this moral good is not going to well up from all sides as you would hope it might. It runs counter to other agendas. 
President Eisenhower once properly warned America about the monolithic power of the military-industrial complex. That has recently been successfully addressed by an Eisenhowerian talent, Rober Gates, and others, eliminating unneeded programs and reducing unaffordable retiree benefits. But what until recently has gone unnoticed beneath the radar is the monolithic power of the government-union complex, which has exhausted our treasuries and wrecked our public school system. But there is hope. Rahm Emanuel of Chicago and Gov Cuomo of New York, liberal democrats both, have been forced to confront this monolith and have joined such as Gov Walker and Christie in reining in the power and fiscal destruction it has visited upon the country. Perhaps the study done by the Jesuits' own Loyola Marymount, that 98% of those LA parochial school students who attended parochial schools graduate from hight school, with a tiny fraction of dropouts compared to the LA public schools, will be noticed here and elsewhere.
Hopefully, when all this battlefield smoke clears out over the upcoming years, the merits of the particulars will emerge again.
Hope springs eternal. 
7 years 6 months ago
Walter, we don't get points for being "for" or "against" some course of policy.

So on one level, I really don't care if half the readership and lurkers on America disagree with my long as they take half an hour to drop off some diapers and gift cards to the local crisis pregnancy center that is in their zip code.

None of us, Left, right, or independent can claim PERSONAL moral accomplishments on behalf of the poor by simply being "for" some political person or policy or party. We only get to claim personal moral kudos if we, personally, do something with our own time, talent, and treasure.

None of us get to claim we're "for the poor" by wishing OTHER people give them money. Similarly, none of us get to claim we're "for women" if we just opine that OTHER people ought to help them.

So on Respect Life Sunday, given how many local Crisis Pregnancy centers there are, virtually everywhere, why can't we put down our political differences and pick up the common humanity we share in the form of concrete solidarity? Diaper solidarity.
C Walter Mattingly
7 years 6 months ago
I'm all in. 


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