On January 29-30, a group of students joined Jesuit schools from across the world in participating in the 48th annual March for Life. This year, Jesuit students participated on campus as a retreat experience. Through this faith formation experience, RJ students learned how to represent and give voice to the vulnerable and build a culture of life at all stages and ages. Catherine Cole, theology teacher and Senior Retreat Coordinator, spoke about the experience in America magazine.
Additionally, Megan Langfield ’10, English teacher and a frequent faculty chaperone for this experience, penned a reflection on what it means to embrace a consistent ethic of life.
A Consistent Ethic of Life in Scripture and Tradition Megan Langfield ’10
In recent years, I have had the privilege of chaperoning the RJ delegation to the March for Life in Washington, D.C., as well as attending the March for Life here in Denver with my friends and family (and even our dog). I have been able to watch students pray for mothers in crisis pregnancies, experience the powerful narratives of the National Holocaust Museum, engage in conversations with vibrant pro-life advocates like the unparalleled Sisters of Life, and more. These experiences of advocacy, solidarity and continued learning about Church teaching regarding the holiness of all life, in all circumstances, have deeply impacted me as a Catholic, a woman and a teacher. Though our COVID context is changing the way we experienced the March for Life and Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life this year still provided the opportunity to engage prayerfully in many urgent and necessary conversations—regarding abortion and contraception, care for the marginalized and vulnerable, euthanasia and assisted suicide, fetal stem cell research, immigration and racism—all of which the Church’s teachings urge us to undertake.
Catholic tradition and Scripture provide countless invitations to consider the holiness of life which is so essential to a healthy, well-ordered society. At the end of 2020, we celebrated the Feast of the Holy Family (on December 27) and the Feast of the Holy Innocents (December 28). With the former, Catholics contemplate the beauty of the Holy Family which Mary made possible through her Fiat—her openness to life—and Joseph’s loving respect for her and protection of Jesus as his foster-father. The Gospel reading from the Feast of the Holy Innocents links the story of Christ’s Nativity to the Holy Family’s dramatic flight to Egypt because of King Herod’s plot to murder the Christ-child. So, the Church not only invites us to consider the fantastic ways in which God brought about and protected the Holy Family, but also to witness the devastation of the worldly Herod, who esteems his personal power over the holiness of life. Even in just these two feast days, God gives glimpses into the life of the unwed mother, the life of the immigrant family, the life of the murdered child. We see in the beautiful and at-times harried life of the Holy Family and in the mournful mystery of the first martyrs of the Church, God already communicating a vision of life that demands protection, especially in its most vulnerable moments.
Only two weeks after these great feast days, God invited me to further contemplate the consistent holiness of life in the execution of Lisa Montgomery, who was found guilty of a horrific murder in 2007. On the heels of fruitful reflections about the Holy Family and the Holy Innocents, God drew me to a different contemplation of holiness through Montgomery’s life and death. There are obvious differences between Montgomery and the Holy Innocents. Indeed, her victims, Billie Joe Stinnet and Stinnet’s unborn daughter, are a clearer analog for the viciously separated mothers and babies in Scripture. However, there is one similarity that cannot be erased or overstated: the unchangeable, irrefutable, indestructible holiness of their lives. After all, Montgomery was once an innocent child in the womb, and some of the Holy Innocents may have gone on to live less-than-perfect lives, but in neither case is the holiness of life contingent on some exterior circumstance. Similarly, in Scripture, Christ’s dignity persisted in Herod’s dominion as well as in Pharaoh’s. The basis of the Church’s whole-life ethic—and what we contemplate and profess in events like the March for Life—is the truth that no crime, no circumstance, no political system, no movement, no philosophy--truly nothing—can change the fact of the holiness of life.
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