Catholics across central Arkansas attended the Oct. 1 respect life Mass at the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Little Rock, marking the beginning of Respect Life Month.
Approximately 200 people were in attendance. The observance continued at 3 p.m. where 40 Catholics attended the holy hour of prayer and adoration at the Shrine of Divine Mercy at St. Edward Church in Little Rock.
At the respect life Mass, celebrant Father John Connell, vicar general and pastor at St. Joseph Church in Conway, reminded congregants being pro-life is to be selfless.
“Today in the Church, we begin Respect Life Month,” Father Connell said. “As Catholics, Christians and human beings, we are called to respect that which comes from our creator — life — from conception to natural death. One of the greatest dangers to understanding the call to respect life in all its stages is not a political affiliation or philosophy of life, but selfishness – plain old selfishness.”
Father Connell said when we are selfish, we make selfish choices. This leads to a lack of respect for others, ourselves and life.
“You and I live in a world where so many have opted not to respect life at some or all the stages of life,” Father Connell said. “The challenge for you and I, not just in this month of October but always, is to never give up or become disappointed in the journey to all of us being on the same page. Practice mercy and walk humbly with God. It’s the greatest tool we have in helping everyone understand the Church’s teaching on life.”
Marjorie Smith, a parishioner at the Cathedral of St. Andrew, said she plans to incorporate selflessness and respect for life into her own daily routine.
“I was thinking about having mercy and extending that to people that you don’t even know in your everyday life,” Smith said. “Just being respectful to one another — I think that’s really important right now. It’s really a tough time.”
John Comeau, another parishioner and usher at the Cathedral of St. Andrew, said being pro-life doesn’t begin and end with one Mass, and Catholics should remember the importance of life every time they attend Mass.
“I tell everybody that every day is like Thanksgiving,” Comeau said. “Be thankful for what you’ve got in your life and respect life every day.”
Father Joseph de Orbegozo, rector of the Cathedral of St. Andrew and concelebrant of the respect life Mass, said the temptations of selfishness detract from respecting life.
“What’s really significant about a Mass for life and taking this time to be cognizant is that we’re all called to love each and every person in every stage of their life … we’re all tempted by selfishness deep within ourselves,” Father de Orbegozo said. “And when that selfishness comes out and we think, ‘Oh, this person’s life is not important to me — I can dispense of it at my will.’ What a horrible thing! When we take this time to really be intentional about listening to the Lord’s call to love life we’re asking people to remember that our lives are not our own and that others' lives are not our own.”
Catherine Phillips, director of the diocesan Respect Life Office, said Respect Life Month is not the same as being anti-abortion; it’s about embracing and respecting the dignity of every phase of life.
“People talk about building a culture of life, as opposed to a culture of death, and I think a culture of death is when we make decisions from that point of selfishness,” Phillips said. “You can imagine the decision of abortion, where people say not only ‘My body, my choice,’ but they say, ‘In my life, I can’t handle this. In my life, I have no support. In my life, I have to get whatever I want for me.’ And it’s not that we don’t want to support people — of course, we do. But it’s the point of selfishness where that line of thinking starts.”
Phillips’s message extends beyond abortion. She says selfish lines of thinking can be found in relation to other pro-life issues.
“It’s the same with the death penalty at the end of life,” Phillips said. ‘‘...Same thing when we talk about someone dying a natural death. … And other things that touch across the life spectrum – human trafficking, issues of homosexuality, issues of immigration, all of the issues that touch on human dignity. … This is our faith that God teaches us — that we should be more concerned about our brothers and sisters than we are about ourselves or our own particular opinions or solutions to the often messy situations that we encounter in life.”
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