In his homily at the Closing Mass for World Youth Day in 1993, Blessed John Paul II made the following point:
“The family especially is under attack. And the sacred character of human life denied. Naturally, the weakest members of society are the most at risk: the unborn, children, the sick, the handicapped, the old, the poor and the unemployed, the immigrant and refugee, the South of the world!”
He went on to exhort the youth to defend life saying:
“Young pilgrims, Christ needs you to enlighten the world and to show it the “path to life” (Ps 16,11). The challenge is to make the Church’s “yes” to Life concrete and effective. The struggle will be long, and it needs each one of you. Place your intelligence, your talents, your enthusiasm, your compassion and your fortitude at the service of life!”
Finally, he said:
“Woe to you if you do not succeed in defending life.”
But he didn’t just leave it at that. This great saint had faith in the youth that they could undertake the challenge and do so with fervent love and with a passion that would see results. “I am confident” John Paul II said, “that you have grasped the scale of the challenge that lies before you, and that you will have the wisdom and courage to meet that challenge. So much depends on you.”
As a young girl, just out of school, working for Family Life International (which had only been going for such a short time), these words of exhortation became my source of inspiration. The Holy Father believed in me to be able to do this most important work! He believed that I could make a difference, that I was an important person in this great battle. And I knew that other young people would also feel convinced that they too could take up the challenge and defend life.
And they did take up the challenge.
The youth of those times are now parents, often of what would be considered today to be large families. They are now forming the next generation of pro-lifer’s who will speak up and defend life.
Some of us are still called to be actively working in the pro-life movement.
As I re-read the text of that World Youth Day homily, the enormity of the challenge still grips me as if I am processing the words for the very first time. The challenge is just as real for me today as it was twenty years ago.
Today though, I am a wife and a mother of seven children. Blessed John Paul II’s words echo constantly in the back of my head “the family today is especially under attack”. I am acutely aware of the nature of that attack, something as a young teenager I could not fully understand. I understand that my enthusiasm and passion to proclaim the Gospel of Life is worth nothing if I neglect my own family.
Our children are infinitely precious. How easy it is to (inadvertently) push them aside because a new issue has surfaced that needs to be tackled; or a life could be saved if I just do this; or resources need to be developed urgently.
I am intensely aware that I am constantly guilty of this. Despite having “rules” as to when the computer is “allowed” to be on and what is supposed to be family time, the issues of the day never respect them.
This battle I know, will be a long one. It is a battle, whose outcome is already decided. It is a battle in which each one us must do all we can with dedication and with great trust in God. However, we must also realize that our efforts are in vain, if through our focus on the wider issues, we neglect the most important gifts in front of us – our families.
So, this Christmas I’m turning off the computer. It’s time to spend my days hanging out with the children in the sun! When my family is strong, I am strong. When I am strong, I can take up the challenge to proclaim the Gospel of Life effectively.
“As the family goes, so goes the nation
and so goes the whole world in which we live.”
Blessed John Paul II