Today, Sunday, 4 October, the Church in Ireland marks the Day for Life, a day dedicated to raising awareness about the meaning and value of human life at every stage, and in every condition. Day for Life is celebrated each year by the Catholic Church in Ireland, Scotland, and in England & Wales. The theme for this year’s Day for Life is Choose Life.
In their Day for Life pastoral message bishops grieve the loss of life due to abortion and seek a change of hearts and minds about the innate dignity of the child in the womb and the care of women for whom pregnancy presents particular challenges.
Commenting on this year’s Day pastoral message Bishop Kevin Doran, Chair of the Bishops’ Council for Life said, “In 2019 there were 6,666 abortions in the Republic of Ireland and in the vast majority of cases, no reason was either asked or given. The tragedy of this is not just the loss of so many young lives, but the grief that so many women suffer in silence and the extent to which society itself loses its fruitfulness.”
Printed copies of the Day for Life pastoral message have been circulated at parish Masses throughout the country over this weekend. The text of the pastoral message is available in English (see below), and is also available in the Irish and Polish languages on www.catholicbishops.ie.
Pastoral Message for Day for Life 2020: Choose Life:
There were 6,666 abortions in the Republic of Ireland in 2019 and over two hundred thousand in Great Britain, including significant numbers from the island of Ireland. We, the Catholic Church, have a message of hope and a story of love; together, we can promote a culture of life.
We grieve the loss of life due to abortion. We seek a change of minds and hearts about the innate dignity of the child in the womb and the care of pregnant women. Pope Francis writes, ‘The gift of a new child, entrusted by the Lord to a father and a mother, begins with acceptance, continues with lifelong protection and has as its final goal the joy of eternal life … For God allows parents to choose the name by which He himself will call their child for all eternity’ (Amoris Laetita – The Joy of Love, 166).
How can Catholic parishes and communities be places of welcome, assistance and support?
On this twenty-fifth anniversary of St John Paul II’s letter Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), we renew the call for respect and celebration of all life.
The parish is a ‘family of families’ (Amoris Laetita, 87). We ask our parishes to be places of welcome, where we can support pregnant women and celebrate the precious gift entrusted to them. We recognise that family is often ‘a challenging mosaic made up of many different realities, with all their joys, hopes and problems’ (Amoris Laetitia, 57).
We want to provide support for women and men who face difficult circumstances, as well as those who have experienced abortion and seek comfort in the Lord and their community.
‘As a Catholic, I promise to foster a culture of welcome and acceptance of new life. I will pray and work for better legal protections for pregnant women and the child in the womb.’
Hope and Healing after Abortion
God does not withhold his forgiveness from those who seek it with a sincere heart. But, even when we confess our sins and receive absolution, we are not always ready to forgive ourselves. There are many women and men still living, years later, with the emotional and spiritual scars of abortion. Our mission to promote a culture of life must include helping these women and men to be reconciled with themselves, with their lost child, and with the God who has never stopped loving them.
In the Lord we can find peace: ‘Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us’ (Romans 5:5).
‘My name is Caitlin* and I am twenty-eight years old. When I became pregnant for the first time five years ago, I had an abortion. I have carried the pain from this experience, as well as feelings of loss, confusion and loneliness. When attending a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat, I was given the time and space to name the child that I lost and to find healing and forgiveness in the Lord.’
To learn more about Rachel’s Vineyard, go to www.rachelsvineyard.ie
*The name has been changed to protect the identity of the mother.
End of Pastoral Message
Day for Life has been celebrated in Ireland since 2001. The Day for Life was initiated by Pope John Paul II, to encourage the Catholic Church worldwide to promote and celebrate the sacredness of life. In his 1995 Encyclical Letter ‘Evangelium Vitae’ (‘The Gospel of Life’), the late Pope proposed that “a day for life be celebrated each year in every country.” The primary purpose of this day should be “to foster in individual consciences, in families, in the Church, and in civil society, recognition of the meaning and value of human life at every stage and in every condition” (EV #85). Day for Life is the Church’s special day dedicated to celebrating the dignity of life from conception to natural death. Since 2001, the following themes have been chosen to celebrate the annual Day for Life:
2001: Proclaiming the Gospel of Life
2002: End of Life Care – Ethical and Pastoral Issues
2003: The Wonder of Life, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Pontificate of Pope John Paul II
2004: Life is for Living – A Reflection on suicide
2005: Cherishing the Evening of Life
2006: Celebrating the life and presence of people with disabilities in the Church and in society
2007: Blessed is the fruit of your womb – dedicated to protecting all human life
2008: Mental Health – mental ill-health can happen to anyone
2009: Focus on suicide, particularly the pastoral dimensions of this difficult and sensitive subject
2010: The meaning of Christian death and care for those who are dying
2011: A call to solidarity and hope in difficult times
2012: Choose Life!
2013: Care for Life: It’s Worth It
2014: Protect and Cherish Life #Livelife
2015: Cherishing Life: Accepting Death
2016: Everything is Connected
2017: Fostering a Culture that Protects Life and Respects Women
2018: Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery
2019: The Scourge of Domestic Abuse
For more see www.councilforlife.ie.