Reflection on the Dignity of Each Human Life
As I write this, I am 37 weeks pregnant and my husband and I are preparing for our first baby’s arrival, so the theme of dignity of all human life from conception to natural death has been especially close to my heart – quite literally, as she is happily kicking me while I write this reflection.
Many people have profoundly enriched my life experience, and contributed
to shape me as a Catholic, a daughter, a wife, and now a mother. I would like to introduce you to a few of them, whose witnesses greatly developed my understanding and appreciation for human life.
My cousin, Lucas, is an incredible young adult who has mastered several
languages with patience and effort. He knows how to make the best of every situation with a brilliant smile, has never met a dog that won’t be his friend, enjoys swimming, and values spending time with family and friends. He is a true gentleman, the pride and joy and only child of his parents. Lucas has Down Syndrome, and he is the first individual I have been close to with this condition. My heart bursts with joy every time I see him. I am amazed at how he is so welcoming, giving, and thoughtful toward me whenever I can visit him in Lima, Peru.
A dear friend from high school gave birth to a baby girl during her
sophomore year of college. In a matter of months, everything changed for
her – she had to leave her college coursework permanently, began full-time
work, and had to quickly prepare with her boyfriend to welcome this
surprise child into the world. While not everyone close to her supported her
decision to welcome her child into this world, she never wavered. I was able to hold that baby just hours after her birth and this experience was an
immediate, unexpected reminder in my 20-year-old world that allowed me
to first realize what an extraordinarily precious, irreplaceable gift that life is. Though I had become preoccupied with and focused mainly on my career ambitions, I soaked in the presence of this newborn and knew I had a renewed desire to maintain Christian hope for marriage and children in my future; this desire had always been as clear as day to me when I was a young child, but I lost the desire amidst concerns and anxieties of growing up during my teen years and believing that this world’s promises of happiness could fully satisfy me, not solely the (often unexpected, disguised) blessings chosen by God. This inspiring newborn is now six years old and full of energy, love, and a zest for life that astounds me. I am so thankful that her mom, my dear friend, chose the difficult, strengthening journey of facing a pregnancy courageously by the light of Truth to allow this dear child to live life to the fullest today.
I’d also like to share the story of my best friend’s first child, Augustina, who
is a light that I never was able to meet in person. Augustina was born
unexpectedly at 26 weeks old and lived for just two days before passing
from this earth into the hands of God. She is one of three children in her
family, and I am confident that this child is now a powerful intercessor for
all in their family. Augustina’s mom and dad have worked quietly and
diligently to honor her life by creating a non-profit to assist families in financial need due to medical bills from their children’s medical issues. Since they don’t have large financial means, they sell hand-made teddy bears to fundraise for their non-profit.
Finally, I would like to tell about my grandmother, Kathleen. She was a high
school basketball star during her younger years and gained great respect in
her community as a smart and caring middle school teacher. Kathleen was a loving grandmother, parent, wife, and neighbor to all. She cared greatly for each of her grandchildren. Countless stories explain her goodness, so I will choose one: as an observant, caring teacher, she noticed that one of the
school’s students in their Midwestern town did not bring a jacket to school
throughout winter months and decided to gift her one from her very own
closet, without anyone knowing about it so that the student would not feel
any embarrassment. My grandmother was a person of great moral integrity
who quietly made the world a much better place. For the last eleven years of her life, she experienced progressively worsening symptoms from
Alzheimer’s disease, which little by little reduced her routines, interests, and ability to communicate and participate in her family life. I learned about her human dignity especially during her years of illness through the daily example of my grandfather, who kept caring for her as much as he could and then visited her multiple times a day when she had to be moved to a nursing home. He would feed her when she no longer could feed herself, fill up time with conversation when she could no longer talk, read to her, bring her little treats and copies of her favorite movies, and kiss her goodnight every night before tucking her in at her nursing home. To him, she was no less his wife and no less a person worthy of unconditional love just because she couldn’t communicate or even remember his name.
I am sure you too can think of individuals in your life that deepen your
understanding and appreciation for the dignity of each human life. My vision is to start a group of parishioners who meet on a regular basis to share with one another these stories; people that value our commitment to protect and celebrate all human life in all its forms as guided by natural law. I hope that it may be a humble start to joining together as an intentional group of passionate, Christ-centered parishioners to focus on pro-life positive actions in a peaceful, prayerful manner as a community to educate ourselves and others, pray, and wisely act on the moral imperative to support human life during all of its natural stages.
By: Julia Brown Ferrero