I’m writing this on Good Friday. I just spent a few minutes in prayer outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Lower Manhattan. A hazardous-medical-waste truck familiar to some of us who pray outside the clinic was just getting loaded. Eleven boxes, just a little shorter than me. On Monday, I saw nine. They perform abortions at Planned Parenthood, so you can imagine at least some of what is in those boxes. Bleecker and Mott Street — Margaret Sanger Square, in fact — is a modern-day Calvary, a place of injustice, where innocents die and are led to a torture. If you’ve ever spent time outside an abortion clinic, trying to offer alternatives to the young women who are approaching, you know that so many of them so obviously don’t feel that they have a choice. And sometimes her boyfriend or her mother makes sure there won’t be any, as you offer a word of love and help.
“Our lives matter,” Archbishop Charles J. Chaput appropriately writes in his new book Things Worth Dying For: Thoughts on a Life Worth Living. Appropriate because it’s true, because most of us don’t realize it in its true sense, and because it reminds us of another archbishop, Fulton J. Sheen, who spoke clearly in his time, to the mainstream, to the extent that people would listen — his TV show was Life Is Worth Living. So it is with Chaput, a good spiritual father and leader during the most confusing of times. Many of those young girls and women have no idea how precious their lives are, never mind the lives of their unborn children. And their lives matter not because they are in law school (as one young woman recently said as she was crying walking into the clinic; she wanted a baby but felt that a baby would derail her potential career) or because they have a boyfriend or the right car, or whatever superficial guideposts the world encourages us to consider “success.”
Our lives matter, Archbishop Chaput writes:
We rarely see the full effects of the good we do in this life. So much of what we do seems a tangle of frustrations and failures. We don’t see — on this side of the tapestry — the pattern of meaning that our faith weaves. But one day we’ll stand on the other side. And on that day, we’ll see the beauty that God has allowed us to add to the great story of his creation, the richness we’ve added to the lives of our family and friends, the mark for the better we’ve left on the world, and the revelation of his love that goes on from age to age no matter how good or bad the times. We are each an unrepeatable, infinitely treasured part of that story.
That’s the kind of hope that we are all too often missing these days. This “woke” business always seems to betray a longing for something more. Cancelation seems an attempt to eradicate all imperfections — I always wonder if the people doing the canceling of George Washington and everyone else really want to be judged on their worst action or decision. I don’t want to be. Which is why I cling to God’s mercy.
In Things Worth Dying For, Chaput points out something that might help to reintroduce Christianity to a cynical — often, with reason — world. Perhaps even reintroduce it to Christians, who often forget that we’re all about the Trinity and the Beatitudes. “The Christian life is not a self-help plan, a way to make ourselves perfect, but rather a way of life in which the One who is love enters us and transforms us.” He quotes Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, who is now a Trappist monk:
It is crucial to see that the Christian life is not so much “me bringing Jesus into my life,” by trying in some way to approximate his behavior and mentality, as [it is] Jesus opening to me the doors into his life and granting me a real share in the acts and intents of his Heart. It is not I who make room for him in my endeavors. It is, rather, he who invites me to renounce all my endeavors in order to incorporate me to renounce all my endeavors in order to incorporate me into his human and divine origin, mission, destiny, and life.
Chaput in the book writes about this time of year. We move from Lent and what looks to be a failure by human standards, Jesus’s crucifixion. And yet, that is the source of all Christian hope! At the Easter Vigil, he writes, “We celebrate Jesus Christ’s tearing the gates of the underworld off their hinges, raising up Adam and Eve and the righteous dead. In the Exultet, we compare the Paschal Candle to the pillar of fire that led the Israelites to freedom. We rejoice that Christ is revealed as God and reigns as victor over humanity’s greatest enemy, death.”
At Easter, “Alleluia,” which means “Praise the Lord,” is sung again and again. Pope Benedict XVI once wrote that “the Alleluia is like an initial revelation of what can and shall someday take place in us: Our entire being shall turn into one immense joy.” That’s worth living and dying for. And that’s what God thinks all our lives our worth — being with Him eternally. Whatever you believe, Christians truly living this is a good in the world for all. Christians: We better get to it! Showing this with everything we do and are. All lives do, indeed, matter. The vulnerable unborn and their mothers. Every one.
This column is based on one available through Andrews McMeel Universal’s Newspaper Enterprise Association.