This month marks the 45th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion. The annual March for Life rally in Washington D.C. will occur on Friday, January 19th. I made the pilgrimage to the rally last year and joined hundreds of thousand of others in peaceful protest of our nation’s culture of death. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make it this year in person but my heart and spirit will be there. In support of the rally and all of the unborn, I am posting the following article with the hope that it will either directly or indirectly change a few hearts. My hope is that we will ultimately embrace in America a culture that respects life from conception until natural death.
I would also like to encourage you to participate, if you can, with your parish’s, or a nearby parish’s, Respect Life Ministry and make the trip to our nation’s capitol to participate in the rally. You can make a difference.
The following article written by Paul V. Esposito is reposted from The Culture of Life.
Above and Beyond
Maybe it’s a trophy kissed and held aloft to the cheers of adoring fans. Perhaps it’s a ring displayed at banquets or conventions. It could be a gold medal and the top spot on a winner’s stand. It might be a scholarship or an invitation into an honors society. It could be any award that signals victory. It becomes a motivator to reach higher, work harder, and sacrifice more. For many, it is the dream.
There is another award, a fairly small one—an upside down, five-pointed, decorated, dull gold star mounted on a blue ribbon and worn close to the neck. No one sets out to win it; this star is not a dream come true. Receiving this award is dictated in large part by circumstances, but in much larger part by incredible bravery. For of the 3,440 recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor, over half did not survive the action for which it was received.
The recipients were ordinary people doing extraordinary things. In May 1967, Army major Charles Kettles volunteered to lead a helicopter squad into a white-hot battle zone to transport reinforcements and retrieve the wounded. Intense enemy fire killed reinforcements before they could leave their aircraft. The enemy targeted the landing zone, yet Kettles remained there until all others had departed. Later returning to the battlefield, the enemy badly damaged his copter and severely wounded his gunner, but he still managed to get more troops back to base. He went back again and left only when informed that all soldiers had been retrieved. But airborne, he learned that eight soldiers remained on the ground. With complete disregard for his safety, he did a U-turn and headed to the site, totally unprotected by cover fire. All enemy fire concentrated on his aircraft alone, inflicting tremendous damage. Yet Kettles managed to return the last eight to safety. “We got the 44 out. None of those names appear on the wall in Washington. There’s nothing more important than that.”
The Medal of Honor also has been awarded to a conscientious objector, one whose bravery was celebrated in the film Hacksaw Ridge. Army private Desmond Doss felt compelled to serve in WWII, but good conscience would not let him kill. For his beliefs, his superiors and fellow soldiers cruelly treated him. Ultimately, the Army allowed him to serve as a combat medic; he chose not to carry a weapon on the battlefield. Desmond participated in the three-week battle of Okinawa, the bloodiest battle in the Pacific theatre. During the assault, the soldiers were required to climb a sheer 400-foot slope, only to be met at the top by heavy artillery, mortar, and machine gun fire. Rather than seeking cover, and twice injured, Doss tended to wounded all over the battlefield, lowering them down off the ridge on a rope-supported litter. All told, Private Doss evacuated 75 men by himself. “I was praying the whole time. I just kept praying, ‘Lord, please help me get one more.”
What ran through the veins of medal recipients to account for conduct above and beyond the call of duty? Certainly, they understood the limits of self-importance. A me-centered person could never do what they did. He would immediately see that he has too much to lose, and the fear of loss holds him back. Next, these soldiers had a sense of total commitment. To their missions. And to their brothers. Major Kettles probably didn’t know those soldiers he evacuated. Private Doss likely suffered abuse at the hands of those he saved. But they committed themselves to sacrificing their very lives for a greater good. And finally, they had a trust in the presence of God that allowed them to step forward under fire. Carl Bentley, a soldier on Hacksaw Ridge, said: “It’s as if God had his hand on [Doss’] shoulder. It’s the only explanation I can give.” Gary Rose, another medal recipient, put it this way, “If you don’t believe in God, you should have been with us on that day.”
We are nearing the 45th anniversary of the longest continuing war in U.S. history. It is more than just a fight over the legality of abortion. It is no less than a spiritual battle for our country’s soul. It pits our personal desires to do what we want, when we want, however we want, against the need to recognize the plight of the voiceless, defenseless unborn. If we will not protect the unborn, we will never cure the many social ills plaguing us, for the right to life is the foundation on which all other rights rest. So we are called to battle against the present darkness of evil that has misguided and hardened the hearts of so many around us.
But in large measure, we are not answering the call of duty. We have cowered under the nonsense that standing up for life is “offensive” speech that shouldn’t be mentioned in polite conversation. We have failed to witness to our faith in our homes, workplaces, or the public square because others might not like what they see, or worse, because it is inconvenient. Our Church leaders have not spoken up because they don’t want to be unpopular with the people in the pews, or because they want to curry favor with the local politicians.
Recently, Archbishop Joseph Naumann, the newly elected head of the U.S. bishops pro-life activities committee, told us that this must change. “[I]f the Church is silent on the destruction of life, we’re being negligent, and leaving our young people vulnerable to making this tragic decision.” To our priests, he mentioned the need to preach on the sanctity of life, even at the risk of losing some people. “We can’t fail to talk to our people about these real sins that affect the lives of our people. If we talk about sins they don’t commit, of what good is that?”
The challenge is to all of us. For the battle is heart-to heart, and it requires us to stand up directly in the line of fire. It can be difficult to challenge the views of family and friends. It takes commitment to speak and act in support of life. And for many, it takes great sacrifice to vote for the pro-life candidates of another political party. But the battle is not about our needs. It is about the greater good of saving lives: unborn babies and their families. May we remember the prayer of a man who risked himself to go far above and beyond:
“Lord, please help me get one more.”
Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics. He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois and have six children.
© Paul V. Esposito 2018. Culture of Life. Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted.
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