When we ask our 5-year-olds what respect life means to them, we get simple, yet profound answers. Most of the children will say that respect life means to be nice, to be kind to each other, and not squish bugs. One little girl said that respect life means “don’t kill God’s creatures.” WOW!
Throughout the school year, our class focuses on the Catholic teachings of respect life, of course. At Thanksgiving, our project asked children who or what they were thankful for. The responses were simple, yet profound. They shared that they were thankful to God who gave them their family, parents who take care of them, and grandparents who are sick or in heaven, brothers and sisters, and “the baby in mommy’s tummy”. Out of the mouth of babes! The underlying basis for the Church’s teaching is the recognition that all of life is a gift from God.
During the Advent season, our theme “Here Comes the Son” had children pray for someone or something special to them. Once again, our 5-year-olds amazed us. They prayed for poor people, sick people, people with no homes, people have already gone to heaven, and the baby in mommy’s tummy. We have a couple of mommy’s who will be having babies this spring. God Bless them!
Of course, our children also pray for their favorite food, their shoes, and their pets. But respect for life does not just mean the beginning and end of life but the full range of our human existence. We not only have the inalienable right to life but the right to a life of dignity and respect. Each one of us has a right to the basic necessities of life: food, clothing, shelter, education, employment, equality, and respect and dignity.
The Church position on life is comprehensive. The Church’s teachings embrace the totality of life from conception to natural death. We are not masters of our own destiny, but are subject to God. In Jesus Christ we have God’s universal call to salvation. God created every person and desires every person to be saved. Jesus treated all with respect and dignity. Respect life in our society means to speak on behalf of the voiceless, the defenseless, and the weak, from the unborn child to the elderly and infirmed. We must be strong and consistent in our voice. We must work to build a society based on our Catholic Christian values. So, when we ask our 5-year-olds what respect life means to them, their responses are the truth: be nice (respect), be kind to each other (dignity), and don’t kill God’s creatures (“You shall not kill”, Matthew 19:18).