Respect Life Mass serves as counter to indifference, prevailing cultural norms
KELLER — Diocese of Fort Worth officials canceled last year’s Respect Life Mass out of precaution due to the COVID-19 outbreak in North Texas. The Mass returned this year albeit with several differences from years previous.
Most notably, 2021 saw two Respect Life Masses — Jan. 16 at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish and Jan. 23 at St. Patrick Cathedral, both celebrated by Bishop Michael Olson. The addition of a second Mass, Respect Life Coordinator Terri Schauf said, grew out of concerns of ongoing coronavirus-related social distancing requirements and a desire to increase attendance options for parishioners throughout the diocese.
“With Jan. 22 marking the 48th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we also thought it would be a beautiful way to surround that date with two Masses with the specific purpose of praying for unborn babies lost, mothers and fathers, our nation, and all who have been impacted by abortion,” Schauf said.
During his homilies, Bishop Olson, quoted Isaiah 49:1, the first reading of the Respect Life Masses, “Before birth the Lord called me from my mother’s womb. He gave me my name,” and reflected upon the value of name.
“To have a name is to have identity and belonging to a family,” Bishop Olson said. “To have a name is to have belonging also in the communion of the Church.”
In his Jan. 23 homily, Bishop Olson stressed that the Lord gave names to the millions of persons killed by abortion, “those who have been euthanized passively and actively in the sacrilege of misnamed mercy,” and those who have been executed, plus their victims and families.
The Lord calls each of us by name, and we must hear and respond to that call like little children, said the prelate.
It is, Bishop Olson said, an assault to remove someone from the light of belonging by removing his or her name. The prelate added, the Lord, through calling our name, “in sin as individuals, as a society, and within this culture of death, speaks closely with us in our distance and shows us His path of light in our darkness.”
For those reasons, Bishop Olson said, Catholics must, as Pope Francis recently urged, heed and counter the culture of indifference and its accompanying throwaway cultural attitudes so prevalent in today’s world as applied to all aspects of respect for life from conception to natural death.
Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, echoed that call in a recent Catholic News Service commentary addressing sanctity of life and other issues. The archbishop stressed the urgency of bringing Christianity out of the parishes and “back to the streets, where its lifeblood is much needed.”
This year’s Respect Life Masses also came as Joe Biden became America’s second Catholic president, stirring consternation among many pro-life Catholics.
Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, recently announced the formation of a group of U.S. bishops to address issues where Biden appears to fall in line with Church policy such as immigration and aid to refugees, as well as those where he’s likely to differ such as support of Roe v. Wade and defending religious liberty.
Such endeavors remain crucial throughout the ebbs and flows of changing presidential administrations, Schauf said.
“We don’t know what the future will hold, but we can’t give up on what God has called us to do,” Schauf said. “We’re certainly not going to stop simply because a new president is in office who definitely doesn’t seem to support pro-life efforts.
“We’re certainly ready to still stand and defend life as Catholics and let our voices be heard for the sanctity of all life.”
New this year during Respect Life Week were ministry spotlights on the Respect Life page of the diocese’s website, fwdioc.org, Jan. 18-22 followed by a 3 p.m. Rosary.
“Each is about two minutes,” Schauf said. “Each focuses on one of several ministries in the diocese that are doing amazing things regarding respect life. The idea came up in part because we knew we probably weren’t going to be able to have the annual North Texas March for Life in Dallas this year so knew we had to rethink [outreach efforts.]”
The purpose being, Schauf said, that many who become pregnant are unaware of where to turn or the numerous free alternatives to abortion or Planned Parenthood.
“The videos include links to learn more about each ministry and, hopefully, support them through donations.
“We think of this anniversary [of Roe v. Wade] with sadness for obvious reasons, but our hope is to highlight the many people and organizations here to help women in need and to encourage people to something positive,” Schauf explained.
The ministry spotlights, Respect Life Rosaries, and the Jan. 16 and Jan. 23 Respect Life Masses can be viewed on the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth Facebook page. Bishop Olson’s homily for the Jan. 23 Mass is available on his blog, fortworthbishop.org.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has updates from NTC staff