October is Respect Life Month and your parish probably has plans in motion for different programs or activities. But sometimes, we get so caught up in activities that we forget there are people in our pews who don’t really understand the basics of what respecting life is all about.

Before you launch your Respect Life activities, it’s a good idea to reinforce in the minds of your parishioners the purpose behind everything that you are doing. Here’s a handy recap:

As Catholics we believe that all life – from conception to natural death – is sacred. We know that this means abortion and euthanasia are morally wrong. But respecting life means so much more.

It’s been almost 40 years since the term “seamless garment” was used to describe a holistic approach to respecting life. The term refers to the seamless tunic, worn by Jesus, that the soldiers did not tear apart during the crucifixion (John 19:23). In 1971, Eileen Egan, a Catholic journalist, co-founder of Pax Christi – USA, and close friend of Mother Teresa, proclaimed, “The protection of life is a seamless garment. You can’t protect some life and not others.”

Twelve years later, in 1983, the late Cardinal Joseph Bernadine (1928-1996) introduced the concept of a Consistent Life Ethic, using the same image of a seamless garment to promote the idea that all human life should be revered and protected. This seamless garment includes opposition to abortion, assisted suicide, euthanasia, capital punishment, unjust war, nuclear war, genetic engineering, hunger, poverty, and economic injustice.As Catholics, we can’t pick and choose which life issues we will and will not respect."When human life is considered 'cheap' or easily expendable in one area, eventually nothing is held as sacred and all lives are in jeopardy,” Cardinal Bernadine explained.

In 1995, Pope John Paul II encouraged the establishment of “a culture of life” that emphasizes the value of all human life. In his encyclical, The Gospel of Life, he pointed out that the right to life is the foundation for all other human rights. “The deepest element of God’s commandment to protect human life is the requirement to show reverence and love for every person and the life of every person,” the pope explained.

The concept of respecting life is so profound that it’s worth meditating upon. When people embrace the concept of respecting life it impacts everything they say and do.

This month, in addition to whatever Respect Life activities that you’ve already planned, make it a priority to help your parishioners understand what respecting life really means. Encourage them to examine their own consciences on how well they respect life in all of its different dimensions. Ask them to share their insights on respecting life with others. Invite them to pray that our society will become a culture of life –not just for our own sakes – but for the future of our world.