Working toward mercy

In this special jubilee year, Pope Francis is reminding us to look a bit more closely at the challenging issues that confront our world and see them through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. With this in mind, in just a few short weeks, hundreds of thousands of pro-life activists will be heading to Washington, D.C., for the annual March for Life. The theme for this year’s event, “Pro-Life and Pro-Woman Go Hand in Hand,” ties in perfectly with the Year of Mercy.

Sometimes, the thought of feeding the hungry, counseling the doubtful or ransoming the captive may not seem to apply to a particular societal concern outside of what we normally associate with the works of mercy. Many of us grew up seeing these works connected mainly to the social justice teachings of the Church. It is easy to see how feeding the hungry and working at a soup kitchen go hand in hand. It makes perfect sense to understand how a prison ministry directly applies to ransoming the captive. These are all wonderful charitable efforts built on the Gospel message that came straight from the Lord himself in Matthew 25:31-45.

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.”

But the pope is asking us, in addition to the many ways these good works are already carried out, to dig deeper and find the lonely, the hungry, the outcast and the doubtful in other societal ills. Some of these ills, including the culture of death, as the March for Life organizers pointed out in their announcement of this year’s theme, have been masked or sold to the public as a good when they are actually quite the opposite.

“It has been said — politically and culturally — that for one to be pro-woman one must be pro-choice,” the March for Life website states. “But nothing could be further from the truth. Sadly, there are so many confusing messages regarding women and the issue of abortion, compounded by the false ‘war on women’ rhetoric. The truth is that life is the empowering choice for women. It’s best for women and families facing unplanned pregnancies, and it’s best for developing female babies in the womb. Abortion harms women and affects our society as a whole, in so many ways.”

Think about your local pregnancy resource center. Go down the list of the works of mercy and see just how many works they regularly apply. Pregnancy resource centers offer a range of real options and support for women who come to them.

They literally clothe the naked by providing diapers, baby clothes and other necessities to moms who choose life for their babies. They counsel and instruct through their parenting classes. They feed the hungry spiritually and physically by offering prayer support, spiritual guidance if desired, as well as baby food and other supplies.

And pregnancy resource centers are only one aspect of the overall culture of life, of which there are countless ministries meeting the needs of pregnant women and their families all over the country and the world.

Father Frank Pavone, the national director of Priests for Life, often says women choose abortion because they wrongly believe there is no other choice. They are either desperate or being strongly pressured and feel there are no other solutions.

If we truly want to support women and families, as the March for Life organizers state in their announcement of the theme, offering women real options and assistance is not only truly pro-woman but truly merciful.

Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 130.