Monday, October 12, 2020
Rebecca Marrie Brady MSW
October is many things in our society, including: National Domestic Violence Awareness Month; Breast Cancer Awareness Month; Down Syndrome Awareness Month; National Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Awareness Month; and National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
Here are some statistics regarding these issues that you may not know:
- One in three women in the United States has experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
- On average, every two minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States, and those who have been using birth control pills for more than five years are at an increased risk.
- Individuals with Down Syndrome often face discrimination while still in the womb, including selective abortion following prenatal diagnosis in a majority of cases.
- Each year, there are about 3,500 sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUID) in the United States. These deaths occur among infants less than 1-year-old and have no immediately obvious cause.
- About 10-20% of recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage (up to 20 weeks), though the rate could be as high as 50% of all pregnancies.
It is praise-worthy for our society to devote a month to spreading awareness of these experiences and conditions, the repercussions of which can be devastating in the lives of individuals, families, and communities.
Since domestic violence, breast cancer, down syndrome, infant death and pregnancy loss are all threats against life, it is also fitting that for the Catholic Church in the United States, October is Respect Life month.
Whether it’s a survivor of abuse, the recipient of a life-threatening diagnosis, a grieving parent, a child in the womb or gone to the Lord — this month is about respecting LIFE, all human life, but especially for the most vulnerable among us.
Life is particularly under attack from the very beginning stages. In our state of Florida, nearly half of all pregnancies are “unwanted,” and nearly half of those tragically end in abortion. In our archdiocese alone, over 25,000 lives are lost and souls are burdened by abortion every year.
The Church’s response to these evils is truth and love: presenting Christ’s teaching on the intrinsic value and sacredness of all human life, and accompanying those on the existential peripheries of society, as Pope Francis says.
This is a great task and responsibility we bear for ourselves and for our brothers and sisters. But we are not left to our own devices in the midst of such great suffering and the many threats against life. We are given the most perfect intercessor and model: Our Blessed Mother, as October is also the month of the Most Holy Rosary.
We are also guided by our shepherd, Archbishop Thomas Wenski, who has asked us to Live the Gospel of Life by inviting us to participate in Walking with Moms: A Year of Service here in the Archdiocese of Miami. This initiative is meant to unite the Church in meeting the needs of pregnant women and accompanying them on their journey of motherhood.
We are uniquely positioned in the Archdiocese of Miami to carry out this initiative. Our archdiocesan Respect Life Ministry directly operates five Pregnancy Help Centers in Broward and Miami-Dade counties to provide free and confidential services to abortion-vulnerable women and their families. Each parish in the archdiocese is assigned to one of these five Pregnancy Help Centers for collaboration and support, and 75% of the parishes in the Archdiocese of Miami have a pastor-appointed Respect Life Parish Representative.
Our Pregnancy Help Centers have over 10,000 visits annually from men and women in need of support during pregnancy and beyond. The centers provide material assistance, individual counseling, pregnancy tests, limited ultrasound exams, prenatal and postpartum educational classes, and mentoring for fathers in English, Spanish, and Creole, along with post-abortion healing. Now more than ever, the needs of our brothers and sisters facing unplanned pregnancies are exacerbated — socially, psychologically, and economically — due to the pandemic.
Our Blessed Mother knew the hardships of earthly life and the threats against it. She experienced what we could refer to as unplanned pregnancy; she had to flee with her husband to protect the life of their Son; and she ultimately watched Him being persecuted and killed by the people He came to save.
Such a Mother chosen by God for this great role in salvation history, humbly keeping all these things and pondering them in her heart, never ceases advocating for us, her earthly children. Let us turn to her in the Most Holy Rosary, contemplating the mysteries contained therein, as we ask for the grace to Live the Gospel of Life and Walk with Moms in Need, during the month of October and throughout the year.
Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us!