We saw him and we fell in love with him. His name is Trig. His Sarah Palin’s son, and he is beautiful. Like all of us, he has a right to live. But sadly, before he was born, many people in this country would have denied him this right. And some would even deny it after he was born.
In this lesson, we will talk about two babies and two attitudes towards babies. We will point out the opportunity these elections offer us to save babies and to change attitudes towards innocent human life.
Surprise of joy, not a punishment
Sarah Palin was a very busy woman when she got the news she was pregnant. She was governor of Alaska and already the mother of four beautiful children. Yet she was overjoyed. Her baby was a new gift of love. He brought new hope and new love to the world.
Very soon Sarah and her husband received some additional news. Their baby probably had Down Syndrome. In this situation many doctors in our country
immediately begin to insinuate that a woman should kill her baby. This is a sad, but true fact. Why is this? Because abortion is legal in this country.
And, because of abortion, doctors in our country think parents only want a “perfect” baby. This is how legalized abortion has changed the attitude of so many doctors and even so many parents.
Catholics for change
We as Catholics know this has to change, before any more babies are killed. The Palins, who are not Catholic, also know this. And they know that every baby, no matter how handicapped or “imperfect,” always brings new gifts of love and joy to the world.
Fighting for life
The Palins kept the news of Trig’s existence as a surprise for a long time. This was not because they were afraid or ashamed, but because they knew many others would not understand their joy. They would not nderstand … until they actually saw Trig.
When Trig was finally born, the Palins immediately released this press statement: “Trig is beautiful and already adored by us. We knew through early testing that he would face special challenges, and we feel privileged God would entrust us with this gift and allow us unspeakable joy as he entered our lives.”
The Palins are teaching us a powerful lesson during this election time. It is a lesson of joy and of love. Their son, Trig, has given a face to so many babies who have been snuffed out before they had the joy of being held and loved.
The vast majority of babies like Trig are never given the chance to bring a new joy to the world. The Palin family is showing us that a baby is never “a punishment.” A baby is never “a problem”, no matter what the circumstances. A baby is always the greatest gift we can receive as human beings.
The baby we never saw
But there is another baby who is making news during this election. We have not seen this baby. He was killed. In fact, he was killed twice: they tried to kill him once while he was inside the womb, by abortion, and when that didn’t work they actually did kill him once he was outside the womb, by refusing him medical treatment.
We do not know this baby’s name, but in God’s eyes he has a name. For God, and in order to celebrate the dignity of this baby, let’s give this baby a name. Let’s call him “Leif ” (in honor of the brave explorer, Leif Ericson).
Like Trig, Leif was beautiful. Like Trig, he had many gifts to bring to the world. And like Trig, Leif had Down Syndrome. But our country, in spite of its great treasury of love and compassion, felt there was no room for Leif. Our country allowed him to be killed. He was legally aborted.
Leif the fighter
But Leif was amazingly strong, and a bit lucky. He survived the abortion. He made it outside. He was born alive. But he needed help. Instead, he was taken to a utility closet to be left to die. We have not seen Leif. But someone did. A nurse named Jill Stanek spotted Leif, being carried to the trash closet. She was shocked at what had been done to him. She asked the other nurse to give Leif to her. This occurred in a hospital in Illinois.
Jill was not allowed by the hospital to do much for Leif. All she was allowed to do was hold him, trying to give him at least a moment of love.
Decision to do something
As the baby died in her arms Jill decided to do something. She would tell the world about this baby. She would try to save at least some babies like him. Within a few months, Jill began to lobby for a law that would at least allow medical attention for babies who had survived an abortion. She thought that at least our country could agree about that.
Killed by fear
Jill Stanek actually succeeded in bringing this law to the Illinois legislature. She was even allowed to tell the story of Leif to the full assembly. Yet, surprisingly, her bill was killed.
Sadly, one of the key opponents to her bill was Mr. Barack Obama, who is presently favored to become our next president. Mr. Obama is an ardent supporter of abortion. He feared that approving this bill would open the door to outlawing abortion in our country.
Out of defeat, victory
Thankfully, Jill persevered in her work to educate people, and she got others involved. Her bill was presented on a national level: it was brought before the US Congress. In 2002 it was approved almost nanimously by the US Congress.
The drama continues
Although justice was eventually done with the passage of the Born Alive Infant Protection Act in 2002, abortion is still legal, and the next President and Senators will be appointing and confirming the next Supreme Court justices. These justices will be deciding on the constitutionality of restrictions on abortion, and hopefully someday will again decide whether abortion itself is protected by our Constitution.
The election of members of Congress presents a further dramatic choice for the culture of life. During the next session of Congress, abortion proponents have vowed to push for passage of the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) which would make abortion even more permanent in our land.
Not one issue, but THE issue
During this election abortion is again an issue. In fact, for well-informed Catholics, it is THE issue. This is not a matter of closing ourselves to other issues. This is a matter of the very foundation for a just society. Without the right to life, all other rights are null and void.
Our country correctly prides itself on its love and compassion. Unfortunately, love and compassion can be misunderstood or even manipulated. This is often the case in abortion, when people talk about “a woman’s right to choose.”
Freedom yes, murder no
Yes, every woman has a right to choose. This is called free will. Free will is given to every man and woman by God. We all have the right to choose. But before choosing something as a country, we should ask ourselves a few questions.
The first question is: do we have the right to choose simply anything at all? The second is: what is being chosen in an abortion? And the third question is: does permitting abortion truly help a woman? Does it truly bring her lasting joy and peace?
The answer to the first question is “no”: we do not have the right to choose simply anything at all. For example, we do not have the “right” to choose to steal our neighbor’s car, even though we have the possibility to do so. Freedom is not a license to do evil.
Thus, the second question: what is being chosen in an abortion? The sad truth is that we are choosing the murder of an innocent baby. We do not have a right to murder anyone, much less innocent children.
More pain and sorrow
The sad answer to the third question is also “no.” Abortion does not help women. They experience sadness, sorrow, and pain as a result of their choice. And often this sadness lasts the rest of their lives.
A woman only has an abortion when she is left alone to experience all the difficulties of a crisis pregnancy without the support and love of those around her. The deepest part of a woman’s heart never wants to have her baby killed. By allowing abortion, we are hurting women.
Abortion is a crime against women, against the deepest part of a woman’s nature: that capacity for love and compassion, that capacity for joy and wonder at the gift of a new human life.
Proclaiming the truth about life
Yes, abortion is a terrible crime, against a baby and against a woman, but it is often covered up because it happens inside the womb, and because it manipulates a woman in a very difficult situation.
Maybe the story of Trig and the story of Leif can expose the cover-up. Maybe if people recognized that a baby outside the womb, like Leif, has a right to life, we might begin to awaken consciences and ask ourselves a few important questions: like if abortion is really such a great idea.
For the Trigs and the Leifs of the world, this is a good question to ask ourselves. Especially in these elections.
“For your lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning. . . . Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image.”
“What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.”
“My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.”
It is necessary to witness concretely that respect for life is the first form of justice to apply.
Benedict XVI, May 12, 2008
Every person is known and loved, wanted and guided by him.
Benedict XVI, May 12, 2008
Continue on this path (of promoting life), in order that the smile of life may triumph on the lips of all children and their mothers. Do not be afraid.
Benedict XVI, May 12, 2008
2258: God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being.
2261: The law forbidding the murder of an innocent human being is universally valid: it obliges each and everyone, always and everywhere.
2270: Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception.
2273: These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin.
Saints & Heroes
Unloved by some; loved and wanted by God.
St Germaine of Pibrac, Virgin
(Entered heaven in 1601)
Germaine was the daughter of poor parents who lived in southern France. She had poor health as a child, which led to a deformity in her hand. She also lost her mother when she was only an infant.
Her father remarried, but the stepmother didn’t like her too much. eventually, Germaine was relegated to little more than servant status.
She was kind of exiled without being exiled. She had to sleep in the barn, or in a cupboard under the stairs (Did JK Rowling got the idea for Harry Potter’s sleeping quarters from here?), and when she was nine her parents hired her out as a shepherdess, difficult and rugged work for anyone, let alone a nine-year old girl with a crippled hand.
But she made a little Rosary for herself out of knotted string, and accompanied her work with prayer. When she could, she would gather the little children of the town in the fields and teach them catechism. She would never allow herself to miss Mass. Even if she were already in the fields and the bell for Mass rang, she would leave her shepherd’s crook there in the ground and charge her guardian angel to take care of the flock while she went to be fed by the divine Shepherd… She never lost a sheep.
Thus she passed her childhood, persecuted by her stepmother, mocked by the neighbors, but basking in the unswerving
love of God.
As she grew older, people began to change their opinion of her a bit, especially one time after she was accused of stealing bread, chased out of the house and forced to open her apron. Though it was winter, when she opened up her apron, instead of finding stolen bread, her stepmother beheld a miraculous armful of fresh flowers.
Germaine died in her sleep at the young age of 22. Forty years later her body was accidentally dug up during a restoration of the church – it was incorrupt.
Compassionate doctor, then doctor of souls
St Anthony Zaccaria, Founder of the Clerks Regular of St Paul
(Entered heaven July 5, 1539)
Anthony was born in northern Italy and raised by his mother; his dad died when he was quite young. She encouraged him in his compassion for the poor and the sick (it was simply a horrible epoch for the people of northern Italy; ravaged by unending wars and recurring waves of disease), and sent him off to study medicine at Europe’s greatest medical school in Padua. He
graduated when he was 22 and returned home to open up his practice.
Immediately he realized that his long line of patients needed not only physical treatment, but spiritual care as well. He began studying theology in his free time, which was meager considering how available he made himself and his services to every needy body and soul that came knocking.
Four years later he was ordained a priest, and his ministry became so popular that he was asked to set up shop in the much larger city of Milan, just down the road, so he could reach more people. Soon he gathered a small group of priests who shared his ideals of untiring and unrestricted service to God and man, wrote up a rule of life for them to follow, and set about
spreading the love of Christ throughout the bulging metropolis.
He dedicated himself so thoroughly to his work that he died, exhausted, from a minor illness at the young age of 37. The group of priests continued their ministry, however, receiving Milan’s Church of St Barnabas as their headquarters, and these Barnabites are still serving souls and bodies today.
All people, every person, need light for their souls, nourishment for their bodies, and love for their hearts. If we base our future on serving the real needs of our brothers and sisters, our Lord will be able to fill the world with his blessings.
Awaken – to rouse from sleep or inactivity; stir up; to make aware of
Celebrate – to honor or praise publicly; to mark a happy occasion
Challenge – a demanding task that calls for special effort or dedication
Change – transform, undergo a modification. There can be good changes, and there can be bad changes. Some crisis or difficulties in life can provoke good change. Others can provoke bad change. Use of the virtues of wisdom and prudence are necessary when making changes in our lives.
Compassion – sympathetic awareness of others’ distress with a desire to alleviate it.
Conscience – a knowledge or sense of right and wrong, with an urge to do right
Entrust – to assign the care of; turn over for safekeeping; to charge or invest with a trust or duty
Free will – the freedom of the will to choose a course of action without external coercion but in accordance with the ideals or moral outlook of the person
Gift – something given voluntarily and without charge; present
Joy – 1. A state of happiness or fulfillment 2. One of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Joy, as a fruit of the Holy Spirit, is the result of seeing things from God’s perspective and doing things the way Christ would do things 3. The highest and most complete joy of which man is capable is the joy of seeing and being with God.
Love – 1. A profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person. 2. Kindness, respect, and generosity towards others. 3. Devotion and desire for God as our supreme good. 4. Love for others from God’s point of view. 5. God’s passionate love, regard and concern for every human being.
Peace – One of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Peace is tranquility of soul, flowing from awareness of God’s love and friendship. Living in the state of grace (freedom from mortal sin) is the most powerful source of peace, because of the intimacy with God that this allows.
Persevere – to continue in some effort, course of action, etc. in spite of difficulty, opposition, etc
Privilege – an advantage or favor granted to someone
Right to life – A right is something that one has a just claim to. The right to life is given to every human being by the mere fact that he or she is a human being. It is based on the fact that every one of us has infinite value in ourselves because we are creatures with spirits (with immortal souls). The right to life is a value that is “selfevident”: simply by recognizing the wonder of what a human being is does it become obvious that every human being has absolute value. This right to life is not based on the decision of any other human being. Ultimately, the right to life is based on the
fact that every human being is made in the image and likeness of God. However, someone does not have to believe in God to recognize the absolute value of every human being. He or she simply has to recognize that, because of man’s spiritual or intellectual nature, every man and woman has infinite value.
Strength – the power to resist attack; the power to resist strain, stress
Support – to help or comfort; to give courage, faith, or confidence to someone.
Wonder – awe awakened by something amazing; a person, thing, or event that causes astonishment and admiration; marvel
Manipulate – to manage or control by shrewd use of influence, often in an unfair or fraudulent way.
- Have you seen Trig Palin and his family on television? What does seeing Trig tell you about the importance of respect for life? What does it tell you about his parents and brothers and sisters? Do you think unconditional respect for human life is an important issue in these elections? How important is it?
- Can you name some Christian virtues that the Palins lived when they learned Trig would face special challenges?
- Why do you think doctors often exert pressure on parents to abort their child when they find that the baby may have some disabilities? Do you think this is right? How would you help parents in this situation? What words of encouragement would you offer? What would you be willing to do to help them?
- Does having a disability mean that a child will necessarily be miserable? Does having a disability decrease the dignity and worth of a child? What gifts do children with disabilities bring to families and the world?
- Why do you think women have abortions? Is there anything we can do to help women in difficult pregnancies? What sort of things?
- What do you think of the work that Jill Stanek has done to promote respect for life? Do you think it was worthwhile? Do you think it was difficult? What sort of strengths of character did she have to show in doing this work? Why do you think she did it?
- Mr. Obama has said that he would not like to “punish” his daughters with a child if they face an unwanted pregnancy. Do you think this kind of attitude truly is the most helpful to a young woman and to everyone involved in a crisis pregnancy? Do you see a possible mistake in this thinking? How would you help your daughter (if you had one) if she had an unwanted or crisis pregnancy? How would you charitably explain this to Mr. Obama or his daughters?
- Do you ever pray for the women who have had an abortion? Do you pray that God will heal their heart and help them know his forgiveness and love? Do you pray for their babies as well, that they will one day be able to meet and embrace their mothers? How does prayer help us overcome resentment and anger at injustice? How does it help us to be more charitable? What do we learn when we pray?
(Choose a theme.)
- Is abortion a good thing for our country?
- If abortion is not a good thing for our country, who is to blame for it?
- Can young people make a big difference in our country in helping create laws that show greater respect for life?
- Should pro-life be the decisive factor in making decisions on who you will vote for?
- Are Catholic politicians who are personally opposed to abortion but who vote pro-abortion (“prochoice”) being coherent in their faith and in their reasoning?
- Investigate the stand of your congressional candidates on prolife issues, and get involved in the campaign of those who you think will promote a greater culture of life. Get involved in the Special Olympics or with Buddy Walk (www.BuddyWalk.org).
- Visit a child with special needs and spend an hour helping make him or her happy.
- Investigate about the Freedom of Choice Act which is scheduled to be debated in Congress in January. Find out where the Catholic Church stands on this issue. Make a plan on how you can educate others about this issue.
- Write a letter to Leif. Tell him your thoughts about his life, about the things he missed seeing, about the forgiveness that his mother and all of us need from him. Tell him what you will do to make this world a place where other children like him are more welcome.
- None of us are “the perfect child” from every standpoint, but all of us are cherished and treasured by God exactly as we are. Write about a few of your own personal defects. See if you can think of a way that your defects actually help others sometimes. Make some resolutions about how you will treat others when you notice their defects or failings.
- “Voters Guide for Serious Catholics”, Catholic Answers Action: http://www.CAAction.com
- Video about voting Catholic: http://www.CatholicVote.com
- US Bishops statements on voting: http://www.FaithfulCitizenship.org
- Information about the effects of abortion on women: http://www.AfterAbortion.org
- Information on Barak Obama’s voting on the Born Alive Infant Protection Act: http://www.BornAliveTruth.org
- “Our Cherished Right, Our Solemn Duty”, Statement by bishops of New York State about the 2008 elections: http://www.nyscatholic.org
- “Trig, Turning the Tide”, Dennis Teti, National Review Online, October 2, 2008: http://www.nationalreview.com
- “A Tale of Two Down Syndrome Babies”, Paul Kengor, National Catholic Register, September 21, 2008: www.NCRegister.com
- “Palin the Pro-Lifer”, Joel Davideson, National Catholic Register, September 21, 2008: http://www.NCRegister.com
- “Termination rates after prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome…” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10521836?dopt=AbstractPlus