Saints of October- Respect Life Month
During the month of October the church celebrates the lives of great saints who teach us respect for all life. Among these are Saint Francis of Assisi (Oct 4) , Saint John XXIII (Oct 11) and Saint John Paul II (Oct 22) .
Francis of Assisi (1181—1226) is among the most beloved of all the saints. He had a deep love for all creation and showed particular love for the poor, the sick and the outcasts. He befriended lepers, beggars, birds and wild beasts alike. Francis knew that all life is a gift from God and so he gave thanks for the beauty and goodness found in all creatures, especially in the human person.
Saint John XXIII , Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli (1881—1963), was elected pope in 1958. He called for and presided over the first sessions of the Second Vatican Council. This ever smiling, always jolly, portly man wrote a powerful encyclical letter, Pacem in Terris, in which he addresses issues about life. “Man has the right to live. He has the right to bodily integrity and to the means necessary to the proper development of life, particularly food, clothing, shelter, medical care , rest and finally the necessary social services” ( #11). But for each right the pope listed, he also listed a corresponding duty. “The right to live involves the duty to preserve one’s life; the right to a decent standard of living , the duty to live in a becoming fashion; the right to be free to seek out the truth , the duty to devote oneself to an ever deeper and wider search for it.” The right to life involves all of us and places on us a duty to work to support all life.
The most recent of these great saints, Pope John Paul II, Karol Jozef Wojtyla (1920-2005), was elected pope in 1978. He holds the record for the most traveled and one of the longest serving popes of all time. Among several great Encyclical letters he wrote is Evangelium Vitae, The gospel of life . “We are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil, death and life, the culture of death and the culture of life. We find ourselves not only faced with but necessarily in the midst of this conflict: we are all involved and we also share in it, with inescapable responsibility of choosing to be unconditionally pro-life”. Speaking to a group of ambassadors in 2000 Pope John Paul said, “A society will be judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members; and among the most vulnerable are surely the unborn and the dying”.. By his very life and in his dying, Pope John Paul II showed us the proper attitude we must have towards God’s gift of life.
These three saints, whose feast days we observe in October, are wonderful models and teachers about the dignity of human life and remind us of our duty to work to protect all human life from conception to natural death .