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Catholic at Home: Go Home and Change the World

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October is Respect Life Month, a celebration and call-to-arms compelling Catholics to “renew their personal commitment to defend human life” (USCCB). The idea itself brings to mind the unborn and those sentenced to death as well as those who are dying; and while these are some of the most vulnerable, one particular group sits in our lives more constantly, yet more subtly. When
we rally for the dignity of all lives, it’s paramount to examine how well we offer that same respect to our own family members. In other words, how pro-life are we to those living under our very same roof?

The family is the foundational unit of society, which means what happens at home between husbands and wives, and between us parents and our kids will make its way to the rest of the world. The culture cultivated in our families affects the world “out there” whether we intend it or not. Interactions with strangers and even legislative movements stem from goings-on at home.

Simply put, our regard for human dignity has to begin in the most intimate setting.

St. Teresa of Calcutta received the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize, and one reporter asked, “What can we do to promote world peace?” She responded, “Go home. Love your family.” It’s such a simple idea but one that asks greatness of us.

Consider society’s general attitude towards children. Often regarded as road-blocks to living life to the fullest, it’s all too easy for children to hear over and over that they’re inconvenient, an outlook that perpetuates itself when they grow up to have kids of their own. Respect in marriage can be an uphill battle too, since the media tend to scoff at self-sacrifice in relationships. If we’re not careful, these ideas can seep into our own attitudes, shifting our focus from others to self.

The following are some ways to be pro-life with our families, to ensure that all people are respected at home and ultimately, the world.

1. Give generous attention.

When it comes to showing someone that s/he matters, eye contact and an attentive ear work miracles. From littlest kids to biggest bread-winners, everyone in the family has joys and sorrows. When we’re intentional about making eye contact, touching and listening, we let our favorite people know they’re worth our time and attention. It’s easier to be present when our phones are out of reach, and it’s even easier to give hugs or kisses.

2. Pray as a Family.

We’re made in the image and likeness of God and called to imitate Him, so being in touch with the Author of Life will help us do just that. Family prayer doesn’t have to be fancy, formal, or long; just honest. Offer a decade of the Rosary on the way to school, read Sunday’s Gospel before bedtime, make prayer part of your conversation. Prayer itself is an act of humility before the Lord, and respect will flow from a prayerful family.

3. Focus on your Life’s Work.

Our vocation as spouses and parents is the biggest, greatest work of our lives, divinely appointed. Though I have other charisms and callings from God, all else pales next to loving my husband and pursuing heaven with him and our kids. What would happen if we took a good, hard look at how we spend our time in order to chip away at what doesn’t serve our families? Making more space for family underscores its inherent importance.

If we want to change the whole world, if we want respect for human life to spread, it has to begin at home. It’s good to go beyond our front doors to cater to those in need, but the challenge within the pro-life movement comes when we look through our own windows to the family member who needs more love, respect and attention. Cultivating the respect for our family members will encourage respect for those we meet outside our homes and, by St. Teresa’s insight, we will change the world.

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