Fiat to the gift of life
October, dedicated at Legatus magazine as our pro-life issue, finds Legatus having just returned from a pilgrimage with 55 legates to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. There is such beauty and symbolism in the tilma of Juan Diego. Through historians of the Church and ancient Indian culture, we learn that this is not an ordinary depiction of Mary, the mother of God. Rather, this is the reflection of Mary, pregnant with the baby Jesus. The story of Our Lady of Guadalupe is incredibly moving and one to which, I believe, we can all relate.
Proudly, I have been a part of this movement since before I was born. In grade school, I was entered into a letter writing competition on behalf of my grade school because of my pro-life story that I happened to write about in school. We all have a pro-life story that we must share. It is through powerful personal testimonies that we convert, teach, and provide inspiration and support to our fellow comrades. I’d like to share mine with you here.
I am the youngest of seven. Number six in my family was stillborn: the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and suffocated him. Despite my mother’s instinct, the doctor insisted there were no problems and she had just had “a lot” of babies and could not feel the kicking as well. Despite her instincts and insistence with the doctor, she trusted her doctor. As it turned out, she was right and Thomas was stillborn. Early on in her pregnancy with me, she again felt something was wrong. She went to the doctor, who identified cervical cancer. Unfortunately, the doctor’s recommendation, as it is so often in situations such as these, was abortion.
My mom, as one of 12 in her own family and already having given birth to six children herself, replied with an emphatic “no.” The doctor insisted that her life would be severely at risk if she kept the child — me. My mom’s outlook, however, was that this baby was a “gift” because had she not been pregnant, the cancer would have spread and who knows when it would have been identified. When I was born, she chose Matthew as my middle name, which comes from the Greek, meaning “gift.”
We all have stories and we need to share them. In the 2015 Respect Life Statement from Cardinal Sean O’Malley, he wrote: “Absolutely nothing can diminish our God-given dignity, and therefore, nothing can diminish the immeasurable worth of our lives. Others may fail to respect that dignity — may even try to undermine it — but in doing so, they only distance themselves from God’s loving embrace. Human dignity is forever.” I’m humbled and proud not only of my own mother’s respect for the dignity of human life, but to be associated with so many others who so fiercely believe the same. Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!
STEPHEN HENLEY is Legatus’ executive director.