For many of us, the reality of human dignity anchors our work and belief in this movement. Many of us believe in human dignity because Christ seems to instruct us to respect our fellow humans. But if we really want to be cultivators of a Culture of Life, our foundation must be based on Christ’s Incarnation; not simply what He said, but on what He was.
The Sign Contradicted
One of my favorite titles for Christ comes from the exultation of Simeon at our Lord’s Presentation. In his ecstasy, Simeon tells Mary that her little babe will “be a sign that will be contradicted…so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Lk 2:34-5). Earlier, we read that Our Lady is a thoughtful woman: “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Lk 2:19). Even before the rest of the world saw her awesome little one, Mary knew and reflected on Him while He grew inside of her. She was troubled by Gabriel’s appearance and surely amazed at his proclamation that she would conceive by the Holy Spirit the Son of God (Lk 1:35).
Christ was a sign that contradicted worldly-thinking in His Incarnation as the God-Man, His trial and Passion as Innocent Victim, and most gloriously His Resurrection as Eternal Life. And Mary, the first protector of the fullness of human dignity, was amazed, cried, nurtured, and served her baby, a sign to be contradicted. Thus, she is our model for cultivating a true Culture of Life. Mary, as our movements model, did all she did to cultivate a Culture of Life without politics or ecclesial office, but with charity-filled service and presence.
Reflecting The Face of Christ in Pro-Life Work
If Mary’s charity-filled presence is the model of fostering a Culture of Life, then I can think of few greater examples of this charism than Alexandra’s House. Nestled in a neighborhood of Kansas City, MO, Pattie Lewis and her team run one of the world’s only perinatal hospice. In non-specialized terms, Alexandra’s House is a hospice for babies who are believed to die before, during, or shortly after birth. Patti was called by God to this mission after her own niece, Alexandra, died 45 days after she was born because of a fatal genetic condition. Patti realized there was no support for these grieving families.
In addition to the emotional toll of losing someone, these families usually feel helpless and alone. It is not easy to have excited people ask when you are due only to have to tell them your child will not live long or to choke back tears and quickly move on to another subject. And our world often thinks of these little babies who will not survive long as problems to be fixed. Seeing her family undergo this experience and feeling God’s tug on her heart revealed to Patti the need to create a place for parents and families to be supported and loved. Alexandra’s House acts as a resource of continual support for these families. The charity’s website has numerous testimonies from parents and family members describing their experience of losing a child and Alexandra’s House’s support.
I first visited the house as the leader of my high school’s pro-life group. I had found the charity online and immediately wanted to do something to help. One day, I, another member of the group, and my mother traveled to the house to help with yard work. Afterwards, Patti invited us into the house to talk. Immediately upon entering the door, the house felt charged with love. Even though it was a place for people who were going through terrible challenges, my friend exclaimed that the house felt like the happiest place on earth.
Patti offered to show us around the house which acts as a meeting place and as temporary place to stay while families visit the hospital. Hanging on the walls of the stairwell that lead to the living quarters and house chapel were dozens of photos of babies that the house had helped by cherishing, loving, and respecting them. To the world and the human eye, these photos showed contradictions: tiny lives cut too short. Yet for Patti and for God, these photos showed a sign of God’s love that could not be contradicted by human ignorance or short-sightedness. These were little babes, full of Christ-revealed dignity.
Patti does not actively campaign in the pro-life movement; she does not believe God has called her to that witness. The website for Alexandra’s House states that the organization has been “Building of Culture of Love since 1997”. Showing love to families and their little ones has been Alexandra’s House’s vocation. As a movement trying to build a Culture of Life, we obviously must discuss political action and ecclesial messaging. However, Alexandra’s House points to the real Culture of Life being intertwined with a Culture of Love. Christ is both “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6) and “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). Modeled by Mary’s loving nurturing of Love Incarnate and reflected in our time in Patti’s love for the little babies and their families, Love is the cornerstone of a culture built to foster Life.
To serve a Culture of Life is to follow Christ. Without discipleship, whatever our good intentions, clever political maneuvers, or ecclesial documents say or do, our message will be nothing more than “resounding gongs or clashing cymbals” (1 Cor 13:3). Yet, with God’s grace, Spirit, and example, we can set out to build a Culture of Life in a society that so wishes to contradict and destroy it because “nothing will be impossible for God” (Lk 1:37).