Bishop Noonan reflects on the sacred gift of life

Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Phil 4:6,7

 

My Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

Trust in the Lord.  St. Paul is telling the Philippians what we need to hear.  Trust in God.  This month of October is known as Respect Life Month.  Respect Life Sunday is observed every year on the first Sunday in October and this year’s theme is, “Be Not Afraid.” Just as St. Paul spoke to the Philippians and us, “Have no anxiety at all.” Be not afraid.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end.”   We are in relationship with God our Creator and we learn about the gift of family because of this relationship.

During this Respect Life month, the topic of family is even more significant.  In the family, life is co-created with God, it is nurtured and protected.  If the structure and centrality of family life is diminished, the dignity of the human person becomes obscured and we risk losing our identity as children of God.   As we recently experienced the effects of hurricanes and earthquakes, we also turned our profound attention to this relationship with family.  Through our relationship with God, we sought to keep our family safe, those who live with us and those who live afar.  Our neighbors with whom we may have never spoken, became important as we shared stories, food, labor to bring forth God’s light upon the earth.

Pope Francis said, “In the family, among siblings, human coexistence is learned, how one must live in society. Perhaps we are not always aware of it, but the family itself introduces fraternity into the world!”

In September, I had the honor to be one of the cooks at a barbeque at Morning Star School, a diocesan special education facility.  I helped cook the meal and serve the food to the students, parents, staff, teachers, and others who came to participate.  It was an experience of God’s perfection as His family joined together in this celebration of life.  We saw the gift of each one and the grace our gathering.

You will read in this issue of the Florida Catholic, a story about Caitlin, a resident of Bishop Grady Villas, a place where adults with disabilities are able to thrive and achieve their dreams.  I meet Caitlin each year at the Harvest Ball, an annual celebration of thanksgiving.  I have spoken to her mother.  Caitlin, as the story tells, is a beautiful young lady with plenty of personality and a true heart of compassion.  She lives the joy of the Gospel.  Caitlin is an example to us, as is the community of Bishop Grady Villas and Morning Star School and many others throughout our Diocese, of God’s offering of an encounter with holiness.  We join together in praise and thanksgiving because of the gift of each one.  We cannot be whole without each one of us, on this earth, within our family of God.

St. Paul talks about recognizing the excellence and things worthy of praise in his letter to the Philippians. As members of this family of God, we have responsibility toward each other to find things worthy of praise and to rejoice with each other in them.  We are called to care for each other. When we celebrated Mass on September 30 in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Puerto Rico and other islands who were affected by Hurricane Maria, we brought forth Real Presence from the altar to the people and with prayer and non-perishable items, assisted in bringing them His Peace.  When our children are born to us and have special needs, we bring Christ to each one by offering places of respite, education, and growth and Peace to each family.  We trust in the Lord by sharing His gift with each other.

This month, we honor Mary, the Mother of God, who teaches us about the beauty of family, about the gift of life.  When she was faced with anxiety, she was not afraid and said Yes to God’s call.  Her fiat is our example of God’s extraordinary love for us and how we are to make our requests known to God.

Let us pray that we continue to do what we have learned and received and heard and seen, that the God of peace will be with us.

Bishop Noonan
Diocese of Orlando
October 2017