This homily was delivered by Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Spokane, Wash., on January 21. Thanks to Bishop Cupich for sharing it with us:

Our gathering this noon coincides with two national feasts, the inauguration of our president and the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. Both events put us in touch with rich resources to better appreciate our heritage as Americans, a citizenship we proudly own. For our nation, this is a moment of new beginning and a celebration of the constitutional legacy our ancestors have passed on to us. It is also a day that calls for national unity, so eloquently expressed by the poet Richard Blanco in the poem he created for today’s inauguration.

Blanco forces us to take another look at our unity through the image of the one sun that rose today ‘peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies….the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day: equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,” and in Newtown “on the empty desks of twenty children marked absent today, and forever.”

We are here today to complete Blanco’s poem, for there are children who will not see the light of day as the one sun rises, who will not breathe the same breath we breathe, whose hands won’t be permitted to join the hands “gleaning coal or planting windmills in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands as worn as my father's cutting sugarcane,” as Blanco so profoundly wrote.

We are here today to add to Blanco’s poem, and, in doing so, as the late Archbishop John May, a former president of our Bishops’ Conference once put it, “all we are saying is don’t forget about the baby.” We are here on behalf of the babies in the womb, inspired not by partisanship or pursuit of privilege or power, but by the same passion of patriotism that united a nation to mourn the loss of those babies in Newtown.

We are here because we see how much both tragedies have in common: both reveal the impact of social and emotional isolation when left untreated; both involve a resort to violence in dealing with it; both result in the debasement of human dignity, not only of those whose lives are taken, but of society; and in both there is the lingering threat to innocent and vulnerable life if no solution is forthcoming.

The Gospel today gives us the image of the futility of trying to patch a torn old cloak with new unshrunken cloth, for “the fullness of the new eventually will pull away.” That is an apt image for what we want to say to our fellow citizens on this day, a day that offers so much promise. The tear in the fabric of our nation wrought by no defense of the children of the future cannot be fixed with a patchwork of defending only those fortunate to see the light of day, permitted to take that first breath or enjoy the work of their own hands. No, we are saying that we need a new cloak that covers all.

We should not be disheartened or bitter if many of our fellow citizens do not heed us at this moment, nor should we pull back on our efforts to join hands with others to improve the lot of suffering people in need just because they don’t fully agree with us on everything. The truth will win out and we have to believe that a nation whose collective heart can break and grieve for babies slaughtered in Newtown has the capacity and God’s grace to one day grieve for the babies killed in the womb.

All of this suggests that the voice of the prophetic poet will benefit our cause more than the language of the politician or lawyer, the philosopher or even the theologian. It is a voice, as the late Rabbi Abraham Heschel reminded us, that “God has lent to the silent agony," a voice addressed both to the "plundered poor and to the profane riches of the world," a voice that reminds us that while "few may be guilty, all are responsible.”

So let us pray this day that the Lord will steady our hearts and anoint our lips to raise our voices in a way that invites, not divides, in a way that inspires and challenges our neighbors and nation’s leaders not to settle for a patchwork cloak. Not only will it not cover all, but it will continue to tear away, threatening the whole fabric of the nation. Let us add to Blanco’s poem calling for national unity, and remember as we do so that "all we are saying is don’t forget about the baby.”

Comments

Mister Heche | 1/30/2013 - 7:47pm

If you are interested in reading an inspiring and captivating book about the pro-life movement, I highly recommend the memoir "Abandoned" by pro-life leader Monica Migliorino Miller.

I recently finished the book, which is an autobiographical account of her years on the front-lines of the pro-life movement, and I found it to be a life-changing read.

More details about the book can be found here:

http://allhands-ondeck.blogspot.com/2013/01/this-morning-i-finished-read...

PAUL NIENABER | 1/29/2013 - 9:11am

Yes, it's about the baby. Yes, it's about the mother. These deserve our serious and immediate attention. But let's remember to turn the magnifying glass on the third component -- don't forget about the father. Setting aside the statistical minorities of contraceptive failure, etc., can we have an intelligent discussion about the contribution of laissez-faire male sexuality to a society that can perceive abortion as a quick fix? Sex may indeed be the most fun you can have without laughing, but souls are bared, not just bodies, and, as they say, procreation happens. Yes, there are thorny philosophical, economic, cultural paths to navigate here. No, I don't want a return to prudery. No, not some pseudo-Augustinian "sex is sin" mentality. But isn't it just possible that disconnecting brains (and worse, perceived consequences) from boudoir gymnastics has contributed to a "culture of social and emotional isolation?"

Edward Burton | 1/24/2013 - 2:03pm

As other comments noted passim, there is a core problem in American society which is too often ignored. The other comments spoke of the threat to existing families posed by a mother's pregnancy, and generally alluded to a financial motive for abortion.

The core problem I allude to is the byproduct of Reaganomics and political chatter about 'welfare babies' and 'welfare queens.' American society, politically speaking, seem to care a whole lot about pregnancies, but could care less about the wellbeing of mother and child once birth has come to pass. Some sum this up as "Life does not end at birth!"

When a pregnancy is not an economic disaster, and not an educational disaster, because free prenatal, natal, and postnatal care is available to mother and child prn, and child care and preschool education, of high quality, is available to every family, everywhere, all the time, then abortion would likely become so rare that social pressure would deal with most of the rest. We might also best address minimum wage, which today is worth less, I'd wager, than that of sixty years ago.

By the way, doing this would also help Social Security and Medicare funding in about 18 years!

G Miller | 1/23/2013 - 9:54pm

There are so many presuppositions in this debate and the Church's stance against abortion. It pre-supposes it is about "getting rid of" the fetus as if any woman with maternal instincts would think that way. It forgets that some people have abortions for medical reasons and for economic reasons. You might say that nothing stops an abortion like a good paying job. In this time of decreased opportunity and ground lost economically, it would be nice to see the Bishops be as vigorous in fighting for the middle class as they are at avoiding talking about priestly pedophilia, making abortion illegal, and "defending society against" gay marriage. Maybe more people would be in the pews if they thought the Bishops actually cared about their lot in life more than they care about the position of the Church in society.

Molly Roach | 1/23/2013 - 12:21pm

One very important way to remember the baby is to remember the mother---these two are a unity. When the mother is supported both before and after birth, this is the context in which reverence for human life is facilitated. When the mother is isolated or abandoned, when she is not listened to and respected, this is the context of huge vulnerability in which pregnancy may come to be regarded as a problem to be solved.

Marie Rehbein | 1/22/2013 - 12:29pm

If it were the case that we were actually debating protecting the baby in the womb, there would be little controversy. We are, however, debating whether the raw materials that can grow into a baby are or are not worth more than the emotional and financial well-being of the mother and her other children. We are supposed to praise the woman who dies so that her unborn child can be born, even though she leaves that child, and possibly others, motherless as if her work as a mother was much less significant than her reproductive function. People who tolerate abortion have a different perspective on how life is to be kept sacred than do those who think with the Church on this matter. For them it is not theoretical.