EDITORIAL | Blessed Mother’s example helps us to remember those affected by evils in society

May is Mary's month, a time when Catholics devote extra attention to the Blessed Mother. Rosaries, novenas, Masses and May crowning ceremonies are all part of the repertoire of celebrations.

Among her many titles, the Blessed Mother is well known as the Queen of Peace. In her apparitions to the children of Fatima in 1917, she implored them to pray the Rosary every day in her honor, "to obtain the peace of the world and the end of the war."

More than 100 years later, we continue to invoke her name when praying for peace in this world. Pope Francis, in a recent visit to Rome's Shrine of Our Lady of Divine Love, prayed the Rosary for peace, especially in war-torn Syria, and for strengthened peace following a meeting of North and South Korean leaders. The Holy Father invited pilgrims to continue their prayers throughout the month of May.

In a culture immersed with evil, the message of "thoughts and prayers" seems worn out. But we cannot lose sight that there is power in prayer. Not only does it facilitate a deeper relationship with our Lord, but it also gives us a chance to calm our thinking in difficult moments.

Our prayer also unites us with those who are suffering. It's a way for us to show how even thousands of miles away, we take seriously the cross that others are bearing during times of war or other tragedies. In that sense, our prayers build up a global spiritual community.

Pope Francis has called Mary the "best of mothers," who keeps a candle of hope burning in the darkness.

The Blessed Mother, he said, is an example of someone who "is not a woman who gets depressed when faced with life's uncertainties, especially when nothing seems to be going right." In her biggest moment of darkness, when her Son died on the cross, Mary remained standing, and didn't run away.

We come to her as a consoling mother, entrusting our anxiousness and sorrows, and as Pope Francis said, to ask for "a future of serenity and harmony."

Regina Coeli

Queen of Heaven, rejoice. Alleluia.

For He, whom thou wast worthy to bear. Alleluia.

Has risen as He said. Alleluia.

Pray for us to God. Alleluia.

V. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary. Alleluia.

R. Because the Lord is truly risen, Alleluia.

Let us pray

O God, Who by the Resurrection of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, hast been pleased to give joy to the whole world, grant we beseech Thee, that through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, His Mother, we may attain the joys of eternal life. Through the same Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Dignity of family

Having a small child face an illness that doctors declare to be untreatable and ultimately fatal is nightmare enough for any parent. But the recent high-profile case of Alfie Evans is a reminder of the human capacity to create further harm in the name of providing care.

On April 18, Pope Francis received Tom Evans, the father of a seriously ill British toddler, who was in Italy in an effort to prevent doctors in the U.K. from withdrawing life-support from his son. Doctors had been unable to make a diagnosis of the 23-month-old's degenerative neurological condition, but called keeping him on life-support "futile."

A high-court judge backed a lower court's ruling that the hospital could withdraw life-support against the family's wishes. On April 23, in a last-minute effort to prevent withdrawal, the Italian foreign ministry granted citizenship to Alfie. Alfie died April 28.

This case is not at its core a debate about euthanasia or ordinary versus extraordinary means of preserving life. It is about the fundamental right of families: that as the most basic cell of society, they be treated with the utmost dignity and respect by society and, in this case, by the state. It is about the fundamental right of parents: that they must be able to select responsibly, yet unilaterally, the manner of care and treatment of their own children. Doctors advise, yes, but parents decide. And government remembers its place.

The Church has long affirmed — and Pope Francis often has repeated — that systems need to have human beings at their center and be at the service of the human person, not the other way around. Applying this principle to the realm of health care, this means that convenience and profit should not be put ahead of caring for people, nor, as in the case of Alfie Evans, should authorities be allowed to rob parents of their right to make the life-or-death decisions guiding their child's care. This also runs afoul of another Catholic social principle, subsidiarity: Decisions should be made at the lowest possible but highest necessary level.

This case has struck a nerve. But this isn't the first time this has come up. Not even a year ago, the case of another British child, Charlie Gard, garnered international media attention as his parents fought with authorities for the right to make these decisions. This is not what putting people at the center looks like.

Catholic author and apologist Scott Hahn notes that we run into problems whenever a society falls into individualism (prioritizing the good of the one) or collectivism (prioritizing the good of the many) because such a society loses sight of the truth that it's really the family, as society's basic and most important unit, that should be prioritized. Just as an individualist view ends up championing the destructive choices of abortion and physician-assisted suicide, the collectivist approach works against the dignity of family.

This is what the case of poor Alfie Evans comes down to. And it's tragic that, in the midst of it all, a small child must bear the burden of a society that has lost its moral grounding, especially concerning God's teaching on human dignity.

This editorial was originally published in Our Sunday Visitor. 

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