A few years ago, I was in the car with my then 7-year-old son listening to Catholic radio. The topic was abortion and I found myself with a perfect opportunity to talk to my son as he asked what abortion was. Because I was unprepared for the conversation, I fumbled a bit. I remember talking about babies being hurt when they are in their moms’ tummies and trying to carefully select my words. I looked back in my rear view mirror to see his eyes well up with tears as he asked, “You mean like hurting baby Abi?” Abigail was his new baby sister and he immediately thought of her as we talked. It was a sad moment in which I felt his childhood had been jarred by the harsh reality of the culture of death. I wondered, why doesn’t everyone have that same reaction when it comes to abortion? We as a culture are so desensitized after nearly 40 years of legalized abortion that nary a tear is shed 54 million lives later.
Fast forward to a month ago, and my now 9-year-old and 7-year-old were asking specific questions about abortion and they were hungry for answers. I realized that we have to seize every opportunity to talk to our children about these matters of great importance.
In both instances, I was left with questions. Why were my kids asking about this topic? Was I prepared to answer their questions?
I came to the conclusion that they wanted answers because abortion was something we had always talked about as a family. Issues of life and what the Catholic Church teaches were discussed right alongside learning how to spell their name and write their address.
As parents, we are our children’s first and most important teachers. Building a culture of life begins with an education that all life has dignity and is a gift from God. We cannot expect to change our culture if we don’t first instill those values within our own family.
Do you know the teachings of the Church in regard to life issues? Have you read the Catechism of the Catholic Church or the encyclical, Humanae Vitae? Can you name and explain the Seven Themes of Catholic Social Teaching? Do you not only know these teachings, but also why they are significant and relevant to your life and the lives of your children?
We as parents must be prepared. My first attempt to explain things to my son was pretty weak. I needed to do better. Prepare yourself to answer your children’s questions. These discussions must happen continually throughout their lives, with age-appropriate details added along the way. And it isn’t just abortion, but all life issues, including embryonic stem cell research, assisted suicide, capital punishment, euthanasia, infanticide, and contraception.
How can my family and I build a culture of life? Start with yourself! Be a prayerful, educated parent always willing to discuss the difficult topics even when you feel unprepared. However, it must be more than talk. “Be doers of the word and not just hearers only,” says James 1:22. In other words, practice what you preach and show your children the value of every life from conception to natural death and they will imitate and apply that value in their own lives. We will build a culture of life one prayer at a time, one conversation at a time.
(Maggie DeWitte, Executive Director of Iowans for LIFE, Des Moines)