PROVIDENCE — With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to have an impact on the regular schedule and format of gatherings, including Church celebrations, the opening of Respect Life Month in the Diocese of Providence was likewise celebrated differently than it had been before.
In years past, the diocesan Office of Life and Family opened Respect Life Month in October with a daylong event, which usually began with a Mass celebrated by the bishop, followed by a parish hall lineup of pro-life speakers and the bestowing of awards for those who take action in support of life.
This year, for health and safety reasons, the 16th annual Human Life Guild Mass, celebrated by Bishop Thomas J. Tobin at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul on Friday, Oct. 2 at 12:05 p.m., the Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels, was the sole diocesan event marking the opening of Respect Life Month.
Following the Mass, and lasting until 3 p.m., the faithful who gathered were invited to remain for the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
In his homily, Bishop Tobin spoke of the two different, but related celebrations being commemorated in the holy Mass that day.
The bishop spoke of how Christians believe that God assigns Guardian Angels — angels from Heaven — to look after each and every one of us as we continue our journey on earth, noting that their existence cannot be disputed as they are mentioned in the Bible 273 times.
“Our Guardian Angels provide companionship and safety for us, protecting us from all harm, a task of special urgency in these perilous times,” Bishop Tobin said.
He also spoke of the importance of coming together to pray for and renewing our commitment to the respect for human life, noting that respect for life and human dignity continues to be the great moral challenge of our time.
“We know that respecting life has many social and political implications that are very much on our minds these days, but most of all, our respect for the protection of human life is an expression of our faith. It’s very deeply rooted in our Christian faith and our faith in God,” he said.
“If we believe in God, we must respect life, because indeed we are all created in his image and likeness. We protect and promote human life because of the one who created it. If we offend life, if we destroy life, then indeed we offend God himself, and that’s certainly a very serious offence to be sure.”
This year marks the 25th anniversary of St. Pope John Paul II’s encyclical “Evangelium Vitae,” in which the late pontiff outlines many challenges and offences to human life, including such universal problems as poverty, hunger, disease and violence, along with war, the deportation of refugees, slavery and human trafficking.
“All of these things the pope deals with in his encyclical are the Gospel of Life, but at the same time there’s no question at all that respect for human life begins with the unborn child. That’s the foundation, that’s the hinge, that’s where it all begins,” Bishop Tobin said.
Lisa Cooley, the coordinator of the diocesan Office of Life and Family, said that although the traditional celebration and programming to mark the start of Respect Life Month was preempted by the pandemic, current events make this a very important year to gather and pray for life.
“The U.S. bishops have reaffirmed that the threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed,” Cooley said, reiterating the U.S. bishops’ message.
“While they did warn us not to dismiss or ignore other serious threats to human life and dignity such as racism, the environmental crisis, poverty and the death penalty, they did give priority to upholding and defending our brothers’ and sisters’ most basic right — to live.”