Monday, January 30, 2017

Remembering the Holy Innocents of Today

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This column originally ran in the Catholic Standard on Thursday, January 26, 2017.  

By: Msgr. John Enzler, President and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington

Just a few weeks ago, we celebrated the birth of a baby in Bethlehem who came into our world to bring all of us the gift of salvation. Three days later, we heard of other babies in the Scriptures on the Feast of the Holy Innocents. King Herod, who was worried about someone taking his power, ordered all baby boys in Bethlehem killed when he heard from the Magi about a newborn king. This feast can be overlooked amid the joy of Christmas, but it remains heartbreaking to think that a jealous and vengeful person would choose to ruin the lives of so many families by ordering the littlest and most vulnerable be put to a violent death.

I think about the Holy Innocents again here at the end of January as tens of thousands of people gather in our city to March for Life. The fact that we need to march for life reminds us that violence against babies continues more than 2,000 years later. The children killed in the womb – some 60 million since abortion was made legal 44 years ago – are our Holy Innocents. How sad that the most innocent and vulnerable are still so easily discarded.

Father John with our Sanctuaries for Life team before the
March for Life on Friday, January 27, 2017.
Several years ago at this same time of the year, I wrestled with whether to talk about abortion in a Sunday homily. I had fellow priests advising me to avoid the issue, that it was just too difficult and divisive. I saw their point, but after prayer and consideration, I felt it was something I needed to do.
I felt it was important to stress two points: First, let’s just acknowledge up front that it is wrong to take the life of another human being, perhaps especially a child in the womb who cannot speak for himself or herself. At the same time, let us also remember that many people have had abortions, oftentimes amid extremely difficult circumstances that may be beyond our understanding. They need to know that they are loved, that God’s forgiveness awaits them, and that they are still a part of God’s family. 

Respecting life is certainly about the child in the womb, but it’s also about treating with dignity and respect those who come to us for help – even and especially those who disagree with us.
We need to stay strong in our defense of life, and it is incumbent upon us to provide help and viable options to those considering abortion. They need someplace where they will be loved, respected and assisted. 

That’s one reason I am so proud of our Sanctuaries for Life program at Catholic Charities. A few years back, Cardinal Wuerl and the archdiocese made a commitment to provide care and help to women who make a life affirming decision to bring a baby into the world after facing an unintended pregnancy and who are lacking the financial resources or insurance to bring their baby into the world. We will find a way to make it happen. Thankfully, most people do have insurance, but many do not, and our Sanctuaries for Life program is what its name says – a sanctuary to help these moms, oftentimes single moms, choose life.

I am also proud of the long history of adoption services provided by Catholic Charities and St. Ann’s Center for Children, Youth and Families. I receive probably at least one letter a month from someone adopted through one of those programs. They tell me with gratitude about how Catholic Charities or St. Ann’s brought them into the world and found them a good home. Now as adults, many are trying to find ways to give back to those in need.


I’ve heard it said that every new baby is a sign that God’s love for the world continues, that God still believes in us even with all of the troubles in the world. Let us use this time around the March for Life and the anniversary of Roe v. Wade to open our hearts to mothers and fathers who struggle with past abortions. Let us also pray for, remember and help the Holy Innocents in today’s world – children deprived of a voice, deprived of the protection of the law, and deprived of life itself. May we follow Mary’s example and ponder in our hearts how we can protect God’s gift of life. 

Feeling inspired? Donate today to our Sanctuaries for Life program. Help us help the next mother who comes to us for support.