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construction and parking garage

Elementary Schools Information Guide

'I see you in me.
I hope you see
me in you.'

teacher was nurtured
in Oakland schools

Bishop tells eighth graders to be leaders to younger pupils

Gift aids
St. Elizabeth

success at
St. Raymond Parish

'Good Pirates
of the Sea' at
St. Paul School

Comfort for those
in need

A visit from
an astronaut

Voyage to the Stars

'Parts' of photosynthesis

High schools make room for transfers
from St. Elizabeth


US Catholic China Bureau honors Bishops Cummins, Wang

In Cartagena,
bishop to meet
pilgrims led by
Fathers Matthews, Solis

Respect for Life

Josh Burger:
'What I do with my
life is my gift to Him'

Bishop supports
40 Days for Life

The Culture of Life begins in our hearts and our hands

Pro-life groups
gear up for
January events

Sacred Heart Parish celebrates blessings
of domestic animals

Blue Mass set
for Oct. 14

An Rx for the health care providers: Mass
of Thanksgiving
Oct. 29

Year of Mercy Calendar

Riding for a
good cause

placeholder October 10, 2016   •   VOL. 54, NO. 17   •   Oakland, CA
Respect for Life

The Culture of Life begins in our hearts and our hands

Sister Constance Veit, LSP

Each October we observe Respect Life Month in dioceses throughout the United States. Although ending abortion remains a priority of the utmost importance, threats to the disabled and those at the end of life deserve our attention as well. The legalization of medically assisted suicide in Canada in June should serve as a wake-up call compelling us to reach out in solidarity to our most vulnerable brothers and sisters.

Like abortion, the operative words in the campaign for physician assisted suicide are "personal choice," "autonomy" and "control." Compassion and Choices, the leading pro-assisted suicide organization in our country, cites a 2015 Gallup survey claiming that 7 in 10 Americans believe that doctors should be able to help terminally ill individuals end their lives "on their own terms … by some painless means." The organization's website talks about ensuring that "you get what you want — and avoid enduring anything you don't" in relation to end-of-life care.

These sentiments strike me as particularly sad. I believe that they are based on two troubling attitudes in society: a loss of the sense of God — which leads to the mistaken idea that we are the masters of our own lives — and a corrupt idea of compassion. Our culture has taken this beautiful word — compassion — and turned it upside down. Compassion literally means "to suffer with." Compassion happens when you are confronted with another's suffering and feel motivated to relieve it. It is not pity; nor does it entail ending suffering by eliminating the person who suffers.

In a speech to Latin American Medical Associations this past summer, Pope Francis discussed the profound meaning of this virtue. "True compassion is undertaking to bear the burden … This would mean the triumph over selfishness, of that 'throw-away culture' which rejects and scorns people who do not fulfill certain criteria of health, beauty and usefulness … Compassion, this suffering-with, is the appropriate response to the immense value of the sick person, a response made out of respect, understanding and tenderness, because the sacred value of the life of the sick does not disappear nor is it ever darkened, but rather it shines brighter precisely in their suffering and vulnerability."

He continued, "Fragility, pain and illness are a difficult trial for everyone, even for the medical staff, they are an appeal for patience, for suffering-with; therefore we cannot give in to the functionalist temptation to apply quick and drastic solutions, stirred by false compassion or by simple criteria of efficiency and economic saving. The dignity of human life is at stake; the dignity of the medical vocation is at stake."

Pope Francis summed up his message to health professionals by quoting the counsel of St. Camillus de Lellis, the patron of nurses and the sick: "Put more heart in those hands!" This is excellent advice for all of us. If we wish to see a society that appreciates the inviolable dignity of human life and knows how to practice true compassion, we could have no better prayer than to ask God to "put more heart in our hands."

With more heart in our hands, may we reach out to offer practical help to women in difficult pregnancies and young families in need. May we show mercy by feeding the hungry and helping the homeless to find dignified housing. With real compassion, may we offer words of encouragement to the doubtful, speak the truth in a loving way to the ignorant and offer a shoulder to cry on to someone grieving the loss of a loved one.

With more heart in our hands, may we bring a home-cooked meal to a shut-in, take a long walk with a grandfather suffering from Alzheimer's or offer an elderly neighbor a ride to church.

Finally, with more heart in our hands, may we have the compassion and courage to stand with a dying loved one to the very end, embracing them in a way that lets them know they are still worthy of our attention and care, and that they are awaited by a God who loves them even more than they can imagine.

This October may we realize that after all is said and done, the Culture of Life begins in our hearts and our hands!

(Sister Constance Veit is director of communications for the Little Sisters of the Poor.)

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