By Lou Baldwin

Special to The CS&T

PHILADELPHIA – Sunday, Oct. 5, was Respect Life Sunday, and in his Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, Cardinal Justin Rigali preached on the many facets of pro-life issue.

“The bright-eyed smile of a newborn child and the pain-filled face of someone who is dying equally reflect the sacred dignity of the human person,” he said in his homily. “The homeless, prisoners, the aged and the disabled all bear the image of Christ suffering and glorified.

“We need to see that behind every human face there is a unique part of God’s plan of love. It is in the plan of love that all of life finds its sacredness and in this sacredness that life becomes inviolable from the very moment of conception until natural death.”

Abortion, poverty, disease and violence, he said, “continually threaten human life throughout our land,” and “whatever is contrary to the law of God and of nature, even if it is declared legal, will always be immoral.”

The Mass’s congregation, drawn from student pro-life groups, regular Cathedral congregants and visitors, heartily agreed with the Cardinal’s message.

“I’m Catholic for 58 years and of course I’m pro-life, it’s ingrained in my soul,” said Charlie Jones, a Cathedral parishioner. “If I came to church or not this is the way I would feel.”

“Life is so important, it is an expression of our Creator, and it’s from the Lord. The Cardinal expressed this so well,” commented Gloria Duca, who traveled from Holy Spirit Parish in South Philadelphia to attend Mass at the Cathedral.

I thought it (the homily) was so good,” commented Sister of Mercy Mimi Connor, who accompanied a group of students from Mercy Vocational School to the Mass. “I just wish we would talk more about violence. That is something we have to get rid of.”

Gina Thomas, a member of the Cathedral Choir, couldn’t agree more. “We face so much violence here in our communities, just having that message is so important,” she said. “The violence we see against our police officers, the violence we see against our neighbors in our community is so vexing. The Cardinal’s message was an important one to take home.”

“It’s very appropriate in this day and age with all of the killings and all of the babies destroyed,” said Helena Kontorowitz, visiting from St. Hedwig Parish in Trenton, N.J. “We are so privileged to be here.”

Rachel Sweeney, a junior at Bishop McDevitt High School in Wyncote, was at the Mass with the school’s pro-life group that attends the annual March for Life in Washington.

“I’m totally against abortion, and I’m interested in getting people aware of the issue,” she said. “We are going to go to prayer vigils at abortion clinics.”

“Pro-life is the most important issue of today,” said Rose Grassa, a counselor and pro-life group moderator at Gwynedd Mercy Academy. “It is becoming one of the most important issues to our youth.”

Cindy Soto of St. Nicholas of Tolentine Parish in South Philadelphia said all God’s gifts must be protected, and “respecting life is what everyone should do. We wouldn’t be in the position we are today if everyone did that.”

“Cardinal Rigali is a great leader and I thought his homily was excellent,” said Joe Griffies of St. Timothy Parish in Philadelphia.

“There is too much violence in the streets and we have to turn it around, I guess with prayer and common sense. I’m a Vietnam veteran and it seems we have as much violence in the streets of Philadelphia as we had in Vietnam,” Griffies said.

“The Cardinal said a lot of things that needed to be said and perhaps more people should have been down to hear what he said,” observed Bill Verna of Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Secane. “I’m sure the word will get around.”

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.