The Spanish word for “smile,” sonrisa, sounds like a good if not literal description of the word: every smile is like a “sunrise.” Nothing says newness and openness to joy like the light of dawn or a child’s smile.

It’s no wonder that the theme of this year’s Respect Life Month in the Church uses the words of Pope Benedict XVI. “Every child,” the Pope said in a homily in 2007, “brings us God’s smile and invites us to recognize that life is His gift, a gift to be welcomed with love and preserved with care always and at every moment.”

Into the Pope’s sentence one could substitute a person at every stage of life.

Every young person trying to put his or her Catholic faith into practice brings us God’s smile.

Every adult who affirms life and love each day by the heeding their well-formed conscience brings us God’s smile.

Every elderly person who is alone or living with the diminished energy of old age yet who still volunteers to help people in need brings us God’s smile.

Every person at the end of life who becomes united with the passion of Jesus on the cross by accepting suffering and offering it for the intentions of all people in the world brings us God’s smile.

That smile reminds us of God’s presence, which we experience intimately in prayer. A good way to start the month is through sacred worship at the Respect Life Mass that Cardinal Rigali will celebrate at 11 a.m. Oct. 4 at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia.

The Catholic bishops of the United States have developed an excellent resource kit for Respect Life Month, available at

It helps keep us rooted in prayer and reflection with educational documents and a liturgy guide that, while intended mainly for public celebrations of the liturgy, also serves as a fine aid for personal spiritual devotion.

All year long, pro-life advocates work to ensure laws and government regulations reflect a culture that protects its most vulnerable and innocent members from attack. Given the spanersity of what many people consider to be values, the job is likely to continue for a long time.

But as St. Paul writes, love never fails. God offers His love for people who do not agree with the truth of human life as well as for those who do.

It is the hope of the Church that one day all people – the unborn and the old, the disabled and the sick, the weak and the strong – will love and respect each other for what they truly are: inviolable gifts of the loving Father.