A pregnancy center counselor helped Courtney break the news to her parents that, as a college sophomore, she was pregnant. The baby’s father, whom she barely knew, offered money for an abortion but nothing else. But Courtney knew she was carrying a baby, a little human being with a little beating heart.

Her parents supported her decision to put the baby up for adoption with a loving, two-parent home. Though parting with the healthy son she bore was painful, she never regretted her choice to give him the best start in life.

Carl and Annette instructed the doctor to begin feeding Stanley, Carl’s dad, through a tube even though he had slipped into a “persistent vegetative state.” He wasn’t conscious but his condition was stable. They faced a choice to have Stanley sedated and deprived of food and water. They were told it would free him from his “diminished” life and free themselves too.{{more}}

They continued to visit the nursing home almost daily to ensure he was getting the best care. Stanley died two years later of natural causes. Carl and Annette’s selfless devotion touched the hearts of the home’s staff and inspired other families to follow their example.

Barbara, Jack and their three boys cherished every moment they had with Joy, whom doctors gave little chance of living past age 1 due to a genetic abnormality. In the brief 15 months between her birth and death, the family was transformed. Together they shared the burden of caring for Joy and the sorrow of losing her. She taught them to appreciate each other and to be truly thankful for all the gifts and graces God brings into the life of every person.

The circumstances of dealing with an unexpected child, a parent suffering from impairment or an infant with a disability do not reflect the degree of their humanity. They are sacred persons with inherent dignity deserving of the respect and love accorded to everyone. Because we are created in the image of God, who is love, our identity and vocation is to love. Pope Benedict XVI has called this “the key to our entire existence.”

How we care for people like those above reflects on our own humanity and capacity for love, the model of which is the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. They call us toward a deeper love. Therefore we are as dependent on them as they are on us. The theme for October’s Respect Life Month summarizes this beautifully: The measure of love is to love without measure.

Ponder it. Pray about it. In acts performed out of love for God and neighbor, live in it.