I caught myself out day-dreaming recently. I was, in fact, taking a stroll through the open grounds of Arbour Hill, amid the graves of those patriots who gave their lives for Ireland. I asked myself: “What was their dream for Ireland?” And then: “What is my dream for Ireland?”
I answered in my own mind as I thought of our dead heroes. I seemed to hear their voices of approval for the many improvements we have made. But I imagined I heard a note of disappointment, coming from the mouth of Patrick Pearse. “Why did you change the wording of our Proclamation? It says that all the children of our nation are to be cherished equally but you have added: ‘except the unborn’.”
Of course daydreams are daydreams. But a dream can also be an ideal, a vision, a spur to action, such as what Martin Luther King and our own patriots had. Who does not remember King’s address, “I have a dream?” My dream is to help in building a culture of life in our land. There is indeed a good culture of life already among our people but there are militant groups who are trying to change this and we can no longer take our heritage for granted.
A culture of life seeks to live in gratitude for the gift of life God has given us. The length of that life on this earth e.g. 2 days or a full life is secondary: it may be in God’s hands. To interfere in God’s sphere is gravely offensive to Him. It is an insult to His goodness and love. St. Paul says that eternal life is not for such. A culture of life is built gradually by example, religious teaching and mutual help or charity. It will fail if it is not God-centred. “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain who build it” (Psalms).
The opposite of a culture of life might be called a culture of death. This is when life is directly targeted for any reason whatever, not forgetting the equal right to life of the mother. Examples are abortion and euthanasia, which are intrinsically evil. Culture of death is a contradiction in terms because, of its very nature, culture is life-affirming (it comes from the Latin word for “to cultivate”).
One of the strategies employed by such negative culture is to highlight difficult situations. Hard cases, it is said, make bad law. Why? Because emotion and exaggerated empathy trump reason and faith. This was illustrated in the so-called marriage equality referendum when many Irish people voted with their hearts rather than their heads. Another referendum is made to seem more urgent than solving crises of housing and health.
Our young people have special need of help in building this culture of life. Their peers may try to influence them: “Grow up! We are not living in the dark ages. We have modern ideas.” Catechists and teachers of religion should help the young to find answers, and why not parents?
Church and State can co-operate peacefully in this enterprise: it seems at times that there is a situation of rivalry between the two. Where are partnerships and dialogue? Where are good manners and, indeed, regard for God’s law? Marriage is the source of new life. Could the State not make support of marriage a priority? Does the State fund sufficiently marriage preparation courses?
“I have a dream” that our people and political leaders come to see ever more clearly the value of our Constitution and its recognition of fundamental human rights, especially the 8th Amendment’s protection of the weakest and most vulnerable, the unborn. May our legislation have the courage and perseverance to oppose unjust laws including section 9 of the Abortion Act, and work for their repeal. May they defend with conviction the 8th Amendment. Everyone knows that what a mother in distress needs most of all is financial and moral support.
A culture of life cannot exist without a culture of prayer. “Your Father knows that you need all these things…ask and you will receive.” We are weak human beings but if we attach ourselves to some church group, and if we read the gospels prayerfully, we shall certainly receive the help we need.
Bing Crosby has it in one of his songs: “Oh, it’s not as crazy as you think. I’ll buy that dream!”
Guest blogger – John Dooley SJ
John Dooley SJ has taught in Jesuit school in Milan for 13 years before moving to Zambia where he spent a further 23 years as a teacher.