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See all issues of life with new clarity

They form a seamless garment

I was ten years old and a fifth grader when I first began to notice that I was having difficulty reading the blackboard at school. At first, I didn’t pay much attention to the fact that my vision wasn’t as clear as it should be. As the school year wore on, though, my grades began to slip. Finally, one afternoon, while having a snack after school, I asked my mom why it was that I could see more clearly through one eye than the other. I got my first pair of glasses a few weeks later and have worn glasses ever since.

On the ride home from the ophthalmologist’s office, I noticed something rather strange. As I looked out on the world, I could see that trees had individual leaves on their branches – they weren’t just amorphous bunches of green. I was able to see the world in greater detail than ever before and my school work steadily improved. I could see things in the distance that I had previously been unable to distinguish. With the assistance of new lenses, I was able to see the world as never before.

The commandments function as kinds of “lenses” for us. Each of them permits us to see the world, our relationship with God and our relationships with one another with a new kind of clarity. The Fifth Commandment, “You shall not kill,” enjoins upon us a respect for all life, most especially human life from the moment of conception until the time of natural death. The commandment does not simply mean that murder is forbidden, but rather encourages us to examine more deeply all that we do that either deprives or supports the gift of life. The Fifth Commandment links together a host of issues – from abortion to euthanasia, capital punishment to the Just War theory, and many more. It weaves them together into a “seamless garment” that seeks to cherish life from many perspectives. As the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin wrote, the Fifth Commandment challenges us to form a consistent ethic of life.

The sin of abortion has taken a massive toll – not only on the millions of unborn children who never lived to see the light of day, but also on the lives of the mothers and fathers who made a dreadful decision to end the life of a child. The guilt and sorrow that come from abortion can be a terrible burden. Project Rachel seeks to assist post-abortive mothers and fathers through the process of healing and reconciliation. Project Rachel offers hope for the future.

Our state of Michigan was known, for a while, as the home of Dr. Death – Jack Kevorkian. Kevorkian’s misguided efforts to relieve pain and suffering caused the beginnings of revolutionary response to caring for the terminally ill. Mother Teresa House, a beautiful home located in downtown Lansing, is a wonderful example of what can happen when trained professionals and volunteers band together in faith to bring dignity, comfort and true freedom from pain and suffering to the last days of the terminally ill.

Chelsea’s St. Louis Center seeks to serve the mentally impaired and their families by teaching the center’s residents how to live more independently, allowing many to eventually return to their families or to the community. Society often seeks to sweep the mentally impaired under the rug in order to keep them from view. The talented staff of St. Louis Center instead seeks to help them take their rightful and dignified place in the world.

The Fifth Commandment gives new ways to see the wondrous gift of life that God shares with us. It also challenges us to be faith-filled stewards of that gift. And so our journey in FAITH continues.