Chaput Book Reminds Us What’s Worth Living For
I’m writing this on Good Friday. I just spent a few minutes in prayer outside of a Planned Parenthood clinic in lower Manhattan. A hazardous medical waste truck, familiar to some of us who regularly pray outside the clinic, was just getting loaded. Eleven boxes stacked up, just a little shorter than me. They perform abortions at Planned Parenthood, so you can imagine at least some of what was in those boxes.
Margaret Sanger Square, at Bleecker and Mott streets, is a modern-day Calvary: a place of injustice where innocents die. If you’ve ever spent time outside an abortion clinic, trying to offer alternatives to the young women who approach, you know that so many of them obviously don’t feel like they have a choice. And sometimes their boyfriends or mothers make sure there won’t be any considering life as you offer a word of love and help.
“Our lives matter,” Archbishop Charles J. Chaput appropriately writes in his new book, Things Worth Dying For: Thoughts on a Life Worth Living. It’s appropriate because it’s true, and because most of us don’t realize the full truth of it.
Many of those young girls and women have no idea how precious their lives are, never mind the lives of their unborn children. And it’s not that their lives matter because, say, they are in law school (as one young woman recently said, crying, as she walked into the clinic -- she said she wanted a baby, but felt that would derail her potential career). Or because they have a boyfriend, or the right car, or whatever superficial guideposts the world encourages us to consider “success.”
Our lives matter, Chaput writes, because, “We rarely see the full effects of the good we do in this life. So much of what we do seems a tangle of frustrations and failures. We don’t see -- on this side of the tapestry -- the pattern of meaning that our faith weaves. But one day we’ll stand on the other side. And on that day, we’ll see the beauty that God has allowed us to add to the great story of his creation, the richness we’ve added to the lives of our family and friends, the mark for the better we’ve left on the world, and the revelation of his love that goes on from age to age, no matter how good or bad the times. We are each an unrepeatable, infinitely treasured part of that story.”
That’s the kind of hope that we are all too often missing these days. This “woke” business always seems to betray a longing for something more, and “cancellation” seems an attempt to eradicate all imperfections. I always wonder if the people doing the canceling of George Washington really want to be judged on their worst actions or decisions. I don’t want to be. Which is why I cling to God’s mercy.
Reintroducing Christianity to a Cynical World
In Things Worth Dying For, Chaput points out something that might help to reintroduce Christianity to a world that is (often reasonably) cynical. It might even be a reintroduction to Christians, who often forget that we’re all about the Trinity and the Beatitudes.
“The Christian life is not a self-help plan, a way to make ourselves perfect, but rather a way of life in which the One who is love enters us and transforms us,” he writes.
He quotes Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, who is now a Trappist monk: “It is crucial to see that the Christian life is not so much ‘me bringing Jesus into my life,’ by trying in some way to approximate his behavior and mentality, but as Jesus opening to me the doors into his life and granting me a real share in the acts and intents of his heart. It is not I who make room for him in my endeavors. It is, rather, he who invites me to renounce all my endeavors in order to incorporate me into his human and divine origin, mission, destiny and life.”
The Source of All Christian Hope
Chaput talks about this time of year in the book. We move from Lent into what looks to be a failure, by human standards: Jesus’ crucifixion. And yet, that is the source of all Christian hope! At the Easter Vigil, Chaput writes, “we celebrate Jesus Christ’s tearing the gates of the underworld off their hinges, raising up Adam and Eve and the righteous dead. In the Exultet, we compare the Paschal Candle to the pillar of fire that led the Israelites to freedom. We rejoice that Christ is revealed as God and reigns as victor over humanity’s greatest enemy, death.”
What is Worth Dying for?
At Easter, “Alleluia,” which means “praise the Lord,” is sung again and again. Pope Benedict XVI once wrote: “The Alleluia is like an initial revelation of what can and shall someday take place in us: Our entire being shall turn into one immense joy.”
That’s worth living and dying for. And that’s what God thinks all our lives are worth: being with Him eternally. Whatever you believe, Christians who truly live this are a good in the world for all.
Christians: We better get to it! Let’s show this with everything we do and are. All lives do, indeed, matter, including the vulnerable unborn and their mothers. Every one.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review magazine and author of the new book A Year With the Mystics: Visionary Wisdom for Daily Living. She is also chair of Cardinal Dolan’s pro-life commission in New York. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.