Rick Becker is a convert to Catholicism by way of G.K. Chesterton and the Catholic Worker movement. He has a particular interest in ecumenism, and he has studied theology at Evangelical Protestant institutions as well as Franciscan University of Steubenville. The father of seven, Rick resides with his family in South Bend, Indiana, where he and his wife, Nancy, serve as Co-Directors of Religious Education at St. Matthew Cathedral. Rick is also a registered nurse, and he currently teaches in the nursing program at Bethel College in Mishawaka, Indiana. You can find more of Rick’s writing at God-Haunted Lunatic.
“Dear old world,” she murmured, “you are very lovely,
and I am glad to be alive in you.”
These remarks were delivered at the St. Joseph County (Indiana) Right to Life dinner on April 27, 2017.
“Beauty from Ashes” is our theme tonight, but I stand before you as a somewhat contrary witness, for I’d have to say that my wife and I have never really known the ashes – only the beauty.
With regards to the “hope, healing, and a profound fullness of life, despite challenges,” mentioned in the St. Joseph County Right to Life ad for tonight, we’ve certainly known all of that. However, I’d like to suggest that those lines constitute a pretty good definition of family life for everyone, for all of us – genetic anomaly or no genetic anomaly.
When our Nicky was born, we rejoiced, just as we’d rejoiced at the birth of his six older siblings. Here was another son – another enfleshed Imago Dei that the Creator had seen fit to entrust to Nancy and me! The fact that Nick had Down syndrome, that he might might have some additional challenges growing up, didn’t diminish that rejoicing at all.
Sure enough, we’d have a steep learning curve with regards to what a Down’s diagnosis meant for him and how we’d have to go about smoothing his path ahead as much as possible. But isn’t that what we do with all of our children? All children, all boys and girls, all of us have “special needs” of one kind or another.
Our job, our privilege and honor as parents, is to welcome and be hospitable to the kids God sends us, to nurture and educate them, and, above all, to love them – to surrender ourselves to the needs of our children, no matter who they turn out to be. It’s an extension, a concrete manifestation of our surrender to one another as husband and wife.
Nick and I chatted yesterday about what we’d say tonight. He knows about abortion, and he’s an eloquent spokesman on behalf of life – both in his words and in his very life. We talked a bit about his Down syndrome and the kinds of things that cause people to get abortions – things like various prenatal diagnoses, but even things as crazy as the sex of preborn babies, that parents might even choose abortion simply because they were pregnant with a girl when they wanted a boy.
Without missing a beat, Nick spoke up: “Like Anne of Green Gables,” he said. I don’t think Nick has ever read Lucy Montgomery’s classic novel, but I know he’s watched the 1985 film version numerous times at home – it’s a family favorite.
I awaited his explanation.
“Like when Marilla Cuthbert wanted a boy, but Anne showed up at the train station,” he said. “Even though it wasn’t the child Marilla and Matthew were expecting, she was the child that was sent.”
Eventually Marilla came to accept the orphan Anne Shirley, to like her quirky personalities and peculiar ways, and she even came to fiercely love Anne in time, to rely on her, to bond with her. Matthew, though, was able to love Anne immediately – he saw Anne for who she was from the get go: a gift and a treasure.
Nick and I went out to breakfast this morning to prep for tonight. After he finished his pancakes and we hit the road for school, Van Morrison’s “Tupelo Honey” came on the stereo. He cranked it up and we joined in: “She’s an angel of the first degree,” I sang along with Van, and Nick chimed in with the backup singers, “She’s an angel.”
You’ll think this is kinda’ corny, but too bad. We’re talking about babies tonight, so a bit of corniness is to be expected. Anyway, as Van started singing the song’s second verse, and especially since Nick was sitting right there next to me, I connected it with what we’re about here tonight. The verse goes like this:
You can't stop us on the road to freedom
You can't stop us 'cause our eyes can see.
Men with insight, men in granite,
Knights in armor intent on chivalry.
All of gathered here can see that all lives are infinitely valuable. We have that insight, and God has called us to be men and women of granite, to refuse to budge on the sanctity of life – both with regards to calling our political leaders to account, but also how we embrace it in our own lives.
We all know that every new life conceived is precious to God. Following Matthew Cuthbert’s lead, let’s support each other in welcoming every new life as a precious gift to us as well.