My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
“Conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil 1:27a). This exhortation from St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians provides sage advice as we observe Respect Life Month throughout the month of October.
What does it mean to conduct yourself in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ? I would suggest that the best way to do so would be to follow the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. These virtues are called theological, or divine, because they unite us to God. Virtues are good habits that order our daily lives to God.
As an example of how to do this, I would like to highlight the grace-filled life of a couple married 75 years ago on Sept. 11, 1948. This couple that I hold up as a model for a pro-life marriage were my parents, John H. Paprocki, Jr., and Veronica Mary Bonat.
My father was a man of faith. He sought to follow the vocation that God had in mind for him, thinking initially that he was being called to the priesthood. After five years in the minor seminary at Quigley Preparatory Seminary in Chicago and one year in the major seminary at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, he discerned that he was not called to the priesthood. Instead, he met my mother, they married and had nine children, of which I am the third. Dad also practiced his faith devoutly and made sure that he passed that faith along to his children by what we were taught at home, by going to church, and by attending Catholic schools.
My father was a man of hope. I am sure there were times he wondered how he would be able to provide for nine children, but placing his trust in God, we always had what we needed in terms of a good home, sufficient clothing, Catholic education, and plenty of food for all of us.
My father was a man of love. St. Thomas Aquinas says that the virtue of love is willing the good of the other. Of course, the greatest good is to go to heaven when we die. Good spouses help each other get to heaven and they help show the way for their children to get to heaven. That is what Dad and Mom did for us.
My mother was also a woman of faith. Her parents were Catholic and had Mom’s older brother and sister baptized, but they never had their two younger children baptized. So, when my mother was 13 years old and her younger brother was 9, they went on their own initiative to the church to ask to be baptized. My mother is a wonderful example of being an intentional Catholic. She did not just happen to be raised Catholic as a matter of social or cultural expectation, but sought to become Christian of her own volition. With my dad, she passed on that faith to her children as well.
My mother was a woman of hope. The virtue of hope is not naïve optimism pretending that all is sweetness and light. I am sure there were times when Mom was exasperated with raising nine children, but she always trusted in God that all would turn out well in the end.
Mom was a woman of love. I never saw my parents fight or have a disagreement. In fact, they seemed to go out of their way to defer to each other’s wishes. They truly wanted what was best for each other and for their family.
Dad died on Dec. 13, 1997. Mom passed away on March 13, 2019. It is my firm hope that they are now sharing in the happiness, joy, and love of God’s Kingdom forever.
So, with St. Paul, I urge you: Conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ. Live a life of faith, hope, and love, and God will reward you. May God give us this grace. Amen.