It was a hard summer in Dayton, Ohio, where several of the contributors to this blog live and work.
- In late May, a group of nine white nationalists demonstrated at our courthouse square, requiring enormous financial expenditures by the city government for security and significant emotional expenditures by residents, who turned out in droves to oppose hatred.
- Two days later, fifteen tornadoes churned through the area, leaving more than 900 buildings in our county with catastrophic damage.
- Then in August, a young man opened fire in a small street much loved for its very Daytonian vibe, where a high-end farm-to-table restaurant and a Goodwill are across the street from a milliners’, a sex shop, and a musty paperback bookstore. Now the Oregon District is also known for the ten people who died there in thirty- two seconds of gunfire.
In the same summer, I have been thinking a great deal about Jem Bendell’s “Deep Adaptation” paper (the one they say will send you to therapy), which surveys scientific evidence and argues we need to be preparing for near-term social collapse. By the end of the summer, I found myself thinking, frequently and with relief, “At least I’m not likely to live to 2050. At least I’ve already lived most of my life. At least I won’t be here that much longer.”
So when I was asked to offer a reflection for the start-of-year prayer service for faculty and staff, I realized that there was one thing I needed to say, for myself. This is a good time to be alive.
We say that Catholicism is “pro-life.” It’s a more complicated claim than it might sound. Yes, promoting health is good. But loving life, for Catholic thought, means making space for all who are sick, elderly, and living with disability, including ourselves. It means making space for people whose needs alarm us or whose guilt horrifies us, even when that is ourselves. Honoring human life means accepting suffering and mortality as part of what human life means, even in our own lives.
It means embracing this life we are living.
Loving human life rightly means loving it not for its own excellence, but in light of God’s love. When we ourselves are suffering, afraid, confronted with our own guilt, we remember this: God does not abandon us. For the love of God, we must not abandon each other. That’s what makes this a good time to be alive.