On Thursday evening, the Right to Life Association of Toronto presented Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB with its "Pro Life in Media Award" during the association's annual general meeting and 40th anniversary celebration. The event was held in the auditorium of the North York Public Library in north Toronto. Salt + Light producer Alicia Ambrosio and associate producer Joseph Goski were present for the ceremony. Fr. Rosica's acceptance remarks are found below.
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
Fellow Ambassadors of the Culture of Life,
It is an honor and privilege for me to accept your Pro-Life Leadership in Media Award this evening in the context of your Annual General Meeting and 40th Anniversary Celebrations of your organization. I wish to thank Mr. Paul Klotz, Executive Director of the Right to Life Association of Toronto, for your very kind words addressed to me through letters as well as in this evening’s presentation. They are deeply appreciated not only by me, but also by all those who work closely with me in the important ministry of the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and Television Network in Canada.
Allow me to offer a few reflections on your 40th Anniversary that you commemorate this evening. The number 40 is a very familiar one in the Bible. In the story of Noah and the flood, it rained 40 days and 40 nights. After the sealing of the covenant at Mt. Sinai, Moses was with God on the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights. When the prophet Elijah was pursued by Queen Jezebel, he fled for his life and traveled 40 days and nights until he came to the mountain of God at Horeb (Sinai). After the flood in Genesis, a new creation begins. After Moses converses with God, the covenant is renewed. After Israel's wandering in the wilderness, they entered into the Promised Land. After Elijah's journey, God strengthened him to resume his prophetic ministry.
The number 40 appears also in the New Testament. Jesus is tempted in the desert for 40 days and nights; his ascension to heaven occurs 40 days after the Resurrection. On one level, the number 40 represents a time of need, of struggle, of testing. It also denotes a period of purification, of preparation for some special action of the Lord; it is a time of grace.
I believe that all who work for the cause of life, especially through your association, are entering into a new era of testing and of grace, of purification of motives and methods and formation for mission. This will require new strategies, new vision, renewed courage, boundless patience, great mercy, and deep faith in God as we continue to choose life and uphold the dignity and sacredness of every human life, from conception to natural death.
I have always had a great respect and admiration for the vision, mission and important work of the Right to Life Association of Toronto. Your volunteer, non-sectarian, educational, human rights organization has been dedicated, from its beginnings, to providing a sure and certain voice regarding the care and protection of the unborn, women hurt by abortion, the infirm, persons with disabilities and the aged.
As a very credible educational arm of the pro-life movement, your mission for the past forty years has been to educate as many people as possible on all the issues having to do with a threat to the human right to life: abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, contraception, etc. Never seeking immediate, dramatic, solutions, your have sown seeds deep in the minds, hearts, consciences of men and women. You have been privileged instruments in the fostering and building of a culture of life.
In his encyclical letter Caritas in Veritate, (Truth in Charity), Pope Benedict XVI addresses the great challenge before all those who strive to build a true culture of life:
The Holy Father stated clearly:
“Openness to life is at the centre of true development. When a society moves toward the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man's true good. If personal and social sensitivity toward the acceptance of a new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away."
Dear friends, we must never forget the principles of civility, Gospel charity, ethics, and justice. Jesus came to engage the culture of his day, and we must engage the culture of our day. The task of defending innocent human life is everyone’s responsibility, especially at a time when those whose lives are being threatened are at their weakest moments in the human journey: in the womb, the wheelchair, or the hospital bed or extended care residence.
Our own zeal and good intentions must not blind us and end up defeating the very cause in which we are all engaged. If our cause and work for life is motivated by judgment, arrogance anger or vindictiveness, it will be doomed to marginalization and failure. Our ability to change people’s hearts and help them to grasp the dignity of each and every life is directly related to our ability to increase love and unity in the world around us.
The patron of our Salt + Light media efforts is St. Gianna Beretta Molla, a lay woman of our own times, a medical doctor and mother of a family, who was truly a lover of life. Gianna died in 1962 at the age of 39. She was beatified in 1994 and canonized a Saint in 2004. Her action at the end of her life, in saving young Gianna Emanuela, her daughter, was heroic in that she prepared for her final action every day of her life. St. Gianna continues to remind the church and the world of the necessity of a consistent ethic of life, from the earliest to the final moments of human life. Her heroic life inspires us to act and teaches us how to act.
Thank you for leading the way with the Toronto Right to Life Association. May other groups and movements learn from you. It is a great privilege to be associated with you, and to call you colleagues, friends, fellow ambassadors of life. We need one another. We can’t do this work alone!
Thank you for honouring us this evening with this prestigious award. May God bless you and reward you for your work for life.