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Heralds of human life - Bishop Mario Grech

On June 24, the Catholic Church celebrated the feast of the birth of St John the Baptist. This festivity offers us a good opportunity to reflect on the extraordinary experience of those who are expecting a child as well as of those who were blessed with the advent of a new child.

As the friends of Elizabeth and Zacchary rejoiced on learning that Elizabeth was pregnant, so I rejoice with expectant parents for accepting to cooperate with God the creator by conceiving a child. It is very positive that in a society “suffering from a period of dramatic sterility”, we still have married couples who are open to life.

The conception of a child is a great mystery. In contemplating this mystery man cannot but bow in deep reverence and awe. Science can explain the process of conception but it can never explain why at one particular moment in time a new life is conceived. Every conceived child is an act of God’s love.

 As Pope Francis writes: “Every child growing within the mother’s womb is part of the eternal loving plan of God the Father: ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you’ (Jer 1:5). Each child has a place in God’s heart from all eternity; once he or she is conceived, the Creator’s eternal dream comes true... A pregnant woman can participate in God’s plan by dreaming of her child. For nine months every mother and father dreams about their child… Once a family loses the ability to dream, children do not grow, love does not grow, life shrivels up and dies” (Amoris Laetitia).

Every conceived child bears the message that God still has faith in humanity. Every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged of man (Tagore). Children are always a unique and irreplaceable gift even in tough circumstances.

There were times when I stood in wonder witnessing the happiness of parents who have just learned that they are to bear a child. A few weeks ago I was at Ta’ Pinu and I met a couple whose eyes radiated joy. They told me that they had been to the shrine to confess for berating God for not giving them a child. They had been trying to conceive for a long time but with no success. Sometime after their pilgrimage, the mother was pregnant. Now they were again at the feet of Our Lady to thank her.

We should hold you parents in great esteem. You have chosen that your love be open to a new life and indeed in some cases to more than one life. As we know nature at times can be generous and one act of love can yield more than one life. I am aware that when a couple first learns that instead of one child they will be having twins, they are at first taken aback. This was not in their plans but then the parents embrace all the lives conceived.

I personally know a number of parents who have undergone this procedure and have some of their embryos waiting in a freezer. These parents experience a great regret

No parent will ever think of keeping one child and abandoning the other. The parents know that these are flesh of their flesh and bone of their bones. Above all else they know that all human life is sacred and we cannot tamper with it. We know that parents grieve when nature rejects life in a miscarriage.

 It is difficult at times to help the mother come to terms with the fact that she has lost her child even if the pregnancy was still in its early stages. At present I am accompanying a couple who after waiting for a long time to conceive, the mother is now expecting. But unfortunately according to medical staff’s diagnosis the child has a very scarce chance of being born alive. I can attest to the martyrdom this couple, especially the mother, are going through knowing that their conceived child will probably not live.

The account of Elizabeth and Zacchary reminds me of those couples who are faced with the problem of infertility. I can understand their pain and grief. They not only are unable to have their wish come true but the gossip of others throws upon them a sense of shame, as happened in the case of Elizabeth (Matthew 1,25).

May I express my gratitude to the people of science for their work, in helping these couples, while respecting the principles of ethics and morals. In fact, I appeal to science to continue its research thus providing these couples with a ray of hope. Since today we have several points of view regarding what ethics is all about, I recommend, especially to Christian couples, that they seek scientific solutions in the light of the teachings of Christ.

These married couples usually seek medical advice when faced with the problem of infertility. Therefore I appeal to the doctors, especially Christian doctors, to give counsel and to propose solutions which respect human life and which do not put at risk this same life.

If it happens that in our pluralistic and albeit dogmatic context, Christian doctors and nurses find themselves in conflict with their personal principles they can always invoke the right of objection of conscience.

Some parents who have had recourse to science to conceive a child suffer the same dilemma of those parents who grief their unborn child I referred to above. Science helps these parents conceive more than one embryo in the laboratory, leading to the implantation of some of them and the freezing of the rest.

I personally know a number of parents who have undergone this procedure and have some of their embryos waiting in a freezer. These parents experience a great regret because they feel as if they have abandoned their children. A mother told me that she dreams of them but cannot see a way of releasing her children from this prison. These situations imply heavy psychological and moral dilemmas and we pray to God to help us.

I am grateful to all expectant parents because it is really uplifting to see young couples who are open to life despite today’s challenges. These couples are the heralds of the good news of human life and the beauty of family life. At the same time, I urge all to show solicitude and stay near those couples who are suffering because of issues related to life.

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