Detroit — Whether you are an international expert on Catholic public policy or a father whose unborn child’s diagnosis confirms your worst fears, the Church’s message of human dignity applies to your particular calling.
Chad Judice, a teacher at St. Thomas More High School in Lafayette, La., and his wife, Ashley, received a prenatal diagnosis in 2008 while expecting their second child.
The diagnosis offered a sobering response to a statement Judice had told his students several years before: that his greatest fear would be having a child with a physical or mental disability.
“That fear became a reality,” said Judice in an interview with The Michigan Catholic about the discovery that their second son, Elijah, or “Eli,” would be born with spina bifida.
Spina bifida is when an unborn baby’s neural tube — which eventually becomes the spinal cord and brain — fails to develop or close properly, and the family soon learned that 80 percent of couples who receive this prenatal diagnosis choose abortion.
“Within the span of 45 minutes [during that ultrasound] God revealed his divinity and my humanity,” said Judice, who will be one of the keynote speakers at the Jan. 25 Life is a Gift Conference at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit.
Their decision to choose life for Eli not only changed their lives, but touched the lives of many around the country who learned about Eli’s story.
Judice was inspired by this experience to write “Waiting for Eli: A Father’s Journey from Fear to Faith,” which was endorsed by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston in Texas.
Judice recently released a new book, “Eli’s Reach: On the Value of Human Life and the Power of Prayer,” which explores further testimonies of lives touched by young Eli Judice.
“My spiritual director once shared a quote with me from C. S. Lewis: ‘It is doubtful that God can use any man greatly until He has hurt him deeply,’” Judice said. He acknowledged that their family’s journey has been one of both suffering and joy, but he has learned not to run from opportunities of suffering.
He cited Ven. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, who said that “you can’t have Easter Sunday without Good Friday.”
“Good Friday was the ultrasound,” Judice said. “All the pain, dying to self. The resurrection has been the beauty of God reaching out with Eli’s life into the lives of other people.”
Being ‘bilingual’ on life issues
According to George Weigel, a Catholic theologian and leading public intellectual known largely for writing Pope John Paul II’s official biography, “Witness to Hope,” the battle to defend human life in all its forms must be done with utmost care.
“Compassion, conviction, courage, and a willingness to help people through the moral muddle that is American culture today,” were the tools Weigel offered in an interview with The Michigan Catholic.
“Catholics have to be ‘bilingual’ when we take on issues of public policy,” said Weigel, who also will be a keynote speaker at the Life is a Gift Conference. “Inside the household of faith, we speak the language of biblical religion, because that expresses our deepest and most abiding commitments.”
But, he added, “In the public square, we have to make arguments that others can engage, in a grammar and vocabulary they can understand.”
When it comes to defending unborn life in particular, he said, fellow citizens must be guided into understanding that “the product of conception is a human being, period,” and that the “relevant principle of justice” refers to all innocent human lives being deserving of legal protection.
Weigel also emphasized the need to share the “important cautionary tale” that if a government can declare one class of persons outside the boundaries of legal protection, there is nothing to stop it from extending that to other classes, such as the elderly and infirm — “this is already happening with euthanasia,” he added.
An ultimate truth must be explained and taught to society, he stressed.
“If there’s only your truth and my truth, but nothing we both recognize as ‘the truth,’ then when your truth comes into conflict with my truth, I’ll either impose my power on you, or you’ll impose your power on me,” Weigel said. “Pope Benedict XVI was exactly right to call this the ‘dictatorship of relativism.’”
Fourth annual ‘Life is a Gift’ Conference
What: See George Weigel, Chad Judice and other leaders in the pro-life movement speak at the fourth annual Life is a Gift Conference.
When: Jan. 25, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at
Where: Sacred Heart Major Seminary, 2701 Chicago Blvd., Detroit.
Details: A high school youth track will be held parallel to the main conference. The day also includes Mass with Auxiliary Bishop Arturo Cepeda, as well as breakfast and lunch.
To register or more info: Visit http://liagconference.wordpress.com or contact the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis at (313) 237-4680.