Life is a gift from God. Each and every life has value. This is so from the moment of conception until natural death. No matter how short the life, everyone is made in the image of God, made out of love, for love, by God who is love. This truth can often be overlooked by society when it comes to life in the womb.
The anticipation parents experience waiting for new life to enter the world far too often gives way to grief when that new life ends abruptly. The tragedy of pregnancy and infant loss — miscarriage, stillbirth or infant death — is far more common than many may realize. These tragedies are often experienced in silence and isolation. This is especially so when the child dies at a very early age in development. The aftermath of such a loss can devastate parents, families and friends for years to come.
Pope Francis, who spoke of the grief of Rachel from the Old Testament when she seemed inconsolable, explains:
“In order to dry the tears from the faces of those who are suffering, it is necessary to join our tears with theirs. Only in this way can our words be really capable of giving a little hope. If I cannot speak words in this way, with tears, with suffering, then silence is better: a caress, a gesture and no words” Pope Francis, General Audience, Jan. 4, 2017.
A new ministry has been developed called Behold Your Child which seeks to help parishes in the archdiocese begin intentional ministry to those in their community who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss (whether recently or decades ago). This ministry is one of presence and accompaniment.
The purpose of this ministry is to support families and friends who have experienced pregnancy or infant loss by giving them the space to share their experiences and to publicly acknowledge and remember the lives of little ones. It is also to help local parishes participate in public prayer and acts to comfort families, to pray for the deceased children, and to memorialize them to show that they matter and that they are not forgotten.
It is in this way that this ministry will be a foretaste of the comfort and peace that is to come when, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain” (Rev. 21:4).
On this Oct. 15 and for the month of October (Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month), let us especially pray for those who have experienced pregnancy or infant loss and commemorate the lives of the little ones gone too soon.
Behold Your Child is a new ministry developed in collaboration by the offices of Marriage and Family Life, Respect Life and Social Justice, and Catholic Charities to provide hope and healing for parents and families who are grieving from experiencing miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss (whether recently or years ago). Parishes interested in this ministry should contact Mark Schmidt at firstname.lastname@example.org or (563)-556-2580, ext. 287 or Matt Selby at email@example.com or (563) 556-2580, ext. 233 for more information. For resources related to miscarriage, stillbirth and infant loss, go to: dbqarch.org/beholdyourchild.