Life is Worth Living: On the Strength and Resilience of the Human Person

One of the rights our modern age demands is the right to declare that certain lives are not worth living. In utero testing sometimes reveals the possibility or even the certainty of birth defects. Abortion is often recommended to mothers who carry “defective” children and sometimes that recommendation becomes pressure. It is said that almost 90% of families who receive a poor pre-natal diagnosis choose to abort.

And yet there are so many stories of people who have overcome enormous obstacles and who live full and rich lives. Some are missing limbs, others are blind, still others struggle with disease. Some have overcome poverty and injustice, others paralyzing accidents or great tragedies. And they are living witnesses to us that we ought never be the judge of what lives are worthwhile and what lives are “not worth”  living. It is true that none of us would wish to be born missing limbs, or blind or in poverty, or with chronic conditions. But we must reverence those who are, learn to appreciate their gifts, and summon them to courage and greatness.

We must declare with great certitude that there is no such thing as a life not worth living. We say this not as some politically correct slogan but rather with firm conviction that every human life is willed by God. We were willed before we were made for the Scriptures say, “Before I ever formed you in the womb I knew and I appointed you…” (Jer 1:4). None of us is an accident nor are our gifts and apparent deficits mistakes. We exist as we are, the way we are for a purpose, a purpose for us and for others. We all have an irreplaceable role in God’s kingdom and show forth aspect of His glory uniquely. Every human life is intended and is worth living because God says so by the very fact that we exist.

If this past week has taught us anything it is that the human person is sacred and that life is something worth living and worth fighting for. There was death, but there was also heroism. There are also those who, despite serious injury, have fought to come back and seek recovery. Further, there are those who join them in the medical profession and in their families who also struggle and fight to bring them that healing. This is resilience, this is strength, this is the truth that life is worth living.

The following videos show forth the resilience of the human person and give powerful witness to the fact that life is worth living. You may not have time to view them all now but I hope you’ll come back and see them all. That is why I post this over a weekend. Despite trials and setbacks all these individuals show forth the power and glory of God working though our human struggles. We might not choose the struggles they have for ourselves but we need to see that their lives are full and proclaim the dignity and resilience of the human person.

Here is the story of John Bramblitt who, though blind is a fine painter indeed.

Here is the story of Abby & Brittany, Conjoined twins born in 1990. The title of the video is “Joined for Life.” Abby says at the end of the video, “The best thing in the world about being conjoined twins is that there’s always someone to talk to and you’re never alone.”

Here’s the story of Nick Vujicic a man with no arms or legs who is a motivational speaker. He likes to say that he went from having a life without limbs to a life without limits.

I have posted this video of Patrick Henry Hughes before. Blind and crippled from birth he manifests a profound musical ability.

19 Replies to “Life is Worth Living: On the Strength and Resilience of the Human Person”

  1. You are so right Msgr. Surely we should be in awe of these beautiful children of God.
    All lives are worth living, and we should all be full of compassion and love to help them achieve their full potential.
    It’s all about trust in our Creator. He knows what he is doing.

  2. “every human life is willed by God”

    Today we were talking about this in our middle-school carpool. The question arose, what if a teenager is raped and got pregnant? What if she’s too young? My answer: the baby wouldn’t be there if God didn’t want it to be there.

    Beautiful, beautiful videos. I’ve seen a couple of them before. Thank you, thank you for posting them. I will share this post and link with the carpool kids.

    1. If you are raped, you have the option to terminate the pregnancy before it begins.

      One must be prudent, or else love will stumble and fall.

      1. “terminate the pregnancy before it begins”??

        Aside from the grammatical illogic of that statement (one can only “terminate” something that already exists), assuming you mean prevent the pregnancy before it begins, notwithstanding the claims of various pro-abortion groups and pharmaceuticals, preventing pregnancy after sex can only be done if ovulation can be halted in those few short hours afterward, and there is absolutely ZERO degree of certainty that stopping ovulation can be done in that fashion.

        The so-called “morning after pill” is falsely-labled as “emergency contraception,” but there is absolutely no assurance that it prevents ovulation and, thus, it does not prevent conception at all, but instead prevents implantation of nascent human life after conception has occurred. That is, it acts as an abortifacient.

        To be sure, although the regular Pill usually acts to prevent ovulation, in some cases, ovulation still occurs. And at that point, it has two secondary functions, which are, again, to prevent implantation and to stimulate the beginning of the menstrual period, which necessarily would cause any newly-conceived life to be expelled. Thus, the regular Pill can also act as an abortifacient. That is not something that they like to publicize (and not a few unknowing pro-lifers use the Pill, unwittingly causing who knows how many abortions).

  3. Growing up I remember one of the boys in my class was a “thalidomide baby”. He was born with shortened arms and pincher type fingers. Despite his “disability” he would challenge me every year in running hurdles. Sometimes I would win sometimes he would, all through grade school. I can’t imagine his fate if he had been in the womb today.

  4. Funnily enough right after reading this I went over to my local paper’s website and there was an article on a teenaged boy who was born with a deformed arm and leg, which were both amputated. Was the article about how miserable his life is? Of course not it was about how he leads a normal life. I often think of that baby who was left to die after a failed abortion in Italy. His “crime”? A cleft palate.

  5. I have no words to surpass these stories,actions go better —— but will send one to you also later via email thanks again Msgr

  6. Heart-warming stories! Truth is, we are all handicapped, some more visibly than others. Deep down inside each of us, we all have that need to experience healing whether it be in body, mind or soul.

    God’s presence, his love, his might, his glory, is manifested everyday in our lives in so many different ways. He is the source of our strength and comfort.

    Life is worth living indeed. Thanks, Msgr.

  7. I totally agree with your post Msgr. but I have often wondered how can God will someone’s existence in situations where they were conceived in sin or by parents who never intended to be good parents at all. For example, children who are born into the world by parents who abuse them physically or sexually. Or parents who live outside wedlock and get pregnant. I have reasoned that God takes a sinful situation and makes it good but does He actually will the innocent baby to be born to these people immersed in sin, knowing full well the child may suffer terribly at the hands of their evil parents? I’ve read cases where infants were abused. The total face of pure innocence and sweetness and yet these people were so hard-of-heart that they intentionally harmed these little ones. Can someone explain more what does it mean that God wills one’s existence into these circumstances?

    1. Kaylan — I read this earlier, and wanted to give a much fuller response — which is what such questions deserve — but, sadly, I am unable to give a full and complete response right now. But I will endeavor to touch on a couple of points.

      The questions you ask are, of course, part of the greater questions regarding suffering and evil that have been asked probably since the beginning of history (certainly after the Fall). Why does God allow evil, etc.?

      But to stick to your specific concerns — God does NOT will an innocent baby’s existence into an abusive home or into a life of hardship and pain. Rather, God is Love, and since we were made, and the purpose and meaning of human existence is, to love and be loved, what God wills is that we be born into a loving home. It is not God’s will that innocent babies be born into non-loving homes or into a life of hardship — rather, that is the will of sinful mankind. By free choice of the will, people choose to abuse and harm these little ones. If God were to have His will be done, He would have no one suffer like this ever.

      Sadly, however, there is suffering in the world, and innocent babies are all too often victims of it. So does that mean that they would be better off if they had never been born?

      Well, being “better off” has meaning only if one exists. If one does not exist, if one was never conceived, he or she cannot be “better off.” Indeed, he or she cannot be anything at all. Only if one exists can one be better off. And, one who does exist, even if he or she be born into horrible hardship and circumstance, then he or she is definitely better off, not merely by reason of their very existence but, because they do exist, they can know God and be with Him. They can know and experience His eternal and infinite love, even if all we offer them here in this world is pain and misery.

      And make no mistake, God knows about that pain and suffering. He does not simply sit back and do nothing about it. Rather, He suffers with us. He suffers with those innocent babies born into abusive homes, those born with physical and/or mental handicaps. He takes their pain and anguish upon Himself, literally. He takes their suffering up with Him on the Cross and, by the transformative power of His Love, offers them the possibility of new life in Him, a new life with glorified bodies, rather than these limited and broken pieces of flesh we have now. Moreover, because He suffers, their own suffering can have meaning, it can serve a purpose, by joining their sufferings with His, their suffering becomes redemptive as well, they become co-workers with Him in the work of salvation.

      But why should people be born with disabilities, why be born with physical maladies, etc., some so serious that the baby might live for only a short time after birth, or why should they be born as the result of rape or “consensual” sin? Doesn’t the fact of these things show that God does not exist? Or if He does exist, that He is rather twisted and evil Himself to allow such things?

      As for the latter question, Jesus Himself provides the answer — the Cross. Not only do we profess as a matter of faith that God is good, period, and cannot do evil, but, as the prior paragraph says, Jesus Himself has taken the evil of suffering upon Himself.

      As for why people are born with disabilities, etc., what would our answer be if God did not, in fact, exist? Why should such things happen then? Because of certain biological and genetic laws — there is a “defect” in the DNA or some adverse occurrence during gestation, etc., or some disease or infection. That might be the answer as well with God — He set up a universe that follows a system of physical laws. Or, it might be that, in some mysterious manner that we cannot fully understand, one of the effects of Original Sin was to basically “infect” the human body with disease and defects, etc.

      But why doesn’t God intervene? Why doesn’t He do something? Is He merely like some clockmaker, who made the universe and set it in motion and now is sitting up there with His feet up in heaven doing nothing but watching? Again, Jesus and the Cross provide the answer. God’s multiple interventions in human history provide the answer. God is not an absentee landlord. He is quite active in His Providence, in His interacting with His creation, especially with His creatures known as human beings. But, it is true, that sometimes (maybe even most times) He allows bad things to happen, He allows babies to be born in bad homes or with disabilities, etc.

      One response to this is that God does not see disabled people as “defective” (or “disabled”). God looks at the people in the above videos and sees His beautiful children. They cannot be anything other than beautiful — they are made in the image and likeness of God. Rather, it is is we, we humans, who look at them and see “defects” and “disabilities.” It is we human beings who look at one another and see some who have the “defect” of being “ugly” or “short” or “fat” or the wrong skin color, etc. But that is not how God sees them. And, truth be told, as was stated above, we are all defective.

      Moreover, we should remember that life in this world — as good and as important as it is, and it is VERY good and important — is not the be all and end all of existence. If we are experiencing hardship, if we were born with some physical limitation or disability, we should remember that God did not create us merely to exist and live in this world. Rather, we are sojourning pilgrims, we are merely travellers in this world, waiting to move onto the next world. And it is that next world, where the faithful will be one with God and He will be one with them, THAT is what God ultimately made us for. Even Adam and Eve in the paradise of the Garden were merely preparatory for the ultimate and real world. So even if this world be a living hell — and it is for all too many people — although it might be hard to endure at times, this is not all there is. There is a next life, the life that God intended and intends for us to have, a life in the fullness of Love and Truth.

      Kaylan, these are only a few small comments in response to your questions, and I am sure that I left out many things that I wanted to say. But these are VERY important questions. They deserve much more of a response than I or others could provide in this forum. There are a number of writings on the question of human suffering by various saints, theologians, popes, etc. Pope Benedict has written and spoken on it quite often, and soon to be Blessed Pope John Paul II not only wrote on suffering, but lived it. One very easy to read person who has written on suffering is Fr. Benedict Groeschel. I strongly urge you Kaylan to continue to reflect upon them, to pray for answers to them, and to pursue a faith that seeks understanding.

      1. Sorry — I knew that I would not be as clear as I wanted to be.

        “Can someone explain more what does it mean that God wills one’s existence into these circumstances?”

        To be clear — God wills that we exist. But He does not will that we exist in these circumstances. Sinful humans will that. Rather, God wills that we exist in love and truth. And the entire project of Salvation History, several thousand yeas of it, is God acting to make His will be done — that we do, in fact, exist in love and truth. If not here on this earth, then with Him in the next life.


        Also, in addition to the above people, please say a prayer for this precious little girl. (Or, rather, not so little any more. Like all little girls, she is growing up far too fast.) Juliana is scheduled soon to have another operation, in a long series of painful operations. By all reports, she has been a super trooper through it all. And, although she never asked to be, she is a great model of grace, and the Wetmore family a great model of love, for all of us.

  8. Wow, the video of Nick Vujicic was truly inspiring! I understand all that he is saying however some of us were not born with that positive outlook or ability. I worked retail for years and the daily faced rude and selfish customers, not to mention several bosses who cared nothing about their workers and only about the “bottom line.” It was extremely hard to remain positive working in such a negative atmosphere daily, plus my own personality is not such that I immediately gravitate towards happiness. I suffered a very difficult/abusive past and that really ruined much of my own optimism in life from an early beginning. I would love to have this man’s positive spirit. I’ve known other people like him in life. Those people we know at work or perhaps relatives who are always smiling and go out of their way to help others. Those are the people we remember, not the ones who care only about how they look or what great job they do.

  9. We learn from each other and these courageous people are master teachers to the rest of us.

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