This post is the work of students at the 2011 Live Action Leadership Summit currently taking place. The students have formed teams for their time at the Summit and each chose heroes as their team name. The teams are competing with one another, and their first assignment was to write about a hero in history who upheld the value of the human person, and discuss how this hero informs and inspires them to be pro-life advocates today. We now encourage you to give your feedback and encouragement to these amazing youth age 14-19 in the feedback section below.
What is life worth? What are you worth? What are your peers worth? These are questions that many have struggled with throughout history. Only few have achieved a level of morality and self-sacrifice exemplified by Blessed John Paul II and St. Catherine of Alexandria. These remarkable individuals realized that life is worth everything and that their peers are worth more than themselves. Born in different centuries and pressured by different evils, Catherine and John Paul II stood up against violent and life-terminating forces to bring about a culture of life in their own times. Much can be learned, admired, and taken from their examples to be applied to struggles today. Through them we can learn what it really means to stand up for what we believe in. From the examples of Catherine of Alexandria and Pope John Paul II, the youth of this nation can learn to oppose governmental injustices and respect life.
In the 4th century, Catherine, a young woman at the time, rebuked the emperor for his widespread persecutions of Christians. Unable to defeat her in debate, he summoned fifty of his greatest scholars and philosophers to challenge her Christian beliefs. She emerged from the debate triumphant, and had, in the process, converted all of the scholars and philosophers to her position. Furious, the emperor killed all of the converts and threw Catherine in jail. She continued her work even in prison, convincing many more people of her beliefs, including members of the emperor’s family. The emperor sentenced all of those she converted to death, and finally sentenced her to death as well. Even until her dying breath, she did not back down from what she believed in and continued to speak out for her cause. The story of Catherine of Alexandria displays the courage, devotion, and conviction that the youth of America should emulate.
Similar to Catherine, Pope John Paul II also displays these honorable traits. As a youth, he took the righteous stance of respecting life and protesting the evils of a rogue regime. When he was a young man, the Nazis were occupying Poland and killing innocent people. Karol (his name before he was Pope) and his friends used visual art as a way to influence their culture for life. Because of his heroic efforts, the future Pope became feared by his enemies and beloved by the tortured populace, earning a spot on the Nazi Black List. Later becoming Pope, John Paul II continued to uphold human dignity and advocate the protection of innocent human life from conception to natural death. He used all mediums available to him in order to achieve this. Whether he was simply living a life of love, empowering the youth through World Youth Day, or writing the influential encyclical, Evangelium Vitae, this leader of the Catholic Church propagated a culture of life on an ecumenical scale. John Paul II has had a lasting impact, and like him, the youth of America should fight for truth.
Catherine of Alexandria and Pope John Paul II: two radically counter-cultural figures in history. What can we learn from them? We learn that as youth, we need to be able to stand for truth. Catherine and Pope John Paul risked their lives in defense of the truth; we too should have the ability and courage to make a difference. Thus, we should fight against the greatest human rights abuse of all time—the killing of human beings in the womb, when they cannot even stand up for themselves. We respect life just as those two great figures did and oppose abortion.