In a homily delivered in Lourdes on England’s Day for Life, the day on which the Church celebrates and affirms life from conception to its natural end, Cardinal Vincent Nichols said that we should both cherish life and embrace natural death.
Affirming that every human life has intrinsic value, regardless of health or disability, he said, ‘this is why we oppose those who wish to pass laws assisting suicide, giving people the right to die when they want. The right to die is somebody else’s duty to kill; and we don’t accept that. We both cherish life and we embrace death.’
Comparing life’s journey to the Lourdes pilgrimage, he said it is ‘a practice run for our pilgrimage through life. We learn that we gain strength when we walk together; we learn to look out for those in need; we learn that we gain more by giving than by taking.’
In its 26th year, the Westminster pilgrimage to Lourdes takes place from Monday 27 July to Friday 31 July.
Here is the full text of the homily given by Cardinal Nichols at Sunday evening Mass in Lourdes on 26 July 2015:
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Welcome everybody to this pilgrimage. Perhaps your journey here has been easy. Perhaps not. But we are here in this precious place. There are many more to join us. Soon we will be all together.
In this Mass we are almost at the start of our pilgrimage. Please understand this pilgrimage as a practice run for life in this world. It’s a kind of training camp in which we can learn a lot about our pilgrimage through life. Very briefly, we learn we have to get on together; we learn that we gain strength when we walk together; we learn that we need time quietly for ourselves; we learn to look out for those in need; we learn that we gain more by giving that by taking. On pilgrimage we learn all sorts of lessons, as I hope we do this week, so that we’re better equipped for our journey through life.
Today, at home, we keep our annual Day for Life. The theme this year is this: cherish life; accept death. Cherish life indeed. And I would say, embrace death when it comes. You might remember the words of the prayer of our Mass this evening. We asked God for the grace to use the good things that pass so as to be prepared for those that last forever. The life we have in this world is this good, so good, but it will pass. And then we will enter a life that lasts forever through the doorway of death.
The Pope in his message to us for today said this: ‘It is a great lie to try and convince people that life lived with serious illness is not worth living.’ We understand that clearly which is why we oppose those who wish to pass laws assisting suicide, giving people the right to die when they want. One person’s right to die is somebody else’s duty to kill. We do not accept that. We both cherish life until it’s end and we embrace death.
Finally, in the reading of the Gospel this evening, we heard the words of Jesus telling us that he gives us the bread of life. And this bread which he gives is his body and his blood. He gives us bread for our life on this earth and, in the same gift, he gives us bread for eternal life. In this gift he comes to us, established his life in us which grows in us so that we become ready for the life after death, a life that is forever.
On this pilgrimage, then, we’re on a practice run for life. We learn to cherish this life more and more, how precious it is! We learn to look forward to the life of heaven and embrace that moment when God calls us to himself. This evening we ask God’s blessing on our pilgrimage. We pray that we will always cherish life and defend life from its beginning to its natural end and we pray that we will be ready, when our moment comes, to go to the Lord. Amen.