Lorraine Hale pulled up to a traffic light at an intersection in Harlem. On the sidewalk, next to the light, she saw a young female junkie who was nodding out. Cradled in the junkie's arms was a tiny baby. The light turned green and Lorraine drove on. Then something told her to go back to the light. She turned around, went back and said to the junkie: "Look, you've really got a problem, and you need help. Take your baby to my mother's house. She'll take care of it for you."
The junkie looked at her but didn't understand. Lorraine repeated her words about three times. Then she wrote her mother's address on a piece of paper and put it in the junkie's hand. The next morning the junkie showed up at the Hale house. The baby was shaking, its nose was running, and it had a bad case of diarrhea. The baby was suffering from drug withdrawal. Babies born to mothers who are junkies come into life as drug addicts. They become addicted in their mother's womb before they are born.
Lorraine's mother, known to her neighbors as Mother Hale, took the baby and nursed it through the painful period of withdrawal. Mother Hale didn't know it then, but that single act of kindness would change her life. Soon word got around, and other junkies showed up on her doorstep with their babies. At one time Mother Hale had over 20 babies in her home. And at another time she ran out of money after buying food and clothing for them. But she managed to scrape by. Over a period of 16-years Mother Hale has helped over 600 babies withdraw from drug. "It usually takes about four to six weeks," she says. "They reach out to you in pain and cry, and all you can do is hold them and love them."
Then one day something else happened to Mother Hale that changed her life. Someone told President Reagan about her work. He was deeply moved and mentioned it in his State of the Union address to Congress in 1985. As he did, the television camera cut away to Mother Hale in the gallery. It caught the 81-year-old grandmother with tears running down her cheeks.
That did it. Mother Hale became an overnight celebrity. Newspaper reporters interviewed her and TV talk-show hosts invited her to appear on their programs. Money poured in, and Mother Hale's work grew into a fully equipped center with a full-time staff. In the years that followed, other cities contacted her for advice on how to set up similar centers to care for drug addicted babies.
As we gather together around the Table of the Lord this Sunday, this story of Mother Hale concertizes for us today the image we have in today's Gospel of the Lord himself reaching out to embrace the children that came to him. Both of these images are so appropriate for our annual commemoration each October of our commitment as Catholics to Respect Life, from conception to natural death. Nothing on earth can replace the inherent dignity of the human person. From the very first moment when life is conceived until we breath our final breath - the life of each person is precious in the eyes of God.
The Catholic Church continues to proclaim a consistent life ethic - that reverences the value of all life from “womb to tomb” - in the midst of a world and society that can so very easily devalue life of its meaning. The inherent value of human life is not something that we give but rather is given to us by the God, in whose image we are created. That intrinsic value is not determined by what is convenient, or productive, or healthy or young or beautiful but rather by the simple fact that there is life pulsing through us - a life which itself is gift from God.
God's word today celebrates the beauty of human life in the innocence of children and in the intimacy of human love. May the bonds of love that bind us together in the family of God renew our commitment to preserve, protect and defend the value of human life. And may the Lord bless us all the days of our lives.