“We shall not weary, we shall not rest”

Richard John Neuhaus was the editor of First Things magazine before his death just a year ago.  On the anniversary of the “March for Life” on the national mall, his magazine reprints (every year) a speech he gave at that event:

The culture of death is an idea before it is a deed. I expect many of us here, perhaps most of us here, can remember when we were first encountered by the idea. For me, it was in the 1960s when I was pastor of a very poor, very black, inner city parish in Brooklyn, New York. I had read that week an article by Ashley Montagu of Princeton University on what he called “A Life Worth Living.” He listed the qualifications for a life worth living: good health, a stable family, economic security, educational opportunity, the prospect of a satisfying career to realize the fullness of one’s potential. These were among the measures of what was called “a life worth living.”

And I remember vividly, as though it were yesterday, looking out the next Sunday morning at the congregation of St. John the Evangelist and seeing all those older faces creased by hardship endured and injustice afflicted, and yet radiating hope undimmed and love unconquered. And I saw that day the younger faces of children deprived of most, if not all, of those qualifications on Prof. Montagu’s list. And it struck me then, like a bolt of lightning, a bolt of lightning that illuminated our moral and cultural moment, that Prof. Montagu and those of like mind believed that the people of St. John the Evangelist—people whom I knew and had come to love as people of faith and kindness and endurance and, by the grace of God, hope unvanquished—it struck me then that, by the criteria of the privileged and enlightened, none of these my people had a life worth living. In that moment, I knew that a great evil was afoot. The culture of death is an idea before it is a deed…

We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until every unborn child is protected in law and welcomed in life…

I know many people who do not agree with Fr. Neuhaus, but I must say that I do.

2 Responses to ““We shall not weary, we shall not rest””

  1. cantueso Says:

    This is off-topic, but I have googled and looked in your search here and can’t find the place where you said something about Goethe.You can erase it as soon as you have seen it.

    And I must object. Listen. I don’t like Goethe. Nobody likes Goethe. He had maybe only 1 real friend: Eckerman, his secretary who wrote down Goethe’s conversations.

    So more than once and recently again I sat down and this time I read way into his boring autobiography. But it is not the first time that I tried. And I know his Faust and always had a great time reading the first part., .So my impression is not a fleeting one, but a developed thing.

    You said something about Goethe might have seduced a servant girl or two. No. Absolutely not. That in later life he would have, let’s say, visited houses of ill fame, but of the expensive and exclusive kind, — yes, probably, but that is “a horse of another colour” (? isn’t that a saying?).

    The young Goethe truly believed that to become a great poet he had to be perfect in every regard. He also knew that to reach his aim he needed the protection of the aristocracy. And it was immensely painful for him to give up his second great love. He thought that if he had to become a full-time lawyer to have a family, he could not become the poet that he wanted to be.

    His first great love was broken up by his family, and the break hurt him so much that he became severely ill and the family feared for his life.

    Physically he was not too strong. He lost two or three of his siblings as a kid and he lost his beloved sister a little later, — that sister that taught him to treat every woman as a sister and an equal.

    The reason I wrote all this is that it is almost painful to see how he is hated, slandered, and misunderstood. Seeing it is one of the reasons I have learnt English so well: can’t be a German!

    Not too long ago, on a German literature teacher’s page I saw Goethe presented as a Nazi. —

    • pjoenotes Says:

      I can’t find it either(my reference to Goethe)! I think it might have been in response to one of your comments, though.
      Thank you for setting me straight on Goethe. I had looked at a Goethe poem in which the traveler(whom I identified as JWvG himself) stops at an inn and gets a pretty serving maid to join him in bed in the middle of the night. But he finds that he can’t “perform” so to speak. If I’d read the entire thing I’d have known that the reason for this impotence was that he couldn’t be unfaithful to his real beloved– like many a decent married man would experience in a similar situation. So that was careless of me for not reading the entire poem; and I didn’t know enough about his life, as you did.
      In that lost comment (or was it in an email?) I did say that I’d welcome a Goethe revival, and I still would! That’s on the basis of my recent re-reading of “Faust, Part I”.
      I’ve also read part of Goethe’s autobiography (an English version of “Dichtung und Wahrheit”, published in 1949, the bi-centenary of his birth). I’ve found it interesting, though I can see how his tone (the word “magisterial” might fit) could turn readers off. I imagine younger people especially might think “Oh that old bore”. Maybe the German-speaking world raised this man too high, and he had to be taken down for a while? (Say for a century or so.)
      By the way, how does his great friend Friedrich Schiller stand these days? Aside from the “Ode to Joy” used in Beethoven’s 9th symphony, we don’t hear too much about him either. I do have a copy of his play “Maria Stuart” (auf Deutsch), maybe some day I will tackle that.

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