Prompt: Throughout human history, a crucial marker of whether a society is in decline and decay, or progressing in civility, growth and love is how they treat the most vulnerable in their midst. Looking back at the collapse of the Roman Empire for example we see the growing disregard and abandonment of social norms in love and family, we see the easy disregard and abandonment of unborn life and we see the general decadence in the population of the empire growing.
Sometimes this degradation is taken to extremes, as seen in the evil and horrors of the Nazi regime. The Nazis systematically extinguished the life of Jews, Gypsies, political and religious enemies, the handicapped, the sick and the socially ostracized. Regard for the dignity of each and every human individual, born and in the womb, is essential for building an authentic, human civilization of love. From natural conception to natural death, all life is sacred and is not ours to destroy. The entire arc of human existence needs to be respected and held with care. Our faith would say “every life is created in the image and likeness of God,” quoting Genesis.
Five centuries ago, in the Americas, the barbarism of a fallen, human culture at work was seen in the cruel human-sacrificing rituals that were performed among the Aztec in what is now modern day Mexico. On a scale hardly approached, even remotely, by another human culture, was there ever a more open, long running, ritualized and institutionalized public showcase of moral collapse through the killing of innocent human life. It reached its climax in the year 1487, when the Aztec dedicated a new location of sacrifices to occur in Mexico City. It is estimated that one out of every five children were sacrificed in the Aztec rituals.
Into this darkness, in 1531, came the visitation of “Our Lady of Guadalupe” who appeared as an Aztec woman to a humble servant named Juan Diego. She came to put an end to this devastation and to redirect the paganistic worship of false gods to the One True God, whom she appeared with in her own womb. Mary was pregnant with the Child Jesus in the apparition.
The name “Guadalupe” means “she who crushes the serpent.” The work of the Serpent-Devil is always to destroy life and love, particularly, innocent life and pure love. The apparition and the miracles that accompanied it brought about the conversion of the Aztec people and the end of the human massacre. A church was built not far from the original sacrifice site to give honor to her and her son, and eventually six million Mexicans converted to Christ and his Church through the miraculous image of Our Lady. This conversion began in 1531, at the same time when the Protestant movement was leading millions to leave the Church in Europe.
Today, we too find ourselves in the midst of a dramatic conflict between the voice of the “culture of life” and the pervasive "culture of death," which animates many of our nations laws and societal norms.
Directions: Write an essay comparing the “culture of death” that infiltrated the Aztec culture with the “culture of death” that moves and manifests itself in America today:
What similarities exist between the two cultures?
What characteristics define a “culture of death” versus a “culture of life?”
Why is the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe relevant to us today and held in such high esteem in the pro-life movement?
How could she influence your life?
Your essay must answer all 4 questions listed above, including a comparison between the “culture of death” today versus the “culture of death” during the Aztec time. Please read the history of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Apparition and use the articles listed to quote or reference. The Gospel of Life Encyclical is a great resource to research characteristics of a “culture of life.” Please remember that under no circumstance will plagiarism be accepted, and it will disqualify your essay, so please CITE your sources carefully!
Essays must be at least 3 or 4 pages in length, double-spaced, using Times New Roman font, size 12 point. Please include a separate page for your bibliography listing the resources you used. Essays should be emailed to email@example.com as an ATTACHMENT in .doc, .docx, or .pdf file format. In the email, please include your first, middle, and last name AND your parent’s email address. Please do not send links to Google documents. All essays are due by 11:59 PM on Wednesday, November 1st. If you wish to turn in a physical copy, you can drop it off at the parish office by 4:30 PM on Wednesday, November 1st.
High school students who are registered members of St. Bernard Parish are eligible to apply. Students outside of the parish are encouraged to attend the Diocesan pilgrimage, you can find more information for that trip by clicking here.
If your essay is selected, you will be asked to attend the March for Life trip to Washington, DC from January 17-21, 2018. You will need to make accommodations with your teachers at school to approve of your absence. The trip includes air travel to and from Washington, DC, overnight accommodations at a rental house, attending the pro-life rally and march, food, and other pilgrimage activities including: prayerful visits, tourist stops, and formational adventures.
Additionally, if you are selected, you are asked to attend our overnight formation retreat January 6-7, 2018 in order to prepare for the trip and build community with the other pilgrims. We will be hosting an informational meeting on Sunday, December 10th at 11 AM (following the 10 AM Mass) to meet with you and your parents to discuss details of the pilgrimage and other important dates.
Finally, every student who is selected to attend is asked to pay a non-refundable and non-transferable $100 deposit to secure their spot and to help cover additional expenses for the trip. This is the only cost to the students because of gracious donors, which is why we have the essay contest. This deposit is due before December 10th. A student’s spot is confirmed only when the $100 deposit is paid. Please carefully consider your availability when applying for this trip: if a student cancels or backs out after paying the $100 deposit (outside of emergency situations), he/she will be financially responsible of covering the entire cost of the spot since this trip is only made possible by donors and the student selection process is very thorough. Students are asked to bring money to cover the cost of riding the metro, and 1-2 meals in DC/at the airport. Any additional purchases are at their own expense.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Callie Kowalski, Adam Horn, or Fr. Mark Vander Steeg. We are beyond excited to see what this year’s March for Life trip has in store for everyone! God bless!