The Month of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus and the Apostolate of the Respect for Human Life

by H.E. Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke

The Church has designated the month of July for the renewal of our devotion to the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Reflecting upon the Most Precious Blood, our minds and hearts return to two feasts of the Liturgical Year. The first is Good Friday, the day on which Our Lord Jesus Christ died for us on the Cross and, after His death, permitted the Roman soldier’s spear to pierce His Heart from which flowed blood and water.[1] The blood which flowed from His pierced side was a sign of the Most Precious Blood which would flow unceasingly from His glorious pierced Side in the Sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist for our healing and strength.

The second is the Feast of Corpus Christi, on which we celebrate the great Sacrament by which Christ, in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, dwells with us in the Church. In the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord, we contemplate anew the great Sacrament, the Mystery of Faith, in which, in the words of Saint Thomas Aquinas, “the common spiritual good of the whole Church is contained substantially”.[2] Christ poured out His Most Precious Blood for us in the Sacrifice of Calvary, but He first poured out His same Blood sacramentally for us at the Last Supper, instituting for all time the Holy Eucharist. At every Eucharistic Sacrifice, He makes sacramentally present the Sacrifice of Calvary.[3]

By the Most Precious Blood of God the Son Incarnate, God the Father brought to fulfilment the covenant which He had made with us at the time of the sin of our First Parents. When Adam and Eve, our First Parents, had grievously broken communion with God through the capital sin of pride, God, in His never failing and ever generous love, promised to restore our communion with Him by conquering sin in our human nature and winning for us eternal life.[4]

Throughout the centuries which prepared the great work of the Redemptive Incarnation, God the Father renewed His covenant of love with us, symbolized in the most striking way by the outpouring of the blood of the Paschal Lamb at the time of the Exodus. The blood of the Paschal Lamb saved our ancestors in the faith from death and was the foreshadowing of the shedding of the blood of the Lamb of God, Who indeed takes away the sins of the world, saving us from eternal death.[5] In the words of the Letter to the Hebrews: “[Christ] entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption”.[6]

Commenting on the Feast of the Most Precious Blood, Dom Prosper Guéranger observed:

“Therefore, the Blood of Jesus is set before our eyes at this moment as the Blood of the Testament; the pledge of the alliance proposed to us by God; the dower stipulated by eternal Wisdom for this divine union to which he is inviting all men, and its consummation in our soul which is being urged forward with such vehemence by the Holy Ghost.”[7]

Worshiping the Most Precious Blood of Jesus, we rejoice in the great mystery of God’s steadfast and enduring love of us, His marriage with us, sealed by the age-old covenant which is consummated in the outpouring of the Most Precious Blood of His only-begotten Son. Through the outpouring of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus from His glorious pierced Heart, the Holy Spirit dwells always in our hearts, stirring up in us the response of pure and selfless love to the faithful and enduring love of God. The Holy Spirit purifies and strengthens our hearts for union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

During this month dedicated to the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, it is fitting that we should reflect upon the fundamental apostolate of promoting respect for the inviolable dignity of human life, for Christ poured out His Blood for the salvation of all men. First of all, I commend the many, excellent and tireless pro-life leaders throughout the world and urge these soldiers of life to draw into ever greater unity for the battle against the culture of death and on behalf of the civilization of life and love. The battle is long and difficult. There is the temptation to discouragement. There are those who tell us that abortion is now the established “law of the land” and that, therefore, we should just accept it. But we can never accept the attack on innocent and defenseless brothers and sisters. We can never shrink from defending our most vulnerable brothers and sisters. We must never stop fighting for those who are powerless to defend themselves. It is the Precious Blood of Jesus which animates us and keeps us strong for the battle.

The opening words of the Pope Saint John Paul II’s Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae underline the fundamental place of the apostolate of the respect for human life in Christian living:

“The Gospel of life is at the heart of Jesus’ message. Lovingly received day after day by the Church, it is to be preached with dauntless fidelity as ‘good news’ to the people of every age and culture.”[8]

The Gospel of Life was first taught at the Creation of the world, when God wrote His law upon the human heart, a law whose first precept is the respect for human life. God unfailingly inscribes His lifegiving law in the heart of every man and woman whom He calls into being. Rightly, it is called the natural law because it conforms our thoughts, words and deeds to the objective reality of the world in which we live and of which we are the stewards. It should not surprise us the first manifestation of the fundamental and devastating disorder introduced by original sin was the murder of Abel by his brother Cain.[9] Christ, by His Redemptive Incarnation, gives divine strength to us, so that we can truly live in accord with what our heart teaches us in the depths of our being.

The first and most fundamental way of radiating the truth which Our Lord Jesus unfailingly teaches us is a strong witness to the inviolable dignity of all human life, from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. Our personal conversion and the transformation of the world to which our Christian faith is directed must, first of all, find expression in the safeguarding and fostering of every human life, especially of “the least of these my brethren”, in accord with Our Lord’s teaching in the Parable on the Last Judgment.[10]

In his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici, “On the Vocation and the Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World”, Pope John Paul II described the contemporary situation of the Church in a world which is increasingly secularized, marked by a pervasive and constant spread of relativism, which “inspires and sustains a life lived ‘as if God did not exist’”.[11] Not by chance, in Evangelium Vitae, addressing the culture of death which tragically marks a totally secularized society, he made reference to such a way of living in ignorance of God and of the order with which He has created the world and, above all, man. He declared:

“By living ‘as if God did not exist’, man not only loses sight of the mystery of God, but also of the mystery of the world and the mystery of his own being.”[12]

He went on to describe the situation which “inevitably leads to a practical materialism, which breeds individualism, utilitarianism and hedonism”,[13] and in which man exchanges his very being for material possessions and pleasures, rejects suffering as meaningless, and views his body and sexuality in abstraction from his person.

The consequences for the proclamation of the Gospel of life are evident. Having described the philosophical foundations of the culture of death, Pope John Paul II drew this powerful conclusion:

“In the materialistic perspective described so far, interpersonal relations are seriously impoverished. The first to be harmed are women, children, the sick or suffering, and the elderly. The criterion of personal dignity – which demands respect, generosity and service – is replaced by the criterion of efficiency, functionality and usefulness: others are considered not for what they ‘are’, but for what they ‘have, do and produce’. This is the supremacy of the strong over the weak.”[14]

For instance, the world today is increasingly witness to the supremacy of powerful economic and political forces, which make the pretence to define human life and its cradle in the faithful and enduring bond of man and woman in marriage.            

Making more specific the call, Pope Saint John Paul II clarified that the fulfilment of the responsibility of the lay faithful requires that they “will know how to overcome in themselves the separation of the Gospel from life, to again take up in their daily activities in family, work and society, an integrated approach to life that is fully brought about by the inspiration and strength of the Gospel”.[15] In our time, in a particular way, we must call upon the help of divine grace for overcoming any separation of the Gospel from life, especially in what pertains to the heart of the Gospel: the safeguarding and promoting of human life. The Most Precious Blood of Christ, flowing from the glorious pierced Heart of Jesus into our hearts, must inspire and animate every aspect of our lives, in accord with the truth of the Gospel, which it so powerfully manifests.

I underline the importance of developing and supporting truly pro-life and pro-family media, and of organizing and sustaining public manifestations in support of the inviolable dignity of innocent human life and the integrity of the family. The culture of death advances, in large part, because of a lack of attention and information among the general public. What is more, the thoroughly galvanized anti-life and anti-family agenda of the pervasive mass media confuses and corrupts minds and hearts, and dulls consciences to the law written by God upon every human heart.

Pope John Paul II declared:

“What is urgently called for is a general mobilization of consciences and a united ethical effort to activate a great campaign in support of life. All together, we must build a new culture of life: new, because it will be able to confront and solve today’s unprecedented problems affecting human life; new, because it will be adopted with deeper and more dynamic conviction by all Christians; new, because it will be capable of bringing about a serious and courageous cultural dialogue among all parties. While the urgent need for such a cultural transformation is linked to the present historical situation, it is also rooted in the Church’s mission of evangelization. The purpose of the Gospel, in fact, is ‘to transform humanity from within and to make it new’. Like the yeast which leavens the whole measure of dough (cf. Mt 13:33), the Gospel is meant to permeate all cultures and give them life from within, so that they may express the full truth about the human person and about human life.”[16]

The Church herself must address the situation of so many of her members who, even though they may be active in Church activities, “end up by separating their Christian faith from its ethical requirements concerning life, and thus fall into moral subjectivism and certain objectionable ways of acting”.[17]

Renewing our devotion to the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we receive the clear inspiration and the unwavering courage to live in Christ with integrity, expressing His pure and selfless love in our daily lives. Our life in Christ is not a matter of ideas; it is the reality of His own Precious Blood animating our very being. One of its fundamental and most powerful manifestations is the untiringly courageous engagement in the battle to overcome the culture of violence and death, and to advance the civilization of life and love.

I close with words taken from the prayer with which Pope John Paul II concludes Evangelium Vitae, invoking the intercession of Mary Immaculate:

“Grant that all who believe in your Son 
may proclaim the Gospel of life 
with honesty and love 
to the people of our time. 
Obtain for them the grace 
to accept that Gospel 
as a gift ever new, 
the joy of celebrating it with gratitude 
throughout their lives 
and the courage to bear witness to it 
resolutely, in order to build, 
together with all people of good will, 
the civilization of truth and love, 
to the praise and glory of God, 
the Creator and lover of life.”[18]

This article first appeared in the magazine Radici Cristiane no 155


[1] Cf. Jn 19, 34.

[2] “… bonum commune spirituale totius Ecclesiae continetur substantialiter.” Summa Theologiae, III, q. 65, art. 3, ad 1.

[3] Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1324.

[4] Cf. Gen 3, 15.

[5] Cf. Ex 12, 3-13; and Jn 1, 29.

[6] Heb 9, 12.

[7] “Le Sang du Jésus doit être pour nous à cette heure le Sang du Testament, le gage de l’alliance que Dieu nous propose, la dot constituée par l’éternelle Sagesse appelant les hommes à cette union divine, dont l’Esprit de sainteté poursuit sans fin la consommation dans nos âmes”. Prosper Guéranger, L’Année liturgique, Le Temps après le Pentecôte, Tome III, 15ème éd. (Tours: Maison Alfred Mame et Fils, 1926), p. 458. English Translation: Prosper Guéranger, The Liturgical Year, Volume 12, ed. The Benedictines of Stanbrook Abbey (Fitzwilliam: Loreto Publications, 2000), p. 369.

[8] “Evangelium vitae penitus implicatum insidet in Iesu nuntio. Ab Ecclesia amanter cotidie susceptum animosa id oportet fidelitate enuntietur velut redditum nuntium hominibus cuiusve aetatis et cuiuslibet cultus humani formae.” Ioannes Paulus PP. II, Litterae encyclicae Evangelium vitae, “De vitae humanae inviolabili bono”, 25 Martii 1995, Acta Apostolicae Sedis 87 (1995), 401, n. 1. [EV]

[9] Cf. Gen 4, 1-16.

[10] Cf. Mt 25, 40, 45.

[11] “…inhiant ac proclamant ita esse vivendum «etsi Deus non daretur».” Ioannes Paulus PP. II, Adhortatio Apostolica Christifideles Laici, “De vocatione et missione Laicorum in Ecclesia et in mundo,” 30 Decembris 1988, Acta Apostolicae Sedis 81 (1989), 454, n. 34. [CL].

[12] “Vivens reapse «perinde ac si Deus non sit», non modo a Dei mysterio, verum etiam a mundi ipsius arcano suaeque vitae aberrat.” EV, 426, n. 22.

[13] “…necessario ad materialismum practicum ducit, in quo individualismus, utilitarismus et hedonismus grassantur.” EV, 426, n. 23.

[14] “In materialistico ambitu hucusque proposito, inter personas necessitudines magnam imminutionem experiuntur. Detrimentum primi accipiunt mulier, puer, aegrotus vel patiens, senex. Iudicium dignitatis personalis proprium – scilicet observantiae, gratuitatis et servitii — substituitur efficientiae, functionalitatis utilitatisque iudicio: alter aestimatur non prout sic «est», sed prout aliquid «habet, facit et efficit». De dominatu agitur fortioris in debiliorem.” EV, 427, n. 23.

[15] “…hiatum inter Evangelium et vitam in seipsis superare valeant, in quotidianis familiae navitatibus, in labore et in societate unitatem vitae componentes, quae in Evangelio lucem et vim pro sua plena invenit adimpletione.” CL, p. 455, no. 34.

[16] “Quam primum inducantur necesse est generalis conscientiarum motus moralisque communis nisus, qui excitare valeant validum sane opus ad vitam tuendam: omnibus nobis simul coniunctis nova exstuenda est vitae cultura: nova, quae scilicet possit hodiernas de vita hominis ineditas quaestiones suscipere atque solvere; nova, utpote quae acriore et alacriore ratione omnium christianorum conscientiam permoveat; nova demum, quae accommodata sit ad gravem animosamque culturalem suscitandam comparationem cum omnibus. Huius culturalis conversionis necessitas coniungitur cum aetatis nostrae historica rerum condicione, at praesertim inhaeret in ipso evangelizandi munere quod proprium est Ecclesiae. Evangelium enim eo spectat «ut perficiat interiorem mutationem» et «humanitatem novam efficiat»; est velut fermentum quo pasta tota fermentatur (cfr Mt 13, 33), atque, qua tale, perfundere debet omnes culturas easque intus pervadere, ut integram declarent de homine deque eius vita veritatem.” EV, 509, n. 95.

[17] “… seiunctionem quandam inferunt inter christianam fidem eiusque moralia circa vitam postulata, progredientes hac ratione ad moralem quendam subiectivismum adque vivendi mores qui probari non possunt.” EV, 509-510, n. 95.

[18] “Credentes tuum in Filium effice ut Evangelium vitae candide sciant amanterque nostrae aetatis hominibus nuntiare. Ipsis gratiam impetrato ut veluti novum usque donum illud amplexentur, laetitiam vero ut memori mente in vitae suae perpetuitate id venerentur, pariter constantiam ut actuosa idem tenacitate testificentur unde universis cum bonae voluntatis hominibus civilem veritatis amorisque cultum exstruere possint, ad Dei vitae Conditoris et amatoris laudem atque gloriam.”  EV, 522, n. 105.