Some Reflections For Mothers
The 'Vaccine Discussion'
Father Bob Papi
used with permission
The Catechism of the Catholic Church #2288 reminds us that: "Life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take REASONABLE care of them, taking into account the needs of others and the common good."
We live in an era of information, dis-information, over-information, conflicting information, speculative information, fearful story-telling and rumor-mongering that is passed off as information and, given the seemingly relentless and rapidly constant changes, though NOT necessarily always authentically truthful or moral advances, in science, technology, biology...well, NO WONDER God-loving, holy child-rearing Mothers and Fathers experience extreme stress and confusion while trying to discern holy, truth-seeking, moral wisdom to guide them in all the necessary (and blessed by God) choices they MUST make about their children.
Since there are some many issues that call for this kind of discernment, I can only offer parents some general wisdom. The issue of vaccines and choices is just an example of many of the choices that parents must make, and I will use it as an example.
Thus the quotation that I opened with.
What is a REASONABLE choice in the middle of a flu epidemic, for example, may not be reasonable otherwise.
When I was a child, there was NO vaccine against polio. The most reasonable choice for parents and civil authorities in the midst of a polio epidemic was to isolate the infected and close down virtually all gathering places for children. Such extreme measures seemed to be the only way to protect lives.
When the Salk vaccine first came out, there was a risk to taking it. Some developed a mild form of polio from the vaccine and its long-term effects were unknown. But it was also REASONABLE for parents to take the risk of vaccination given the alternative - the ravages of polio.
It is important to remember that the personal "I" can sacrifice self, even submit to a martyr's death for the "Other", but I cannot ever sacrifice YOUR life for "MY" self. I also cannot risk my immortal soul, or the souls of others by my actions.
I do not risk the immortal soul of my child when I seek to save their life.
We must live IN the world, that is clearly God's will, for He has placed us here. We also must NOT be OF the world. It is here, in our highly complex culture, that we encounter the Mystery of the daily embrace of the Cross, His Cross, which we must take up daily so that we may follow Him.
It is virtually impossible to know everything about everything, including about vaccines.
So what are parents to do? So often the information about the culture (growing), origin, effects and dangers of a vaccine (and indeed most medicines and surgical procedures) is difficult to evaluate objectively, given the seemingly endless chorus of voices screaming conflicting advice and information about virtually everything.
TRUST YOUR HEARTS FILLED AS THEY ARE WITH THE GRACE OF STATE GIVEN YOU BY THE VERY GOD WHO HAS ENTRUSTED THIS LIFE, THIS SOUL, THIS CHILD, THIS HUMAN PERSON TO YOUR LIVE AND CARE.
DO NOT BE AFRAID!
Once you have taken reasonable effort and care to acquire basic information, assuring as best you can the information is accurate...and the operative point here is WITHIN reason...then you must make a choice knowing that God who has given you this splendid vocation trusts YOU.
No one can forsee ALL eventualities, know all the information, neither can we withhold from a child what will most reasonable be in the child's best interests. Thus, for example, we cannot keep the child from their talent for walking until some mythological day arrives when we can keep them safe from risk, danger, pain, suffering or evil no matter where they roam.
Is this not the great pain of the Cross for parents, that you cannot totally control the universe in which your children must necessarily grow and live?
Should anyone have specific questions I shall in future answer them, but for now most dearly beloved Mothers and Fathers, entrusting you to the compassionate care of our Blessed Mother I give you for your strengthening and consolation the very words of Jesus Himself:
DO NOT LET YOUR HEARTS BE TROUBLED.
TRUST IN GOD STILL, AND TRUST IN ME. (John 14:1)