Originally from Quebec, Fr. Luc Payette was ordained to the priesthood in 1992 for the Hamilton Diocese in Ontario. He has served at several parishes in the Diocese and is currently the pastor at Mary Immaculate Parish in Chepstow, Ont. He is the Spiritual Director for Business for Life, a not-for-profit association of Canadian business and professional people who are committed to pro-life principles.
CAMPAIGN LIFE COALITION: Why are you outspoken about life issues as a priest and pastor?
FR LUC PAYETTE: For me, being pro-life seems to be pretty obvious. I was 15 years old when my dad died in a car accident. He was only 48 years old. My youngest brother was only 3 years old when he died in a farm accident. It is moments like that you realize how precious life is, you are here one day, gone another day. So that is when you become aware that life and faith go together. As a pastor, I am blessed to have parishioners who are very committed to life. I am always inspired by the defense of life because that is at the heart of the Church and I am always edified by the extraordinary faith of the lay people. Furthermore, I don’t see how you can have a faith without not having a strong commitment to life, the two go together hand in hand. Look at the Christmas story how can you say I don’t care for the unborn and celebrate Christmas? The story of Jesus is the story of life, it goes together.
CLC: Several years ago, you delivered a very powerful sermon that challenged people to really question the importance of life and the importance of having large families. Can you tell me more about that day?
FR. LUC: It was during the Easter season and that Sunday I was thinking about the verse “Go out to the whole world and make disciples of all nations.” As I was reading the Gospel, I just had this idea. I looked at the people and I thought “go for it.” The Lord said make disciples, and yet look at the world today. We lost faith, our churches are empty and forced to close, shortage of vocations etc. I thought to myself, what was the key? What were the keys? During the 1950s to the early 1970s, to latest early 1980s when we had the most prosperity in the history of Canada when you had this faith, this revival, the renewal, this period right after the war, what was the key? I told the congregation that I would like to do a test. I said: “I hope you don’t mind, but would everyone please stand during the homily? I will ask you some questions and I will repeat them twice. Let me start with this one. If you are the oldest child in your family or the second oldest please remain standing” (I saw a few people that were being seated, I estimated that there were over 700 people in the church). Then I continued. “If your father was the oldest in your family or the second oldest please remain standing, if he was the third, fourth, tenth, or fifteenth please be seated, (a number of people were seated). What about your mother, if she was the oldest or second oldest will you remain standing and if not, please sit down. Now let’s look at your father’s father, your grandfather, if he was the oldest or the second please remain standing, if not, be seated please. And then your father’s mother, if she was the oldest or second oldest please remain standing if not please be seated, (and more people sat down). Now look at your mother’s father, your grandfather on her side, if he was the oldest or second oldest remain standing, if third, fourth, or tenth, or fifteenth please be seated. (More people sat down). And then your mother’s mother, your grandmother on her side, if she was the oldest or second oldest remain standing, if not, please be seated.” When I finished asking those questions, I would say 90% of the people were seated. Only a few dozen were left standing. I said “look at that, the fastest growth of the church in the world happened when the culture was the most pro-life, when families were not being numbered, some of our great grandparents would have been the youngest of 15. Imagine if the contraceptive mentality and abortion had begun just three generations ago, most of us would not be here today, think of that.” I observed the people’s faces, they were shocked. “You talk of overpopulation, think of how fast you can empty a country of its people by having this one or two child policy, think of that, how many of our ancestors came from very large families. And the Lord says go make disciples, well the discipleship begins at home in the family. My vocation I owe it immensely to my very prayerful mother that I was so blessed to have. It all comes from prayer and openness to life, and I’d like to hear your stories. Let me know because when talking about being pro-life and so on, it all begins at the family level, to be open to having a number of children that God wants to give you. I am sure some of you were hoping one or two and you have five or six and yet you will never regret the other ones and I have never met a family that says we are sorry we had more than two. So it’s about life and it is so fundamental to evangelize to the world but to fulfill the gospel we have to also promote life. You can’t close your eyes to the plight of the unborn and say I want to evangelize in the name of the Lord. It all goes together. Openness to life is openness to the gospel, vice versa.”
CLC: What kind of reaction did the congregation have?
FR. LUC: After mass, people came up to me. One lady said “Oh Father, I am the youngest of 16, my mother was the youngest of 14.” I had people lining up to tell me their stories. One lady was crying, “I have 4 children and only three grandchildren and only one great grandchild.” How quickly we had lost God’s people by the contraceptive mentality. Look what a mentality can do to society. Think ahead to 30, 40 years, who will be here? You know, before families were based on people on children, now it is based on things. We want our one or two children to have ever toy possible. But there is hope, to me the homeschooling families, the families in my area with quite a few children, I see the goodness in those families, I see the faith in action and it gives me a lot of hope.
CLC: What motivates you in the pro-life movement?
FR. LUC: What motivates me so much, is that I know the Lord wants me to promote life but also the people who I meet. For example at the Ottawa National March for Life, the sense of unity and the sense of faith is unparalleled. I don’t see that anywhere else, the intensity of the presence of the Holy Spirit among the people. I see this the strongest in the pro-life movement. That to me is very clear, there is a goodness that is felt. The quality of the faith of people is very much edifying. When they see a priest they are encouraged and we encourage each other so that we don’t feel alone. If you respect life you are going to respect your neighbour. I see the joy of the Lord in people who stand up for life.
CLC: Father, what advice would you give to other clergy members who might not be as involved?
FR. LUC: Just two prayers. Ask the Lord where do you want me to be involved and what do you want me to do? For example, I did not seek to be the chaplain for Business for Life, I did not know they even existed. I was asked to join and so I did. The Lord knows, He knows best where ones gifts can be used. I find the rosary very powerful for that.
CLC: And what would you say to young people about getting involved or even business owners.
FR. LUC: The biggest threat to Christianity is that the people themselves don’t know the power that they have, the power of their witness. We see in scripture how God moved hearts through Moses, Elijah, and John the Baptist. So never underestimate what God can do through you and for you. That to me is what is important, those who have the light of Jesus in their hearts have more power than those with darkness. And to be convinced and be available, that would be the advice, say to the Lord, you know where I am, be available, be prayerful and available, be ready and God will show you and he will draw you, He is the one who does that.