The Year of Mercy

Seeing abortion through the eyes of a post-abortive mother…

This past weekend I was privileged to volunteer at a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat. It brought back memories of the last time I was at the convent, only then I was a retreatant. It was divine mercy weekend when I attended the Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat, having never experienced an abortion or the loss of a child. It all began with a controversial research argument paper I had just written for an English class at my community college. In it I argue that abortion jeopardizes the emotional and mental stability of the mother. Someone challenged me to meet first-hand the women who have experienced abortion, insisting that knowing them and their stories would tremendously enrich my understanding of abortion. I agreed to volunteer at a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat, as it is designed to help the men and women who have experienced the loss of a child through abortion or miscarriage find peace and healing. But what at first I hadn’t realized was that I would experience this retreat just as though I were any other attendee. And this scared me, quite a bit, actually.

I was especially nervous about going in front of all these women – with all their troubles – and giving my life’s story. In fact, I was dreading it. I have been so blessed with an intact, loving family, so what on earth was I going to say for my 20 uninterrupted minutes? I was right in assuming that the other personal stories would be filled with heartache; hearing them broke my heart. The three women who attended the retreat had all dealt with so much grief in their lives, even their earliest memories were tainted. I waited until everyone else had gone, still uncertain of what to say. I didn’t speak for as long as they did, but I found it surprisingly emotional. When I was finished, I was amazed at how lovingly these women comforted me. In the end, it didn’t matter how different our stories were. Instead, we found the commonalities. Everyone reached out to one another, with merciful arms of acceptance. For me, it was the single most impactful exercise of the weekend. It allowed me to say things I had never told anyone else, hurts that were so buried in my soul I didn’t even recognize them until I began speaking. And then I was able to move past these hurts. I went to this retreat with the intent of helping others, but I found healing for a wound I hadn’t realized I harbored. Although the other women will undoubtedly continue to battle doubt and sorrow before finding complete healing, I pray that they are now assured of Christ and the Church’s boundless mercy and forgiveness.

Writing a research argument paper on the negative effects abortion has on women opened my eyes to the horrors of abortion, particularly on the mothers themselves. But the privilege of meeting these women truly opened my heart. I knew the facts; I understood the extreme psychological side effects the procedure has on so many women, but until I heard each of these beautiful women’s stories, I did not fully realize the intense brokenness and pain abortion imprints on their lives. I discovered that the victims of abortion are not only the unborn; the mothers are also victims, as they were continuously deceived and pressured into aborting their sons and daughters. Yes, it was one of the most difficult experiences of my life, but also one of the most rewarding. Women don’t simply wake up one morning and decide to abort their growing baby. So many people and decisions influenced that choice. It is undoubtedly vital to fight to end the legalization of abortion, yet it is also of the utmost importance that we treat the women and men wounded by abortion with the same compassion Christ gives to us. We also must strive to help them find healing and forgiveness in the arms of our merciful Savior.

For more information on Rachel’s Vineyard, visit

http://www.rachelsvineyard.org/

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Becoming the Brady Bunch?

Do you ever wonder what is wrong with you? I have. Particularly on occasions such as when I was  looking about in a consignment shop, minding my own business. Out of nowhere, an older gentleman randomly came up to my family and exclaimed, “Wow!” (There was an awkward pause since he exclaimed this with way  too much gusto and seemed to stagger backwards at the sight of my sister and myself.) “You look like the Brady Bunch or something!” Now I wasn’t wearing white boots or straight, long blonde hair so needless to say I was initially puzzled at his statement. I mean, there were only two of us there! Didn’t the Brady Bunch have six kids? I can only imagine if this fella saw the rest of my family!

I asked my dad about it later, pondering how on earth we remotely resemble the 70’s television show. His reply was, “It’s because you’re wholesome. And that’s something the world doesn’t see anymore. Everyone is used to seeing young people with their heads down, staring at a screen. It’s rare to see them looking up and engaging with others.” Sadly, this is very much the case. We have become so accustomed to seeing broken families and disgruntled kids, a happy household is a rarity.

Sometimes I feel a bit like a freak when strangers comment on how unusual we are and question us on our lifestyle. I wonder to myself, is it that obvious I’m a homeschooler? I mean, yes I know we wear skirts and educate at home. And I will admit, we aren’t the most technically advanced family in the neighborhood. And the real kicker, we’re traditional Catholics. But does that really warrant all the perplexed stares, worried comments, and constant advice? I always found it ironic that the very people who are amazed at how well-behaved and educated we are, suddenly grow concerned for our development after hearing we’re home-schooled.

So long story short, I’ve slowly grown accustom to explaining and even defending my way of life. I have come to terms with the fact that my family and myself have chosen a rather unusual lifestyle, and thus will always draw attention from others. And you know what, it’s alright to live a life set apart from the world. So if ever you feel rejected or isolated because of your values, rejoice! It means you’re doing things right! “If you had been of the world, the world would love its own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefor the world hateth you.” John 15:18

A Love Returned in Full

I had it all planned out…at least I thought I did. From my aspirations and goals to my hardworking husband and four adorable angels of children, I thought I could more or less plot out what my life would entail. Oh, how wrong I was! Life throws you some unexpected curve balls. The things we can’t plan for happen. And try as hard as we might, we cannot organize our lives into that perfect life we believe we deserve.

So just what are we to do? Surrender. Just one simple little word, but so difficult a task. Your hands are grasping desperately to the concerns of the world. Those clenched fingers might hold your dreams, worries,  or your material goods. Whatever it is, open your hands and let it go. I know how terrifying it can be to say with sincerity, “Thy will be done”. After all, what if God takes your prayer at face value, and you’re left living a life so distant from your own hopes and desires.

Christ is the lover of your soul. He loved you enough to bring you out off nothingness and into existence. We take this beautiful life we are given and can only dwell upon what we don’t have. Well, if only my life were like so and so, or if only there wasn’t such and such. You fill in the blanks. God blesses each of us with gifts so unique, why can’t we just praise him for his goodness and trust in his divine plan?

It is through complete conformity with the will of God that we return our love for him. As St. Teresa of Avila said, “The soul must forget about {understanding}, and abandon itself into the arms of love, and His Majesty will teach it what to do next.”

We can talk ourselves out of the daunting notion of surrender easily enough. “After all, I have things pretty much under control. Going to extremes like that really isn’t necessary.” You whisper to yourself as a quick balm to you conscience. This is very dangerous, for the more our gaze tilts towards ourselves, the more susceptible we become. We grow so entangled in our own little woes, we forget the big picture. We ought to remember the words of St. Catherine of Siena, “All that God gives us and all that He permits in this world have no other end than to sanctify us in Him.”

I have noted that we often become so wrapped up in saying “no”. It seems that’s all we ever do! No, I can’t wear an outfit like that. No, I can’t eat meat on Fridays. Instead of focusing on all that we can’t do, let’s focus on our yes. As faithful Christians, every day of our lives we have the choice to answer with a resounding yes to Our Lord’s call. Because of our faithfulness, we are blessed with so many graces. REJOICE! And start concentrating on the many opportunities we are given to accept the gifts and graces of God.

So there you have it. I know from firsthand experience that life is so beautiful when you throw your hands up in total surrender. It is so funny how God works. He pressed this issue upon my heart but after reading through this post and editing I realize how it pertains to myself. Terribly often I long to cling to my vain plans and affections. It can be the most difficult thing in the world to let go, completely and utterly. When you allow God to compose your life’s story, it will definitely be filled with unexpected plot twists and a surprise ending. It will be a beautiful tale, filled with joy and peace; it will most assuredly have a happy ending.

Finally, the happiness of the person whose will is entirely submitted to God’s is constant, unchangeable and endless…He is like a man seated on a rock in the middle of the ocean who looks on the fury of the waves without dismay and can amuse himself watching and counting them as they roar and break at his feet. Whether the sea is calm or rough, whichever way the waves are carried by the wind is a matter of indifference to him, for the place where his is is firm and unshakable. That is the reason for the peaceful and untroubled expression we find on the faces of those who have dedicated themselves to God.
-Father Jean Baptiste Saint Jure