On Sunday, December 27th, I spent a Holy Hour at the killing center in South Bend in order to prepare for making my promises the next morning. During that time of prayer, I was once again reminded of how I find myself not wanting to truly contemplate what happens inside that building. For the few moments that I did, a wave of horror washed over me as I considered the reality of what the babies suffer as their lives are extinguished. I always have these thoughts at such times: can this really be happening now? Can this really be happening in America? I cannot help but think that it seems more like Nazi Germany. And always the question...how can I return to a normal life knowing this?
That has been a question that I have asked myself repeatedly since I saw "The Eclipse of Reason" during my first trip to Washington, D.C., for the March for Life in January 1989. How can a doctor do that? How can we allow it? How can we live in cities where this happens and behave like it is not happening?
A spiritual darkness has blinded those who support/commit abortion. "But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes." (1John 2:11) How very dark it is today, when we are on the verge of passing a health care reform bill that may mean the death of many more innocent children!
Yet today I have rejoiced, because the Lord has looked with favor on me, and has given me the gift of the vocation of a Missionary of the Gospel of Life. Today, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, I professed my promise to be for the unborn the voice they do not have. These unborn victims of abortion are as silent as the first martyrs, the babies of Bethlehem killed by Herod's order.
My cousin, Fr. Jason Freiburger, was given permission by Fr. Pavone to receive my promises. The people present at this beautiful ceremony were very special to me. My mother and father (Robert and Rosalie Placek), who gave me life and most importantly, nurtured my faith as a Catholic, were there. My mother has lived with Multiple Sclerosis for over 30 years and is, in my opinion, a victim soul. My father has been a shining example of marital fidelity all those years. My sisters, Kelli (Homan) and Robyn (Placek), were present. They are my best friends and my source of strength. Kelli's 18-month-old daughter, Samantha, was also there. She is an amazing little girl, who Kelli and her husband waited 7 long years for. Her presence reminded me of the babies and of the childlike relationship we are meant to have with our Heavenly Father, one of total trust and joy.
Also present were my aunt and uncle, Jeannie and Gene Freiburger, the parents of Fr. Jason. I kept thinking in awe during the Mass what it must be like to see your son celebrate Mass as an alter Christus. To know that you have given life to the man who now gives you Life in the Eucharist. My aunt and uncle are true examples of openness to life in Christian marriage: they have given life to seven children, of whom Fr. Jason is the oldest.
With them today was also their daughter, Nadine, who has Down Syndrome. Nadine gave me two very loving hugs today, which touched my heart. A friend of mine told me a few years ago that when he and his wife found out that their son had Down Syndrome, and they told the doctor that they were going to continue the pregnancy, she was amazed because 90% of parents would choose to end the pregnancy. How much those parents deny themselves life and joy by denying their child life! How much more do persons with disabilities give to us who are blessed enough to be part of their lives. My mother and Nadine give our family a chance to be pulled out of ourselves, out of our selfishness, a chance to serve and to receive in return a part of their blessedness. For is not Christ really present in them in some mysterious way? Being near them is like being near the sun, whose rays are invisible but warm us just the same.
It is in taking care of my mother that I am most living my vocation as a Missionary of the Gospel of Life right now. Many of the victims of Dr. Kevorkian (Dr. Death) had Multiple Sclerosis. My mother was unable to understand at first that what he was doing was wrong, because in her innocence she really believed what the secular media were saying about his compassion. That really scared me...what if someone took advantage of her naive and trusting nature and tried to talk her into physician-assisted suicide someday? In our current debate about health care reform, the idea of "end of life conversations" with your doctor is being encouraged to save money on medical care which is most costly during the last year of life. I have serious fears about how my mother will be treated during her decline. So I am finishing my studies to become a nurse, in order not just to change my career (I was a teacher), but also to be able to care for her as long as possible at home.
My aunt gave me a gift to remember today. It was a plaque entitled "Journey" that had my favorite Bible verse on it: "'For I know the plans I have for you,' says the Lord, 'They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'" (Jeremiah 29:11) My own vocation journey has had its moments of disappointment and sadness, as have the journeys of many other people. But today was a day of complete joy. The Lord has received my promises; He has looked on me with great love; it is union with Him that will allow me to live these promises. The next few verses of Jeremiah 29 state: "'When you call me, when you go to pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, you will find me with you,' says the LORD." I pray that I will seek the Lord with my whole heart, that I may find Him with me. It is the Lord who will give us a future and a hope, a hope for the Culture of Life.
The Victory of Life has already been won by the Resurrection of Christ...my friend and fellow MEV-in-training, Ron Kramer, wrote about fighting from victory. This idea of the victory having already been won was really brought home to me by the prayers I prayed in preparation for my promises. I had not fully considered this aspect of our fight until I started praying these words each day: "I know there is nothing that destroys more life than abortion, Yet I rejoice that you have conquered death by the Resurrection of Your Son." The fact that the victory has already been won grants us such freedom! Freedom from fear (the fear of thinking what if abortion is never brought to an end), freedom from anger (we need not resort to violence - after all, violence is a reaction to the fear that nothing is strong enough to conquer this terrible evil...but there is! and it has already been conquered!).
So today I rejoice in the victory won for the unborn by Christ. I rejoice in the crown of martyrdom that has been gifted to the Holy Innocents, born and unborn. I rejoice that the Lord has granted me the grace to life in such a time as this...that I may have the gift of being called to be active in the prolife movement, to never be silent, to never be passive, to never forget the unborn. During the Mass today, it seemed to me that perhaps these Holy Innocents were present in a spiritual way, to hear my promises. What a beautiful thought! It reminded me of the words of Henry Hyde: "When the time comes, as it surely will, when we face that awesome moment, the final judgment, I've often thought, as Fulton Sheen wrote, that it is a terrible moment of loneliness. You have no advocates, you are there alone standing before God -- and a terror will rip your soul like nothing you can imagine. But I really think that those in the pro-life movement will not be alone. I think there'll be a chorus of voices that have never been heard in this world but are heard beautifully and clearly in the next world -- and they will plead for everyone who has been in this movement. They will say to God, 'Spare him, because he loved us!'" My dear brothers and sisters, dear precious unborn infants, how I love you! Please be with me and help me to be faithful to the promises I made today, so that one day I may look on your faces with Our Father in Heaven.