Archive for December, 2013

If “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!”…Why do I Feel Like Such a Scrooge?

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

"A Christmas Carol"

Christmas can be a magical time, especially when enjoying the season through the eyes of children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.  However alongside the lights and festivities, the joy and wonder of this special time, many struggle with a sense of grief and loss.

Sometimes it’s not a pervasive gloom, but more a gnawing melancholy we can fight off by being consumed with all the busyness of the season. You may find yourself (or notice a friend or relative) drinking more than usual at holiday celebrations, dulling an aching pain you would rather avoid.

You don’t have to be an Ebenezer Scrooge to recognize that the expectations for an idealized Hallmark Card Christmas by the fireplace fail to match up to the complex realities, the uncertainty and fear that are part of many of our lives.  If we can slow down the Holiday rush for a few minutes, we may discover something important in this great feast.  Perhaps the deeper meaning of this Holiday does not require us to deny our grief and pain, but to come to see that this suffering is intimately connected to the Christmas story.

Much of the music and mythology of the holiday highlight an idealized and sanitized version of the Christmas story.  But the accounts of the Annunciation and birth of Jesus in the Gospels reveal that God intimately enters human history with a man and woman who are struggling with confusion and fear… just like us.

We know the stories; we have heard them thousands of times.  But focus in a special way on the initial response of Mary and Joseph as they learn of God’s invitation to embrace their very mysterious vocation:

The Angel Gabriel is well aware of Mary’s fear when his greets her.

“Do not be afraid Mary…”

And to Joseph:

“Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife…”

Of course they were both confused and afraid.  We think of the Christmas story in the context of cozy and warm family gatherings, with cookies baking in the oven.   But in the real Christmas story, the lives of Mary and Joseph are in the process of being turned upside down!  They will face even more anxiety, fear and uncertainty.

Joseph and Mary, and the life of their newborn child will be threatened with terror and death from a demonically inspired Herod. They face dangerous travel and exile from their hometowns for years to come.  They surely were challenged in many ways that the stories do not recount.  We know that while their faith in God would prove in time to be rock solid…no doubt that faith and trust in Him was forged in the fires of anxiety and fear.  We can imagine that Joseph had other moments of doubt and confusion and would need to remember  the Angel’s words of reassurance… “don’t be afraid, God is with you, keep moving ahead…trust in Him.”

Christmas Triggers

We are not so different than Jesus and Mary.  Fear, anxiety and depression can at times be part of our own Christmas story…and like Scrooge we may face scary ghosts of Christmas past haunting our sleep as the clock tolls midnight.

scrooge and Marley

The focus on the Christ Child and the joy of children at Christmas may remind you (or someone you love) of an event in the past when you were overwhelmed with a fear and anxiety and tempted to see abortion as the only “choice.”  We remember the loss of a son or daughter, grandchild, or a brother or sister who will never share in the wonder of the Holiday.  This can be very much a conscious awareness.  However for many this loss is frozen deep under the waters of denial.  The Holiday themes trigger those feelings and memories of that lost child, which can be expressed in depression, melancholy and a hunger to remain distracted and busy in the hustle and bustle of the season.

Perhaps  this was a child that you longed for in the recesses of your heart, but your partner insisted that abortion was the only rational solution.  Like the Holy Family you felt powerless and afraid.  You grieve that there was no Saint Joseph in your life to save the child from the modern day Herods of Planned Parenthood.  Maybe you’re a man grieving that you failed to be more like Saint Joseph to that vulnerable woman facing an unplanned pregnancy.

Christmas can be a time when we are acutely aware of the loss of a beloved relative, remember joy-filled memories that have faded…or perhaps painful experiences of family dysfunction which are often magnified at the Holidays.  We may be facing the anxiety of health concerns, economic and employment uncertainty, or the breakdown of a marriage.

The Cross Above the Manger

The presence of suffering, death, fear and anxiety need not be denied and suppressed in order to protect some sanitized, idealized Christmas season.  If we can learn the intimate connection between the incarnation and birth of our Savior and his suffering on the cross, we may discover in our own suffering the true joy and hope of this holiday.

Fr. Bernhard Speringer shares:

  The Gospels…indicate that the Cross above the Manger is more than a mere decoration…The birth and death of Jesus Christ, the Manger and the Cross, belong together indissolubly. God became man in order to die for us as man. God was born in Bethlehem in order to be able to lay down his life on Golgotha out of love for men!  Thus the Manger and the Cross form a union. Both the Manger and the Cross are for us the revelation of God’s love.

When our lives are turned upside down by the tsunamis of upheaval and suffering that come unexpectedly and without warning, we can turn to a God that is intimately connected with the suffering of his people.  We can come to a deeper understanding of that powerful and precious title of our savior and God born into the anxiety and violence faced by many poor families, and a baby Jesus who would end his life being tortured to death on a cross.

This child’s title is  Emanuel – God with Us.

Loneliness and isolation in times of suffering and temptation can blind us to an essential truth of our faith; God is with us in our suffering…intimately present to us in Spirit and in the hearts of those who reach out to us in love.

During the Holidays give the gift to a friend or relative (or to yourself!) of providing an opportunity to share what it is truly on their heart and soul this Christmas season.  Acknowledge that while this is a time of joy, you know that they may also be suffering from the loss of a loved one, financial anxieties, and if they have confided in you, a previous abortion.  Allow them to share their feelings and memories.  If they are in need of deeper healing of a loss like abortion, share with them the good news that this is a perfect time of year to bring this suffering to the Lord, and attend a program for spiritual and emotional healing after abortion in the New Year.

This is the Reason for the Season!

May we draw strength in the year ahead from the courage and faith of the Holy Family.  Joseph and Mary, though struggling with with fear and anxiety, gave birth to the mission of their Son.

For those healed of abortion loss, like Scrooge on Christmas morning they learn that despair and death do not have the last word!

Scrooge Christmas Morning

They discover in recovery from this wound their own special mission.  They respond to a calling to proclaim the truth of their abortion loss and the good news of healing to a Nation and world that desperately needs to hear their message in the Silent No More Awareness Campaign.

Jesus has promised us that in time he will transform all our suffering, into the joy and hope of resurrection to eternal life.

When in the darkness and loneliness of suffering this can seem a very distant hope.

I pray that these words of Christ will fill you with peace and joy…that whatever you are facing, and will face in the days ahead, you can trust that He is indeed Emanuel and is close to you in your suffering, and will transform the darkest shadows of your life with the blinding light of His Glorious Resurrection:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them [as their God]. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away.” The one who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Then he said, “Write these words down, for they are trustworthy and true.” Rev: 21

 

Through a Mirror Darkly: Graphic Images of Aborted Children…and the Graphic Anguish of their Parents

Monday, December 9th, 2013

Through Glass Darkly

For now we see as through a mirror, in darkness, but then we shall see face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know even as I also am known. –Corinthians 13:12

In this Advent season Fr. Frank Pavone  reveals the powerful connection between the images of aborted children and the incarnation and wounds of Christ:

The first Christians…saw and touched [Jesus]…This contact with the humanity of Christ speaks to us of what we are to do now for the unborn. It is the contact with the human reality of their lives, and the human tragedy of their deaths, that is to impel us in our self-sacrificing love for them.  That is why we need to look at the pictures… of what abortion does to that baby…

The use of pictures of abortion victims in pro life efforts is clearly consistent with the strategies of other social justice movements.  These movements used graphic images of social injustice to expose evil (e.g., racism, genocide), raise awareness and stir the lukewarm to take action.   While there are reasonable differences regarding the proper context to display such images, there is clearly a strong resistance to exposing this evil.  Sometimes we find outright hostility toward those who attempt to reveal the true nature of the abortion procedure in their communities.

However I invite you to consider expanding our understanding of graphic images to also include the graphic experiences of emotional and physical pain shared by thousands of women and men after abortion loss.  As we shall see, exposing this graphic suffering can also cause controversy, and even hostility to those that try and reveal this truth.

What does this type of graphic image look like?

From the British Newspaper the Sentinel:

Throughout university I was in a relationship with a girl…Just before our finals she left suddenly and seemed to disappear. Fifteen years on she contacted me through Facebook and suggested we meet. She eventually told me why she left, that she was pregnant with our child, knew I wouldn’t support her, had an abortion and became very depressed and attempted suicide…

The images of aborted children are inescapably gruesome and disturbing.  They reveal the true nature of the actions hidden behind the obfuscating rhetoric of “choice.”  But note in this father’s anguished letter the depression and attempted suicide of the mother of their child who suffered for years after the procedure before finding help.  Consider the despair that would lead this woman to attempt an abortion of her own precious life. (Two studies from Finland(1)show that women who had abortions were 6 to 7 times more likely to commit suicide than women who gave birth. )

This mother’s despair reveals to us an equally disturbing graphic representation of the consequences of choice.  In a very real sense, the graphic image/memory of this mother’s abortion, the unresolved complicated grief and pain, is etched into her heart, soul and mind.  The images of aborted children often surge up from the unconscious of their parents in graphic nightmares, similar to those on pro life graphic displays.  These images of suffering and death between child and parent reflect back upon one another as they are intimately connected.

The graphic images of aborted children and their wounded parents reveal to us an impassioned plea for justice, healing and reconciliation.

A Father’s Graphic Pain

The letter from this father shared in the Sentinel reveals that this is not an event for him buried in the past, but a present reality that came crashing unexpectedly into his life like a blind-side car wreck.  He struggles with the shame, guilt and depression that many men silently suffer after participating in the death of their unborn child.  This is a father that has matured and moved away from the selfishness of his youth so he now understands the full gravity of the child’s death, the effect on the mother and now his own complicated grief.  As he tries to absorb this shock, he struggles to keep up with the normal functions of his day to day life…and keep up appearances that everything is just fine:

I was shocked that she had gone through all of that, on her own and largely because of me. I feel so guilty that I treated her so unkindly. Since she told me I have been off sick from work and my friends are worried about me, but I’m too ashamed to tell them what is going on.

This isolation and shame are such deadly traps for men and women dealing with grief and loss after abortion.  Without a program to share, recover and reconcile this loss men can turn to anything that will bury the pain; drugs, alcohol, sex, pornography, work.  But depression and grief can also find expression in a seething anger that may submerge for a time, but will surface like toxic steam bubbling to the surface of their lives, bringing additional pain and heartache to men and their loved ones.

The Truth Will Set You Free

There is often controversy and hostility to the use of graphic images of abortion victims.  But you will find a similar opposition to exposing the graphic images and truth of those wounded by abortion loss.

Three women physicians, Donna Harrison, Mary Davenport and Martha Shuping, were invited to give lectures on complications of abortion for the MWIA, the Medical Women’s International Association.  Pro abortion agents within the conference forced a cancellation of their presentation which offered compelling and legitimate research confirming there are significant health risks for women after abortion.   This type of denial by professional health care providers is a cruel form of malpractice toward those that need this information as well as resources for recovery.

There is Hope and Healing After Abortion

Parents can come to see the paschal mystery of Christ reflected in their own journey of suffering and death caused by sin.   Through an abortion recovery program centered in the saving power of Jesus and His resurrection, parents can embrace their aborted child – not as a dismembered nightmare baby – but as a unique son or daughter, whole and safe in the embrace of a loving God.  They can be lifted out of the pit of despair by the hope of seeing their child face to face one day in heaven:

For now we see as through a mirror, in darkness, but then we shall see face to face…then I shall know even as I also am known. –Corinthians 13:12

Marching for Life

As we once again prepare to gather as a national movement of social justice at the March for Life in Washington, DC, may we pray for an even greater conviction to expose (with humility, prudence and sensitivity) the graphic image of what abortion does to the unborn child, and the graphic suffering of their parents after abortion loss.

Early Treatment of Abortion Loss…Will Save Millions of Unborn Children

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

Repeat Abortions

Stephanie Gray writes in LifeNews:

33,000: the number of Canadian women having abortions this year who have previously had an abortion. That’s according to the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Canada: “At least one third of women undergoing induced abortions in Canada have had a prior abortion” (2012; 34(6): 536).  

In the United States the incidence of repeat abortion is even higher with nearly half of all abortions being repeat procedures (46% according to the Guttmacher Institute.)  The Population Research Institute reports that the average Russian woman has seven abortions in her lifetime.  Those offering after abortion healing programs like Rachel’s Vineyard know that multiple abortions are common as women grieve and heal of repeat procedures.

Some common reactions to this phenomenon of repeat abortions:

What is wrong with these women? Don’t they know about birth control…or is abortion their preferred type of birth control? How can they so casually conceive and abort their pregnancies?  You think they would have learned from their first time on the abortion table to not get themselves in this mess again?

These are understandable questions, and for those of us working to end the scourge of abortion, and heal the wounds of this loss it is important to correctly respond to what is truly an alarming worldwide pattern.

The more you learn about repeat abortion and the connection to unresolved emotional trauma/grief, the greater will be your conviction to not only stop all abortions, but also to bring women and men to healing programs as soon as possible after that initial abortion loss.  This healing will save the lives of millions of unborn children lost in repeat abortion procedures.

Forbidden Grief: The Mastery of Abortion Trauma through Repetition

Repeat abortions are a traumatic cycle of death and destruction for the unborn…and their mothers.  Theresa Burke, Ph.D., published Forbidden Grief: The Unspoken Pain of Abortion a groundbreaking study of abortion trauma.

Dr Burke shares:

Christine had her first abortion at the age of 18. She was under treatment for mild depression, and her psychiatrist recommended abortion. Since this was before Roe, Christine was told that she would have to sign a paper that stated she would commit suicide if she did not have an abortion. Her mental health care workers orchestrated the entire event. In reality Christine knew she would not kill herself, but she felt that she had to follow her doctor’s orders.

She later married and became pregnant again at the age of 22. Her husband was eager and ready to begin a family, but she felt anxiety and fear over becoming a parent. The message from her psychiatrist that colored her view of herself as a potential mother was that she was not mentally stable enough to have a child and that having a baby would provoke a mental breakdown and even suicidal behavior. The thought of having a baby simply terrified her. Because of her fears of inadequacy, she had another abortion and divorced shortly thereafter.

Christine’s third pregnancy also ended in a second-trimester abortion. This pattern continued three more times for a total of six abortions. Each time she had an intense desire to be a mother, but each time she could see no other recourse but abortion, reenacting the first trauma of helplessness to overcome her perceived inadequacy and incompetence.

Read the rest here