Archive for January, 2016

True or False? The Divisive Subject of Abortion Should Never be Addressed at Sunday Worship Services

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

 

Black Woman Praying

I was recently at a party where the topic of religion and abortion came up.  A Christian minister overheard the discussion and abruptly interjected:

“Abortion is a private and sensitive issue. Whatever your position on abortion, Sunday services are not the place to talk about the subject. We can’t let politics get in the way of preaching the Gospel.”

Maybe you agree with this minister.

The Shockwaves of Abortion

There have been nearly 60 million abortions since 1973.

Does the silence of the church communicate compassion  to those who experienced an abortion?  Is it sensitive and respectful to avoid addressing this issue with the countless fathers, grandparents, family and friends that are intimately part of many abortion decisions?

Or does this silence reinforce denial and ignore the deep pain and grief of those who desperately need to hear a message of healing and reconciliation?

Leslie suffered for many years with periods of depression, anxiety and nightmares connected to her two abortions at age 16 and 19. Leslie medicated her pain with alcohol, and later when she married, she was involved in a number of shameful and secret extramarital affairs. Later she was given prescription drugs prescribed by her family doctor to treat depression, anxiety and insomnia. None of the therapist or medical professionals she went to for help asked if there were any abortions in her history.

But what really hurt and angered Leslie was the failure of her spiritual leaders to recognize this hidden pain:

“If I had heard a compassionate and hope-filled message from my minister talking about how abortion can hurt some women and men and their relationships and families…if I heard after my first abortion that there were healing programs available for people like me…I may have been able to prevent the death of my second child and get the help  I needed much earlier in my life. I may have been able to save my husband and my children from living for years with the symptoms of this wound that was festering in my heart and soul. That pain led me to do things and try to cope in ways that hurt not only me and my relationship with God, but those I loved the most.  

Maybe hearing about women like me would help others understand that – yes an unplanned pregnancy is a life changing event that can be filled with fear and uncertainty – but abortion also changes your life in a powerful way.  For me, it brought years of pain and suffering…it was only later that I learned how the symptoms I suffered were rooted in the deep grief  from those two abortions…a grief I kept buried for many years. 

Good News from Ireland

To be fair, our church leaders struggle with the same thing many of us do in our families, workplaces and churches:

How do we address this sensitive topic in a way that does not hurt or alienate those that have been part of abortion decisions – especially those that have experienced the procedure and lost a child to abortion…yet does not compromise the moral truth that abortion is a grave sin against God and the dignity of the human person?

Is this even possible?

Fr. Pat Scanlan P.P. has been serving in Parish ministry since his ordination in 1977 for the Diocese of Cloyne, Ireland and has been a member of the Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat team in Cork since 2003.

The following interview with Fr. Pat is an excerpt from the book Sharing the Heart of Christ:

Fr. Pat, how long have you been involved in post abortion ministry?

Since my ordination to the priesthood in June 1977, I have met with many women and some men who have been wounded by abortion. Almost invariably they were crying out for forgiveness and healing. In my experience the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation marks a decisive step in their journey towards recovery. Yet I have always felt that they needed something more. What that something was, I was not so sure. Yes the sin had been forgiven, but they had a deep need for healing and restoration.

How did you get involved with Rachel’s Vineyard?

In the summer of 2003, I had a phone call from a good friend Bernadette Goulding who shared with me her excitement at having discovered a movement called Rachel’s Vineyard…

Can you share from your experience serving as a member of the Retreat Team?

Being involved in these weekends certainly ranks among the most rewarding experiences of my priesthood….

It is not an exaggeration to say that on each weekend we experience miracles of grace. The participants usually arrive bowed down by too many years of grief and self –loathing. Slowly, gradually as they enter into the process of the weekend they get in touch with, express, release and reconcile deep painful post abortive emotions…As they leave to return home on Sunday afternoon, many of them will have experienced the Mercy of the Lord at a very deep level. A grace that is truly amazing has touched wounded hearts and made of them beloved disciples who will in turn become instruments of his compassion to others…

How has your work in post abortion healing impacted your preaching?

Prior to my involvement in Rachel’s Vineyard I often felt a bit scared at the prospect of preaching the Gospel of Life. I was conscious that in any congregation there may be one or more who had experienced abortion, and I was never sure how to effectively proclaim the truth while at the same time witnessing to compassion.

The truth without compassion is a lethal weapon particularly for wounded souls. Compassion without the truth is a cruel deception.

Now I actually enjoy preaching the Gospel of Life. I know from my experience of Rachel’s Vineyard that the Gospel is truly Good News…I usually tell my congregation that what I want to share is what I have learned from women and men, who have had abortions and how the Good Shepherd is waiting to embrace, heal and forgive them. I share in a gentle compassionate way that abortion wounds the lives of mothers and fathers. I know that if there are women and men present who have had abortion they will identify, and realize that the church wants to help them.

I have had people come to me afterwards to find out more about Rachel’s Vineyard.  For the remainder of the congregation, when I then proceed to present the church’s teaching on the right to life of the unborn it is but an obvious and positive conclusion to be embraced, once they have heard a little about post abortion suffering.

The Harvest is Plentiful!

You can see in Fr. Pat’s feedback the awesome possibilities for ministry and evangelization if we can extend a message or reconciliation and healing in our churches for all those impacted by the Shockwaves of Abortion. Sharing the Heart of Christ is a great resource for Priests, Deacons, Counselors and Laity in ministry to those suffering after abortion. The book provides a brief overview of some key issues in ministry to those with abortion loss, but also pastoral concerns and sample homilies to assist in preaching about this topic with truth, sensitivity and mercy.

Here’s what Bishop Robert Vasa had to say about Sharing the Heart of Christ:

Sharing the Heart of Christ provides an assurance of hope for genuine healing and peace for those afflicted with many manifestations of unresolved post-abortive guilt, grief and shame. This work helps us further understand the nature of the abortion trauma, the reason for its persistence and the possibility of healing. It is a book filled with hope. Here we learn how the healing power of God’s grace coupled with sound psychiatric principles can and does, in the midst of a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat, produce an abundant harvest of healing and peace. I had the privilege of participating in a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat several years ago. The power of the experience continues to have an impact upon me. May God bless and reward your good work. – Robert F. Vasa, Bishop of Santa Rosa, California

Share this blog with your minister, priest or pastor today…better yet get them a copy of Sharing the Heart of Christ.

 

I’ve Confessed My Abortion Sin…Why Can’t I Forgive Myself? Fr Ben Cameron Shares a Message of Hope and Healing

Monday, January 11th, 2016

 

Divine Mercy

Have you or someone you care about received the Sacrament of Reconciliation from a priest or confessed to their minister/pastor the sin of abortion…yet still struggle to forgive themselves? Some will confess multiple times hoping to find freedom from the guilt and pain, anxiety, addictions and other symptoms.

This is a common problem. Many women and men will benefit by a more intensive grieving and processing of their abortion loss in an abortion recovery program, so they can find the deeper emotional and spiritual healing they hunger for.

The grace of confession and the forgiveness of Christ and the Church are certainly a great comfort and healing for countless women and men hurting after abortion. But it is important to keep in mind that abortion can be a very deep and intimate emotional and spiritual wound. Often there is a need to build on the grace of that confession which can serve as a kind of tilling of the soil in one’s hearts and soul. This creates the conditions for additional healing and recovery work that has been a blessing to so many who have made that rewarding journey.

Fr. Ben Cameron, CPM is the Assistant General of the Father’s of Mercy and through his preaching and pastoral ministry reaches out to those suffering after abortion loss. Fr Ben serves as the spiritual director at Relevant Radio and on a recent radio program spoke on this important issue.

Fr Ben shares a beautiful message of healing and holiness and touches on this issue of forgiving oneself and the benefit of an abortion recovery program. Fr. Ben reveals how God wants to reach out in this Jubilee Year of Mercy with his forgiveness to those impacted by the Shockwaves of Abortion.   You will also hear in this program a number of callers, women and men who have experienced abortion loss that address some key issues in the healing and recovery journey.

Here’s a link to the program

I invite you to also consider the book Sharing the Heart of Christ which offers an easy to read overview of some key issues in recovery after abortion such as repeat confessions and self forgiveness. The book is an excellent resource with preaching and counseling information and tools to help clergy, ministers, and counselors and lay people to reach out more effectively to the millions of women and men impacted by the Shockwaves of Abortion.

 

 

The Spiritual Epicenter of Abortion Recovery – Healing in the Churches

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

 

Jesus Walks Water

Hard to believe, but with the rapid passing of 2015 we begin year two of our Shockwaves Initiative.

Why is it important that Shockwaves is an ongoing effort and not a one year project?

This Initiative can be best understood as a developing wave of awareness and healing. We know that on open water, it is the consistent power of a driving wind that over time builds large and powerful waves.  The waves we are building in the Shockwaves Initiative are driven by the power of prayer, awareness and healing.

The first year of Shockwaves saw the launch of a successful foundation and we have seen the ripples of awareness and healing begin to reach the many groups impacted by abortion.

If you have partnered with us in the last year and had an opportunity to publicly share about the Shockwaves vision, you likely experienced this common reaction to your presentation:

– I never thought of abortion this way.

– I never realized how far reaching the Shockwaves of abortion are and how they have impacted our families, communities and nation.

– I can now see the widespread need for awareness and healing in our society.

In January we return to the spiritual epicenter where awareness and healing can produce the most powerful fruits – the local churches. It is time to continue our effort with renewed zeal, and help our clergy and ministers, and all church leaders to understand that abortion is more than a contentious and polarizing political issue in our society (as was slavery for many years.)

Every person sitting in their congregation has been touched in some way by abortion loss.

In 2015 Donna Gardner of the Diocese of Palm Beach was invited by a parish pastor to share a message about abortion healing at all the masses offered that weekend. She learned earlier that year about Shockwaves after participating in a webinar on the initiative for counselors and ministry leaders. Given the parish demographics, Donna was inspired to draw from the Shockwaves Initiative and focus in a special way on the experience of abortion loss among grandparents (a special focus in the month of March.)

As she began to share her message with the parishioners, Donna could clearly see that many were deeply moved by the acknowledgement of their grief as grandparents; she could see their eyes filling with tears as they openly expressed their pain.  She wondered if this was a coincidence that so many in the congregation were moved by her message. In the next 3 masses Donna discovered the same widespread level of grief openly expressed by the large numbers of grandparents sitting in the church pews.

A Spiritual Tsunami

Donnas experience reveals there are countless women and men sitting in Sunday services each week who long to hear a message that gently affirms a loss that is already known to their heart and soul – but is often deeply repressed, and rarely acknowledged. They are the parents, grandparents, siblings, pro-life advocates and friends and family members all touched in different ways by abortion loss. The Shockwaves initiative with the blogs, articles, research and especially prayers and preaching aids, can help our spiritual leaders reach out to their congregations with a message of hope and healing.

There is a spiritual tsunami that is just beginning to build. Those of you involved in post abortion healing ministries have seen the spiritual fruits of abortion recovery programs.  If we can pray and work together with Christians of every denomination to share the Shockwaves Vision with their congregations, we will see a powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit that will transform our nation and the world.

Who would have thought that 2000 years ago an instrument of gruesome torture and shame would become an international symbol of God’s passionate love for mankind, and his healing and saving power? God never wills that one of his sons or daughters participate in the death of an unborn child.  But perhaps one day we will look at abortion as the instrument God used to bring about a spiritual revolution that would bring millions of wounded souls to the merciful Heart of Christ.