Archive for October, 2016

“When a Latino Man is Part of an Abortion, He Violates Something Deep Within His Male Identity”

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

 

Repentant Man

David Rosa is a successful Insurance Agent and past candidate for Congress in the 20th Congressional District of Texas. David is the proud father of 3 children and husband of his beloved wife Alice who recently passed away.

David’s parents were both born in the U.S. His mother’s family came from Mexico and his paternal grandparents were from Puerto Rico and Sicily.

David graduated top of his high school class and was nominated by his Senator to attend the Air Force Academy. He had years of success in the high powered world of business and finance, starting his own companies, working hard and achieving much success. Unfortunately drug abuse and infidelity led to his involvement in two abortions beginning in 1989.

David shares about abortion and the role of men in the Latino culture:

“In the Latino culture Men are leaders and protectors of their families. Something deep within us is violated as men when we participate in the death of our unborn children. I was part of two abortions and after those procedures I was in terrible pain. I didn’t understand at first, but later I came to understand why I was abusing drugs and my life was out of control –I had violated something integral to my identity as a Latino man.”

Watch and listen to this riveting testimony of David’s shame, grief and in time recovery from his role in the death of his unborn children as gathers with fellow members of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign at the steps of the Supreme Court:

At the Service of the Master – Reflections of a Rachel’s Vineyard Counselor

Monday, October 17th, 2016

 

Vineyard Home

Kevin Burke, LSW

I just completed another Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat Weekend where I had the privilege to serve as the team counselor with Site Leader Evelyn Walsh and her amazing team and volunteers at the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa.

The Rachel’s Vineyard Weekend is very different from a secular therapeutic support group or any other counseling process. The therapist in this scenario is not the guiding master nor is the priest or ministry leader – as essential as they are on the weekend.  Neither is the facilitator the “captain of the retreat ship,” though they have an indispensible leadership role with the retreat team and in guiding the participants through the healing process.

The master of the retreat is Jesus Christ; Jesus encountered in the Word of God (manifest in a special way in the Living Scripture Exercises developed by the program’s creator Theresa Burke, Ph.D,) and the sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation in the Catholic retreat format.   In a special way participants experience the love and mercy of Christ through the retreat team and the Christian community offering prayer and practical support. Each person, from the priest, deacon or minister, to the women and men in intercessory prayer throughout the weekend, and the person putting out snacks during a break – each have an integral part to play in the success of the weekend experience.

With that said, the team has an intimate and important role as they accompany the participants in their journey through the paschal mystery[1] of their lives.   The goal of each team member, as they are called upon, is to help facilitate the encounter of the woman or man with the Lord Jesus and in time with their unborn child or children.

The priest, facilitator, counselor and team members each at different times play an integral role in helping an individual begin to trust, remove obstacles that surface and keep them on track in their healing journey. The Rachel’s Vineyard retreat process is very effective at treating the disenfranchised grief[2] that is a key feature of those wounded by abortion and many of the symptoms that are common after the procedure.

Yet often it is the quiet support and encouragement of a team member with no therapy or ministry degree, who brings their own experience of abortion loss and healing in their role as they accompany the participants.  These valuable team members bring that presence, word of encouragement and the unspoken understanding of a woman or man’s fear and pain; they have been there – and they made it through to the other side.

Some team or volunteers may not have personally experienced abortion but their presence is also very valuable.  They powerfully reflect the love and mercy of Christ and the Church with those participants who have lived many years with the shame and guilt of their secret wound.

A River of Healing

I often imagine our role, team and volunteer staff, as accompanying the participants on a healing vessel travelling down a large river.  We know that there is a safe port ahead, one that will provide healing, peace and closure.

But sometimes the wind whips up, the water get’s choppy and thunder rocks the boat. For some team members and leaders this can be a time when anxiety and a natural desire to be in control enter their hearts.

There are of course times when in the interest of all the participants and in certain situations you do have to intervene and deal with a problem or disruption. These situations are often related to a person’s deep seated fear of encountering their intense pain and grief. There can also be anxiety about a personal encounter with their aborted child that can make a participant want to jump out of the boat and stay on shore – and sometimes even a desire to disrupt the retreat process. On a rare occasion a person is not a good fit for a group healing experience like Rachel’s Vineyard. [3]

But at the same time it is essential to be aware on a deeper level what is happening in our own hearts and souls as we encounter obstacles.

Fear and anxiety, while natural responses in some situations especially early in our ministry experience, can lead us to rely too heavily on our own strength, to want to assert control, and not trust in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Apostle Peter learned this valuable lesson on the waters of the Sea of Galilee:

…the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear.  But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”   Jesus said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus.  But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. (Matthew 14:24-32)

Wearing a Different Hat

For a counselor or priest/minister, it’s important to learn that this is a different role than the traditional therapy, ministry relationship or leadership position in a church.

It’s essential to discern when to step back, get out of the way in a sense, and trust God, your fellow team members, and trust in the retreat process. Thankfully there are many therapeutic benefits to the exercises and activities of the program that will assist the counselor in their role and help remove any obstacles to healing for most participants and help get them back on track.

The  Priest, Deacon or minister  in a special way incarnates the love of Christ and the Church for the participants.  This is particularly evident and moving when they act in the person of Jesus in certain exercises and meditations and of course in the sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation in the Catholic model of the program.

The Rachel’s Vineyard weekend never fails to facilitate for the participants a powerful encounter with God and their unborn children.  What appears to be an insurmountable obstacle Friday evening often loses its power over the participants as they progress through the program Saturday and Sunday.

Some team members may struggle as they begin serving in this ministry, to recognize that at times they feel a need to be the center of attention or to receive affirmation as an important healing or ministry agent in the process. These are very human temptations and needs that can arise from pride and some of our own life wounds.   Jesus will prune and purify our efforts and gifts over time and increase the yield of our vineyard when we turn to Him in humility and repentance.

Its equally  important to be patience and compassionate with our limitations and weakness when they surface.   Some folks have spent years prior to their healing beating themselves up or acting out their pain in self-destructive and self-shaming ways.  Its important to trust that Jesus wants to build us up – not tear us down.

All Jesus needs is our trust and our humility…He will do the rest.

The Vineyard of Christ

The Lord calms the stormy seas and retreat participants sail on in peace toward the port of reconciliation and healing. There is a great freedom that comes when we abandon ourselves to Divine Providence and trust in His guiding presence.

We learn over time that this Vineyard does not belong to you or me…or even Rachel.

This is the Vineyard of Jesus Christ.

But remember as well that each weekend retreat is wrapped in the healing mantle of the mother of Christ, Mary.  She prays and intercedes for participants of all Christian denominations and faith traditions, and especially those with no faith, and leads them to her son Jesus.

So we can safely say with joy that this is also Mary’s Vineyard.

our-lady-of-mercy

[1] Paschal Mystery: The passion, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ – the work God the Father sent his Son to accomplish on earth.

[2] Disenfranchised grief occurs when the loss does not receive normal social support, is not openly acknowledged or cannot be mourned publicly (Doka, 1989). http://www.yinstill.com/complicated-and-disenfranchised-grief

[3] This is usually clarified prior to the retreat in the registration period but there are situations that only become evident once the person begins the process.  For those participants, who even with encouragement, support and love are not ready for the weekend experience, they can be offered referrals for individual counseling and spiritual direction with the open invitation to attend a later retreat weekend sometime down the line.

Making Peace with the Devil and Getting Burned – The Church in Nazi Germany and the USA Elections of 2016

Thursday, October 13th, 2016

 

a-gathering-storm

Let’s take a step back from the increasingly vulgar circus that is our national political process in 2016. Sordid revelations will continue to flow like fetid sewage as various political contests draw closer to Election Day.

The sideshow theatrics are a powerful distraction and tempt us to lose focus.

Once way to gain some perspective is to travel back in history and visit a country facing their own turbulent election period that would have seismic repercussions for that nation, the Church and the entire world.

Enter the Time Machine

It’s the early 1930’s and elections are being held in the Republic of Germany. A number of different political groups are competing for seats in the German Parliament or Reichstag. The Nazis were just one of a number of political parties that included Catholics, anti trade union monarchists, socialists, and communists.

For those who listened closely to the speeches and writings of the Nazi party and their candidates, and the violent actions of their brown shirted thugs, it was clear that once in power the Nazis planned to persecute, exile, and kill as many Jews as possible. In addition, their twisted theories of racial purity threatened not only the Jews, but those with mental and physical disabilities. A Nazi led government will view their non-German neighbors (especially the Poles and Slavs) as slaves to build the mythical Third Reich. It was also clear to those who closely studied their ideology, that Nazi philosophy was incompatible with and hostile to orthodox Christianity.

The Catholic Centre Party (BVP) was formed in Germany in 1871. Originally the party sought to defend Catholic interests against the predominantly Protestant policies of Otto von Bismarck. Given events in Russia and the persecution and famine directed against the Catholic population of the Ukraine in the 1920’s and 1930’s, there was understandable concern about radical left wing movements and their hatred of the private ownership of property and the Catholic Church.

Even with the continued ominous spread of atheistic communism,  the Catholic Church in Germany also recognized the threat that Nazi philosophy posed to the faithful:

Into the early 1930s the German [Catholic]Centre Party, the German Catholic bishops, and the Catholic media had been mainly solid in their rejection of National Socialism. They denied Nazis the sacraments and church burials, and Catholic journalists excoriated National Socialism daily in Germany’s 400 Catholic newspapers. The hierarchy instructed priests to combat National Socialism at a local level whenever it attacked Christianity.[31]

Tragically, the Christian faith was having a diminished influence in public life as the Nazi’s rose to power. Pressure from the anti-Christian and anti-Catholic forces of the left and right lessened the influence of the Church on individuals and in the wider culture. Church attendance dropped in post WWI Germany with materialism, hedonism and a renewed interest in pagan mysticism on the rise.

In a series of elections held in an atmosphere of increasing violence, intimidation and social unrest, Adolf Hitler became chancellor in January 1933. With Nazi paramilitary forces surrounding the Reichstag, Hitler pressured its members to support the Enabling Bill which would give him dictatorial powers. Hitler offered guarantees of the Catholic Centre Party’s continued existence and the autonomy of the Church, her educational and cultural institutions.  On the 23rd March, 1933, all members of the Catholic Centre Party in the Reichstag approved the Enabling Bill giving Hitler totalitarian control of the German nation.

The Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli (the future Pope Pius XII), and Germany’s vice chancellor, Franz von Papen, formally signed a concordat between the Holy See and the German Reich on July 20, 1933. [1] Though the intention was to protect the rights of German Catholics to practice their faith without interference of the Nazi Government, for some Catholic leaders and laity, this signaled a softening of the Churches opposition to National Socialism.

A Catholic Prophet in Exile

Dietrich von Hildebrand, a German citizen saw clearly as the Nazis and Hitler rose to power, that this movement was fueled by a diabolical evil. He understood that the Nazi ideology was a perverse and grave threat to the German people, the Catholic Church as well as any perceived enemies of the regime.

Alice Von Hildebrand writes about her husband’s anguish with Hitler’s rise to power and the signing of the Vatican Concordat:

He feared that this accord would mislead Catholics, and unfortunately he was right. His grief was boundless. He had freely chosen exile, abandoning everything that he possessed because he refused to live in a country “headed by a criminal.” He knew that the Church’s mission was to denounce evil—independently of whether the victims were Roman Catholics or Jews or anyone else. So he was shattered upon finding that at the German Bishops’ Conference in Fulda in 1933, most German bishops—betraying their God-given mission—were either slumbering (like the apostles in Gethsemane), plainly cowards, or infected by the Nazi virus. History repeats itself. In the City of God, St. Augustine laments the conduct of bishops who did not protect their sheep…

When the concordat was signed, Dietrich von Hildebrand declared that this document had less worth than the piece of paper on which it was written. He was right. Soon, as expected, it was trampled upon.

— Alice von Hildebrand – Catholic Answers

Soon millions of Jews, the mentally and physically disabled, Catholics and other Christians would go on to face abuse, torture, violence and death in Nazi concentration camps and all across war-torn Europe and Russia.

Back to the USA 2016A Catholic Concordat with Abortion?

After 43 years of legalized abortion, as we come to another Election Day in November, has the Catholic Church in the United States signed its own Concordat with abortion?   Have we made peace with legalized abortion and accommodated to this reality?

There are many Catholic and Christian leaders that look at our upcoming elections and present the issue of abortion as one among a number of important issues such as human sexuality, religious liberty, marriage and the family, social justice for the poor, the death penalty and concern about the environment.

They see seriously flawed candidates and express misgivings about both political parties. Some claim it is morally acceptable to sit out this election or vote third party because of the inadequacy of certain candidates.  Some clergy and laity claim that the one can evaluate candidates on a number of equally important issues, such as the death penalty and immigration and not just abortion, when they enter the voting booth.

But is abortion simply another issue for voters to consider on Election Day?

Given the massive numbers of deaths from the procedure, and the emotional and spiritual wounds of all who participate in the death of the unborn, abortion is the greatest evil in the history of the human family and is indeed the preeminent social justice issue of our times.

We are now a country where a publicly funded institution, Planned Parenthood rips apart later term babies in the womb, without anesthesia, and harvests their unborn baby organs and parts for sale and experimentation. We are a nation where the majority of its disabled citizens are murdered in the womb.

Making Peace with the Devil

Dr. Bernard Nathanson, one of the founding architects of legalized abortion in the U.S. who later became pro-life, has said that he and his pro-abortion allies would never have gotten away with what they did if the clergy had been united, purposeful, and strong.

Some points to consider, not in self righteous accusation, but in humble and honest acknowledgement of our collective failure as a Church, clergy and laity, to limit and end this carnage against the unborn:

– The decision of many Bishops to avoid public conflict with pro abortion politicians is a sensitive pastoral concern. However, does the continued reception of the sacraments by radically pro-abortion politicians communicate that one can be a Catholic in good standing and support pro abortion legislation and policies?  Is this in any way similar to the confusion after the concordat of the Vatican with the Nazi regime that the church had softened its opposition to National Socialism?

– While the Church clearly opposes the practice of abortion, does the concern of remaining an institution in good standing with the government and the IRS inhibit the Churches mission to end abortion?   Does a fear of appearing partisan in the political process prevent us from aggressively promoting the primacy of the pro-life cause?

-Has the Church in this country signaled to the laity and clergy that abortion is here to stay; there are many pressing issues that need attention and we need to stay out of the political fray and live at peace with the current regime?

The Gathering Darkness

We are at another historical crossroads, like Germany in the early 1930’s, when our choice of local and national candidates of all parties will determine the direction of our nation and world for years to come.

Yet, even after 60 million abortions in the United States alone, we are divided as a Church, here in the U.S. and around the world about the primacy of the pro-life cause when assessing a politician or political party.

With the death of each unborn child by abortion, our vision dims, hearts are hardened as our cynical culture becomes increasingly violent, perverse and nihilistic. Our current political climate reflects the growing darkness of our times.

Those of us in the ministry of defending life and healing the wounds of abortion at Priests for Life implore the religious leaders and the citizens of this great nation to resist the temptation to be distracted by the media circus that surrounds this election period.

We can no longer accommodate and live peacefully with the evil of abortion. If there is an unspoken “concordat” with abortion – it must end.

Vote for candidates in your local, state and national elections (even those that are less than ideal and have various flaws) that will begin to reduce the destruction of unborn children with the goal of ending this national nightmare.

Let us be united in prayer and vote for those candidates that are most likely to support and advance pro life legislation, appoint judges and other personnel that will respect human life, and have a reasonable chance of winning.

[1] http://americamagazine.org/issue/448/article/vatican-concordat-hitlers-reich

Fr Stephen Imbarrato Preaches on Abortion…and It Gets Really Personal

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

 

Fr Stephen Imbarrato preaches on  the emotional and spiritual wounds of mothers and fathers that participate in the death of their unborn children and the need for reconciliation and healing.  Fr Stephen shares his own experience, years before studying for the priesthood, when he and his girlfriend faced an unplanned pregnancy.