Archive for May, 2017

The Restoration of Fathers in Abortion Recovery

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

Prison Ministry

Kevin Burke, LSW

In 2014 I spent some time with the ministry staff of an abortion recovery program behind the prison walls of Martin Correctional Institution (MCI) in Florida.

Their ministry to men featured a modified version of the Rachel’s Vineyard Weekend and also some exercises from Healing a Father’s Heart bible study.  I had a chance to meet with a number of men who have been through the program and are now team leaders ministering to their fellow prisoners.

The inmates I interviewed (many of them lifers for serious crimes) taught me how their abortion story fit into the wider journey of their tumultuous lives.  I learned of the central role that father absence and father abuse and rejection played in the development of narcissistic personality traits, and a descent into criminal activity and abortion.

Their abortion loss played an important role in accelerating their self destructive impulsivity that evolved into criminal activity and violence.

This experience continues to resonate with me as I encounter men beyond the prison walls of MCI.  While most men do not turn to criminal activity after their abortions, father wounds and abortion have a similar power to deeply disfigure men and corrupt the vocations of marriage and fatherhood.  This buried grief, shame and pain can be expressed in anger, impulsive behaviors, sexual immorality, exploitation and abuse of partners…and even criminal activity.

The healing journey of abortion loss for men with father wounds, past abuse, or divorce, opens the door to healing their sense of being “emotionally aborted” in their own childhood.  Repentance, and an encounter with their Heavenly Father and His unconditional love for his sons, is a powerful and essential first step.  As these men learn to grieve their abortion loss in a healthy way, they are freed as fathers to reconnect in love with their children, both living and deceased.

But this also provides an opportunity for them to encounter the pain of their childhood, and begin the process of healthy grieving and recovery from those wounds.

This month of June, many of us will honor those Fathers that have blessed our lives.

For other men, this may be a time to turn in humility and trust to their Heavenly Father who is calling them to open up some of the darker corners of their lives to the light of Christ.  Keep in mind, men without childhood loss or trauma are also deeply wounded by the participation in the death of their unborn children.

Facing this takes humility and courage.

But as men who have made that journey will testify, attending an abortion recovery program will bring abundant blessing to your life and to your loved ones.

Happy Father’s Day

 

 

The Road to Emmaus – My Journey from the Abortion Clinic to the Eucharist

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

Jesus with Woman

By Sarah J

My journey began many years ago when I walked out of the abortion clinic. I had just aborted my daughter.

There were protesters out in front of the abortion center, so we were escorted out the back door. My ride had driven her car around back to come and meet me. As I began my journey to the car, I passed the large dumpster where the clinic tossed the remnants of my baby.

This is where my walk to Emmaus begins.

I went home that day and tried to be normal, processing the many feelings of relief and guilt. I am not sure why both of those feeling felt so appropriate. As the day wore on the guilt over powered the relief. I vowed that I would never share what I had done earlier in the day. That pain was mine alone.

My Road to Emmaus was full of twists and turns and deeply held secrets. While I know now that it was Jesus walking alongside me, it would take many years to recognize Him.

As I journeyed from the abortion clinic, every day I took a step further away and tried to forget what I had done. I married, got pregnant again and rather than backtrack to the abortion clinic I stayed on the Road to Emmaus. I became a mother to a son.

I was raised Catholic. The day I left the abortion clinic was also the day I left the church. Now that I had a son, I felt a responsibility to have him baptized. I called a Catholic Priest. After telling him what I had done and asking for a time for Confession the priest hung up on me.

I knew that I was unforgiveable and that I was not welcome back.

I did get my son baptized. Four years later I had another son. Once again, I sought baptism.  I tried to teach my boys the Catholic faith. I failed. It was hard teaching them a faith I was not able to live out. So, I joined a protestant church.

I began to thrive and grow in God’s word. One Sunday the preacher was talking about a God that I wanted to know. The merciful and compassionate God. So, I raised my hand and said yes to the Lord. I became pregnant. I felt so blessed to have a baby girl since I aborted my first girl.

I began to study God’s word and was beginning to realize that on my Road to Emmaus Jesus was with me.

But something was missing.

I still did not feel worthy or forgiven and I kept backtracking on my Road to Emmaus to my experience at that abortion clinic. I had to talk to someone about my secret.

I wanted to go to Confession, but I had already been rejected. The protestant church kept encouraging me to just ask the Lord for forgiveness. I cannot tell you how many times I was on my knees begging the Lord for forgiveness.

Nothing gave me any sense of peace or feeling of forgiveness.  I was not forgivable and even though I went to church I would always be that person with the scarlet letter.

There was another longing in my heart: I desired to receive the Eucharist.  When the protestant church had communion on Sunday, I always left feeling rather empty and longing. I wanted to go back to the Catholic Church, but I was not worthy.

I got online and found a ­­­­program in the Catholic Church called Project Rachel. I spoke with a counselor about my abortion. I did not feel condemned, but accepted and understood.  She encouraged me to attend a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat. I rejected that idea for several years until I finally had the courage to go.

When I arrived at the retreat, the priest and the team assured me that I was safe. The priest was not going to reject me. I was given the opportunity to share my story without judgement.

The most significant part of the Rachel’s Vineyard retreat was that I entered into the Sacrament of Confession. The priest did not judge or reject me.

That evening I was introduced to Adoration. Sitting before the Blessed Sacrament after my confession was the most peace I had felt in many years. The next day when I received the Eucharist during the Sunday Mass, I knew I was home. I had arrived in Emmaus, I recognized Him. The gift of his Body and Blood was given for my sins.

While my journey continues, I know Jesus walks alongside me. The Eucharist is the my center of my life. I find strength in Adoration and daily Mass and frequent Confession.

All are gifts of the Church to strengthen me on my Road to Emmaus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

100 Years after The Apparitions of Fatima, this “Error of Russia” Continues to Wound the Heart of Mary and Threaten World Peace

Friday, May 12th, 2017

miracle of the sun

By Kevin Burke, LSW

October 13th is the very special 100 year anniversary of one of the greatest public miracles since the resurrection of Jesus.  The spectacular and frightening Miracle of the Sun was witnessed in Fatima Portugal by 70,000 people, including many skeptics and atheists as well as devout believers.

At the same time as the miracle of the sun, visionary Lucia saw a vision of the Holy Family – Mary with Joseph and the child Jesus who each raised their hands in blessing over the world.

The miracle of the sun powerfully echoed the call of the Angel of Fatima to the Shepherd children at the onset of the apparitions to believe, adore, and love God with all our mind, heart and soul.  The Angel’s warning must be understood in the historical context where  the human family was increasingly rejecting the Providence of God and was in serious mortal spiritual and physical danger.

At the same time Mary was appearing to the children, revolutionaries were planning the overthrow of the Russian monarchy to establish a movement that would institutionalize blasphemy against God.

In July 1917 the blessed Mother warned Fatima visionary Lucia, and the entire world, of this gathering darkness:

“Russia will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated.”

The Bolsheviks violently seized power in Russia in November 1917 one month after the final apparition at Fatima. The communists launched a massive persecution of the Church in their zeal to wipe out belief in God and the practice of religion in the Soviet Union and later in Eastern Europe and China.

What is perhaps lesser known, is the role of the Soviet Union in the spread of abortion.

Pioneers of Death

Geoffrey Strickland, J.D., J.C.L., who serves as the Rome Office Director for Priests for Life, shares about the roots of abortion in the former Soviet Union:

“…history attests to the fact that Russia spread her errors throughout the world… through the single greatest error of our time: abortion.

Russia was the first country ever to legalize abortion up to birth without restriction and also developed and promulgated technology to this end.[1] Russia and areas formerly controlled by the Soviet Union have the highest abortion rate in the world.[2] Further, those countries sharing in the political and ideological legacy of Russia at that time such as China, Cuba and others continue to carry on this violent imperative.[3]”

The errors of Russia would later spread to the United States with the legalization of abortion in 1973.

Geoffrey writes:

“Thus “various nations” – the innumerable children of every race, creed and culture – have indeed been “annihilated” through the fundamental error of abortion and the faulty logic behind it, namely that a human child is not a human being.”

Over 1 billion unborn girls and boys have been aborted around the world in the last 100 years.

The Mother/Child Connection Runs Deep

Pro Abortion propaganda likes to spin the abortion issue as “a woman’s right to control her private and personal reproductive health care decisions.”

The truth is, abortion disrupts a very intimate relationship that exists on an emotional as well as on a cellular level– a relationship that continues well after the child’s death.

In Science News we learn that a mother carries the cells of her unborn children within her body:

“…biologically speaking, mothers and their children are connected in a way that may surprise you… When the heart is injured, fetal cells seem to flock to the site of injury and turn into several different types of specialized heart cells. Some of these cells may even start beating, a mouse study found.

So technically…A mother really does hold her children in her heart.”

Behold Your Mother

Consider that Mary may still hold the fetal cells of her Divine Son within her assumed body. Mary and her Son shared both a physical, but also a spiritual communion as the great paschal mystery unfolded in the final days in the life of Jesus.

As Jesus suffered horrific torture on the cross, he looked down tenderly at his mother, entrusting her to the Apostle John.   Yet in this action, Jesus was also proclaiming the ongoing mission of Mary as the mother of all Christians, and of the entire human family.

In this spiritual motherhood, Mary experiences an intimate and passionate love for each of her children.

Our Lady of Fatima shared with Lucia:

My daughter, look at My Heart surrounded with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. You, at least, try to console me.

The metaphor of sensitive heart tissue penetrated by thorns reveals how closely Mary is attached to us, and how our sinful actions wound her at the deepest level of her being.

Mary’s heart was filled with anguish as she appeared to the Shepherd children of Fatima. She warned of the unfolding short and long-term consequences of the spread of atheistic communism and later the rise of the Nazi party in Germany.  Our Blessed Mother saw the diabolical power of those destructive ideologies and the political and cultural revolutions that have rocked the world over the last 100 years.

Our Lady of Fatima surely understood how the attacks upon the Providential Fatherhood of God would lead to violence against the unborn child, the corruption of human sexuality, and other developments that continue to wreak havoc on marriage and family life.

Consolation as Mercy

Like the visionaries of Fatima, we are also called to console the heart of Mary. But this consolation is really a loving and merciful gift from Mary and Jesus.

I have worked for over 20 years as a counselor with women and men who have participated in the death of their unborn children. Their testimonies  reveal the spiritual and emotional suffering unleashed in their lives after the procedure, often leading to failed relationships, addictions, and multiple abortion procedures.

The symptoms of complicated grief after abortion are often manifest in an intimate and destructive way in the corruption of the relationships between men and women that can have a detrimental effect on marriage and family life.

We console our Blessed Mother by turning away from pride, by ceasing to justify and rationalize sinful actions, especially those that viciously attack the dignity of the human person, such as pornography and abortion. Mary calls us to repent of those sins of selfishness; idolatry manifested in the lust for money and power; and the scourge of prejudice, violence and hatred.

Mary pleads with her children that this life is very short – she implores us to reject all that separate us from God and threatens our eternal salvation.

It is also a great consolation to Mary and Jesus when we humbly open our darkest and shameful wounds like abortion, to the healing light of truth.

Rachel’s Vineyard and other abortion recovery programs facilitate an intimate emotional and spiritual encounter with Christ in a process that features exercises rooted in the Word of God, and the grace of the sacraments of reconciliation and Eucharist that are part of the weekend experience.

As parents honor and embrace their children with love, and grieve this loss in a healthy way, they can entrust their child to the Lord’s merciful care. While there is pain, there is also the consolation and peace of the Holy Spirit and the real hope of a spiritual relationship with their child in this life, and God willing, a Heavenly reunion in the next.

“My Immaculate Heart Will Triumph”

Mary reassured us that even with the massive death and destruction of the last 100 years, in the end, her Immaculate Heart will triumph. Perhaps we are witnessing an anticipation of that final victory of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the reconciliation and healing of women and men after abortion.

Let us pray together for a special outpouring of grace and mercy as we celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the apparitions at Fatima.   May this commemoration facilitate a wider awakening to the fervent call of a loving mother to her millions of children that have yet to reconcile their most shameful and grievous sins, and find the healing and peace that only her son Jesus can provide.

 

[1] See for example http://www.liveaction.org/news/the-abortion-ripple-effect-russias-tragic-abortion-tale/; http://time.com/3679288/iceland-abortion/.

[2] See for example, http://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/abortion-around-the-world-where-are-rates-highest/19/; http://www.liveaction.org/news/the-abortion-ripple-effect-russias-tragic-abortion-tale/.

[3] See, for example, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/28/world/americas/in-cuba-an-abundance-of-love-but-a-lack-of-babies.html and https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/china-commits-staggering-23-million-abortions-per-year-according-to-us-stat.

Turning IVF Embryo’s Into Jewelry: It’s Not as Crazy as you Think

Monday, May 8th, 2017

IVF jewelry

By Kevin Burke, LSW

[I want to be clear that in this article I am in no way defending the use of IVF embryo’s to make memorial jewelry. The negative reactions to this are of course warranted and the practice is deeply disturbing.  However I hope to offer another perspective based on my experience of over 20 years in counseling and ministry to women and men after abortion. ]

You may have seen this article on the Kidspot website, “Couples are turning extra IVF embryos into jewelry.”

Belinda Stafford is the mother featured in the Kidspot piece. Belinda seems to me a caring and sensitive mom struggling to resolve the complex moral and family decisions that reproductive technologies present to couples.

Couples facing infertility issues are vulnerable.

They have the good and natural desire to start a family together. Yet for various reasons they find this impossible. IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) is waiting with the shiny apple that our first parents ate in the Garden of Eden.

This modern version of that ancient story from the book of Genesis assures us that we can assume God-like providence over procreation and human life, without any negative consequences. Given the desperate desire to parent, couples are often unaware of the moral, spiritual and practical challenges that IVF will present.

Belinda shares that even though they were able to give birth to twins during the process, there was a price to pay:

“We had been on a six-year journey of IVF…It was painful, tormenting, a strain on our marriage and just plain hard.”

One of those challenges involves the excess embryos that are created during the IVF process that the couple must either preserve at great expense or discard. Belinda reveals a clear understanding of the human life created in the IVF process and does not use some Orwellian euphemism to rationalize the nature of their tiny lives:

“My embryos were my babies – frozen in time.”

Exactly true.

As a loving mother, how could she simply throw them away?

“When we completed our family, it wasn’t in my heart to destroy them. I needed them with me. Now they are forever with me in a beautiful keepsake.”

The Post Abortion Connection

While there are clear differences between the IVF experience and those who have abortions, there are some connections we can explore.

Given the anguish many parents experience when they come to regret their role in the death of their unborn child or children, they have a need to share their painful feelings and memories of the abortion event within a process of spiritual and emotional hailing.

An essential aspect of that journey in programs like Rachel’s Vineyard, is the transition from their inability to acknowledge and grieve what was lost – and the movement to develop a spiritual relationship as mother/father of their unique child.

Those who grieve their aborted children do not have the remains of the child to provide a place of burial and closure. The healing process closes with a memorial service where participants read a loving letter to their child and entrust them to the Lord’s mercy.

Some mothers and fathers will find other ways to memorialize their child with a special piece of jewelry, a website or other space dedicated for this purpose, a Christmas ornament, or a piece of artwork or music to honor and remember their precious child.

The Truth Will Set You Free

In the Kidspot article, the author says of Belinda Stafford:

“She now carries her babies with her wherever she goes.”

Belinda like all mothers is deeply attached to the children she has conceived with her husband Shaun.

She agonized as she considered their tiny lives being discarded or left in frozen limbo.

She hungered for a closure that would honor their lives and keep them close to her mother’s heart.

Sadly, this method of memorializing human embryos reveals the slippery slope of the IVF process. IVF takes the experience of procreation, and entrusts that intimate communion, and any lives conceived, to the secular setting of science and laboratory.

Pope Paul VI warned us in 1968 of the deleterious effects of separating the unitive from the procreative aspects of sexual intimacy:

“…we must accept that there are certain limits, beyond which it is wrong to go, to the power of man over his own body and its natural functions—limits, let it be said, which no one, whether as a private individual or as a public authority, can lawfully exceed. “ (Humanae Vitae, section 17)

An essential aspect of abortion recovery, and one that can never be forced, is when the heart moves from pride to blessed humility, and opens up to God in sorrow and repentance for one’s role in the child’s death.

The desire of couples using IVF technology to memorialize their children arises out a deeper need to honor the unique life of each of their children conceived in this process.

Yet, both science and faith reveal that the process leads them to participate in the death of their conceived children.

An authentic and spiritually complete response to the loss of these children will not be found in simply preserving their remains in a piece of jewelry. This may bring a superficial and even comforting sense of closure to some parents that will seem to honor their children’s unique lives and preserve some parental connection.

The pathway to truth and real peace is a more painful one that calls parents involved in such fertility treatments to humbly acknowledge that, like our first parents in the Garden, we can be tempted to assume the providential authority of God over human life.

With that said, couples are usually not equipped with the moral and spiritual formation to make the right decisions when confronted with the painful awareness of infertility, and persuaded by medical professionals, friends and family that IVF is their best option.

Finally we need to consider how the living siblings of those children conceived in the IVF process will respond when they learn someday of the loss of their brothers and sisters that were discarded after fertility treatment.

Perhaps like siblings of aborted children, they may also require some support to work through their own feelings and survivor guilt at being offered the gift of life, while their siblings died, and their remains memorialized in jewelry.

For couple’s facing infertility, please consider life affirming alternatives to IVF such at those offered by the National Gianna Center for Women’s Health and Fertility