Richie Incognito Can Learn A Lot About Courage from Bears Receiver Brandon Marshall…So Could the Millions of Men Wounded by Abortion

November 7th, 2013

Brandon Marshall

By no means am I all healed or fixed, but it’s like a light bulb has been turned on in my dark room.  – Brandon Marshall, NFL Receiver

If your a fan of the National Football League, you’ve been hearing a lot lately about the racist and over-the-line harassment of Miami Dolphin’s offensive lineman Jonathan Martin by his teammate Richie Incognito.

Chicago Bear’s receiver Brandon Marshall says it’s time for change in the NFL.

Marshall, himself a former Dolphin, brings an important voice to this controversy because of his courage to share about his own struggle with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD.)  BPD features difficulties with emotional regulation, extreme fear of abandonment that makes relationships volatile and unstable, with addictive and impulsive behavior that wreak havoc in one’s life…and without treatment lead to self injury and suicide.  Brandon shares about the destruction this disorder caused in his own personal life.

Marshall sees the problems of bullying and harassment found in the Incognito/Martin scandal as part of the culture of many NFL locker rooms, and something that needs to change.

Marshall, reflecting on Martin’s struggle with Incognito’s abuse touches on a deeper issue that men face when dealing with painful emotions such as abuse, grief, shame, anxiety and loneliness:

Look at it from this standpoint,” Marshall said. “Take a little boy and a little girl. A little boy falls down and the first thing we say as parents is ‘Get up, shake it off. You’ll be OK. Don’t cry.’ A little girl falls down, what do we say? ‘It’s going to be OK.’ We validate her feelings. So right there from that moment, we’re teaching our men to mask their feelings, to not show their emotions. And it’s that times 100 – with NFL football players. You can’t show that your hurt, can’t show any pain. So for a guy to come into the locker room and he shows a little vulnerability, that’s a problem.

There are times when a man needs to suppress his pain, his fear and anxiety for a time in order to fight a battle, complete an essential task, or protect those he loves.  This is part of being a man…and definitely part of being a football player.  On Sundays in the Fall we want our NFL Gladiators to put aside their pain, their vulnerabilities and focus on doing whatever it takes to win the game.

Marshall is challenging the NFL to balance the violent macho culture that is necessary for game day battles, with the support these men need when they step back from the fray, and try and recover from the football wars.  Even the toughest warrior needs an outlet where he can share emotional pain, struggles in his personal life,  an abusive teammate, or when battling physical and emotional illness. Unless we create safe havens for men to recover, this can have disastrous effects on their personal lives, as we learned from Brandon’s Marshall’s struggles with BPD.  This untreated pain can be masked as anger (often hurting loved ones), or suppressed with addictions to drugs, promiscuity and pornography.

Despite the macho lies men are fed, facing difficult emotions or coming to terms with an emotional illness or addiction does not make a man a coward or a weakling.  Brandon Marshall has not been weakened by his recovery.  He has never been more productive and satisfied in his personal and professional life.

From Doug Farrar at Yahoo Sports:

 …Marshall is a different man with a different team…the seven-year vet and three-time Pro Bowler is the NFL’s most targeted receiver, is on pace for a 1,500-yard season, and has been happily reunited with Jay Cutler, his quarterback from 2006 through 2008 with the Denver Broncos. In a Wednesday interview, Marshall compared his relationship with Cutler to the football version of a (relatively functional) marriage, and said he’s never been happier.

Breaking the Isolation-Finding a Voice

As Co Founder of the largest outreach in the world to men and women suffering after abortion Rachel’s Vineyard, we have listened to the stories of thousands of men involved in abortion decisions.   Men are given a very clear message when their partner or wife is making an abortion decision; their feelings are to be strictly quarantined so she is free to make the right decision.  Even though he is a father of that unborn child, he has no voice.

Sadly, other men encourage or even coerce their partner to abort, even when she is ambivalent or against the decision to have an abortion.   But these men suffer as well when they come to a clearer understanding of their actions and the consequences.  Regardless of their role in an abortion decision, men often experience grief, anger, depression and anxiety after the procedure.  But they feel they have nowhere to turn with the pain.  Like Jonathan Martin struggling with his abuser Incognito, they have no idea that others feel like they do, or where to turn for help.

For Bears receiver Brandon Marshall, understanding his BPD, and getting the right help to treat his condition was life-saving:

With treatment and understanding of his condition, Marshall feels that he has a new lease on life. Now, he wants to help others with his condition get to that same happier place. When he went public with his diagnosis, Marshall said that he wanted to be the “face of BPD,” and he’s living up his word with a foundation that tries to facilitate treatment and understanding.  (Yahoo Sports)

Given the nature of his illness, this will be an ongoing process with the help of friends, teammates and professionals to keep his life on track.  Now he wants to reach out to help others.

This is the same trajectory you find in the abortion healing movement as groups like the Silent No More Awareness Campaign educate, raise awareness and provide a forum for women and men to share the truth of their abortion loss and recovery, and reach out to others so they can find healing.

Brandon Marshall points the way for the millions of men who have been involved in an abortion decision.  Just like bullying in NFL locker rooms, it is a difficult issue to confront, and sometimes people will try to silence your voice and shame you.  But Like Marshall, unless you understand the symptoms and nature of your condition and reach out for the help you need,  it will continue to cause problems in your life.

If you are a man who was involved in an abortion decision, don’t try to go it alone.

Like Marshall, if you can get past your fear and reach out for help, you will emerge a stronger and more productive man.

There are times when a man needs to fight, to ignore his pain and stand tall in the battles of this life.  Football players like Brandon Marshall do it every Sunday in the NFL.

But a wise man knows when to step back from the battle and with the help of others recover from his wounds.

 

 

We Need to Make Fatherhood a Man’s Choice…Even if it Kills Me!

November 4th, 2013

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Anna March, a self described deep-seated feminist writing in Salon thinks it is time to Make Fatherhood a Man’s Choice.  This is puzzling given her personal history.

Anna shares:

My Mother was unable to obtain an illegal abortion, though she tried, in 1967 when she learned she was pregnant with me.  Instead, she attempted paternity fraud—passing me off to her boyfriend as his child though I was actually fathered by another man.  Her boyfriend, who became my putative father, married her and then clued in when I was born, totally healthy, three months “prematurely.”  He went along with it, though.

As the article progresses and despite her history she advocates that the “reproductive choice” of women should also extend to men confronted with an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy:

…if one believes that women shouldn’t be penalized for sexual activity by limiting options such as birth control, abortion, adoption, and safe haven laws (laws that provide a safe space for parents to give up babies), then men’s options shouldn’t be limited either…motherhood should be a voluntary condition…the construct that fatherhood after birth is mandatory needs to change.

The author shares some ideas how this could work and some feminist backlash against such proposals.  However given the worldview of pro abortion feminists, this is a reasonable and just application of “choice” to men who do not accept their fatherhood.

Yet…without the child support of her mother’s ex husband (who it turns out was not the biological father), the family would have been destitute:

  They divorced when I was six years old, but he paid child support until I was eighteen, $270 a month.  I’m a product of child support, and it was a necessary part of the financial picture for me and my Mom, who did not have a college education and often worked two jobs during my childhood.  

So this guy who is not the father, and learns of this fact, still pays support until Anna is 18!

With all the Screwtape Letter logic that pervades this article…we have a man who really understood his obligation to his family.  We don’t know the broader history of Anna’s step-father or the relationship of this young couple and I am not making him a saint.

But in an article where the author is proposing that men embrace the hyper-individualism of choice when deciding if they want to father their unborn children, her step-father actually emerges as a hero in this tale.  He could have walked away angry that his wife deceived him and refused to support little Anna.  But instead he faithfully supported the family and in so doing allowed Anna’s mom to work two jobs, balance a very tight budget and provide for her daughter.

But Anna March has been drinking a lot of pro choice feminist Kool-Aid.

March tells us that at the time of her mother’s unplanned pregnancy, the father of the child should have been given a grace period where he could opt out of parenting and child support.  The mother would then have the option of either aborting her, or making an adoption plan.

Yet this author, who was “allowed” to be born…would have been aborted if she was conceived after 1973!  And this is fine with Anna March.  Because abortion was illegal and not widely available…Anna is alive today.   But we need to keep abortion legal, and widely accessible she tells us.

What value does this author place on her own life, if it could have been so arbitrarily destroyed while she was developing in her mother’s womb?  But she is ok with this absurdity because she has to be consistent with her pro abortion feminism.

Sadly, the abortion rights movements, and the twisted values of the sexual revolution that support the whole abortion rights construct, have corrupted feminism.  But it has also corrupted the relationship between parents and children, men and women, fathers and mothers.

A healthy feminism advocates for support and resources for women facing unplanned pregnancies, and the  accountability of fathers to support their children.  But when you introduce abortion as a non negotiable tenet of feminism, you twist and corrupt the heart of the very relationships you seek to protect.  Anna March thinks it is perfectly acceptable that as a tiny female fetus her bigger and stronger mother and father had the right to end her life in the womb…even if it meant dismembering her little body limb by limb as you find in later term abortions.

Is there any greater proof that this is an ideology rooted in nihilistic despair?

There is a better way.    It does not romanticize or simplify the challenges that women face in times of crisis and uncertainty.  But neither does it exploit women and men and lead them to the illusion of God-like autonomy over life and death and a hyper individualism that comes with a very high price tag.

There was another individual conceived like Anna March in very complex and anxiety-filled circumstances.

He had this to say:

 Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me…  I am the way and the truth and the life. (John 14: 6)

May God deliver us all from the nihilism of this age…and lead us to embrace the joy-filled hope found in the salvation of Christ Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Blessed Synergy: Rachel’s Vineyard + Forgiven and Set Free

October 30th, 2013

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Two Time-Tested Programs Offer Unique Benefits to Those Suffering After Abortion Loss

 Synergy:   The interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.

For approaching 20 years Rachel’s Vineyard (RV) and Forgiven and Set Free (F&SF) have proven to be very effective programs for those suffering after abortion loss.  Rachel’s Vineyard, a ministry of Priests for Life features an intensive weekend program offered Friday evening to Sunday afternoon and is offered in a Catholic and Interdenominational version.   F&SF is an Interdenominational program presented in an 11 week bible study format.

Patricia Pulliam is involved in both abortion recovery programs as well as a Pregnancy Resource Center.  I asked Patricia to share her experience in ministry using both RV and F&SF, and how both models can provide a blessed synergy for those suffering after abortion:

Patricia share with us the many hats you wear in your pro life outreach?

I serve on the Board of Directors of the Pregnancy Resource Connection in Granby, Colorado and as director of their post abortion healing program, Forgiven and Set Free. I’m the pro-life coordinator in the Catholic mission parishes in Grand and Jackson Counties in Colorado. I also serve on the Rachel’s Vineyard Team in Denver Colorado…Colorado is a second home from my husband and me.  This gives me an excellent opportunity to see both programs as very valuable resources for those I come in contact with. I can refer women and men for healing, either through the Forgiven and Set Free Bible class at the Pregnancy Center or by attending a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat in Denver or in some cases combining them both.  Our other residence is in South Texas where I serve as Regional Coordinator for the Texas Silent No More Awareness Campaign of the Coastal Bend.  

I have had the experience of networking with different denominations and churches.  I have come to see that while we can respect one another’s differences we also share a common love for Christ and the power of His Word, and that by working together we truly bless our ministry to those suffering after abortion.  

You are a busy lady!  Can you give us a brief overview of both programs?

When I received the facilitators manual for the F&SF study I carefully studied each of the weeks lessons and saw many similarities to the Rachel’s Vineyard retreat format.  

Both retreats begin the same. There is a similar registration process and interview. I prefer in person interviews if at all possible as this can be an important first step out of shame in the direction of healing.  But in some cases the registrations need to happen by phone.

F&SF takes three weeks of various scripture readings and other simple exercises to gradually have the participants remember the details. The first class is simply called Orientation and it is the same as the first night of RV when they all meet for the first time and actually see they are not alone in their struggle. There are lots of nervous smiles and distrust as well as a wondering why they are there.

The next two weeks are studying the scriptures about who God is and who He is not.   The questions they have to answer in their workbooks are shared each week. Each class is about 2 and a half hours long. The classes are small…we had 4 the first one including me. Getting into the Bible is an awesome experience and the verses author Linda Cochran picked are truly amazing. We all take turns reading them out loud. The homework requires at least one hour and is completed by the next session.

An obvious benefit to the weekly format…time is a luxury here. We have time to learn and share and very slowly you begin to see the changes in each woman.  

The following four weeks in F&SF begin to deal with specific feelings, relief and denial, anger, the need to forgive, and depression. These middle weeks are hard as they begin to peel away layers of pent up stuff. Once again we use scripture as the underpinning.  There is time to share without any time constraint.   

In  F&SF the abortion experience is quickly replaced by the truths in scripture and the truth of how valuable every person is.  Their individual abortion stories come out during the answering of the questions in their workbooks instead of the way RV allows each woman or man to tell their story on Saturday.

Time in class each week allows for “remembering” in a different way. Many times things that had been forgotten for years are suddenly brought to the surface, even additional abortions.  The final two weeks are titled Forgiven and Set Free and Grieving the loss.

Rachel’s Vineyard uses a weekend Friday to Sunday program – how does it accomplish these important healing stages in that format?

RV has to accomplish the same type of trust, commitment and unity in a very short time, which is does very successfully as well as participants go through the process together.  There is a benefit of having no interruptions with breaking for a week between sessions.

At an RV retreat the stories are told on Saturday morning.  RV uses “Living Scripture” meditations and very effective exercises to bring home the same result, an interior letting go of lies and judgment.  There is a benefit to the concentrated work in a weekend.  The exercises and activities engage all the senses with the music, props and concrete ways the process helps participants move through the grief and trauma to embrace their children in love and find peace in the Lord.  

Just as Rachel’s Vineyard allows them to meet their children the F&SF format also brings them to a place of identifying and naming their children. This is a time of deep grief, but there is so much compassion and unity in the group by now that it is truly a community effort to help each other up the hill so to speak.

The Memorial Service of F&SF is very similar to RV.  F&SF do not use dolls that represent their children as you find on the RV retreat. They invite family and their pastors to attend. Amazingly enough every pastor has attended and of course been overwhelmed at the service. They are given a lace angel that represents their children and they read a letter to their child or some kind of memorial.

The FSF study has just developed a class strictly for men. I have not seen it but was given a preliminary set of guidelines. I really like it.

You have come to see the programs as complementary even enhancing one another.  Could share about that and gives some examples?

I had told the F&SF class about my RV experience and all of them were interested but one woman knowing of the upcoming RV retreat and that I would be serving on team wanted to attend with her husband, which is a real blessing of the RV retreat which encourages couples, siblings and grandparents to attend. We had just finished week five on anger in the F&SF.  I wondered how this would work out but I prayed.

 I watched her during that retreat and we were able to share in the breaks how prepared she felt to go through RV. She had worked through some issues already and could now go into more depth in her “remembering.”  I did not tell her about the RV format as it compared to F&SF. When she and her husband got to the naming of the children, she had had two abortions but her husband was not the father, I wondered how she would react.

It was very difficult but very freeing. She finished the retreat with a deep sense of accomplishment and freedom. I told her that what she experienced during the RV retreat would also happen in the rest of our F&SF class and that she would not tell the rest of the class what was coming.

As we finished our F&SF classes she truly seemed much more aware off her deepest feelings and even allowed herself to feel even more than she did at the RV retreat.

She wrote a new letter to her children and read it at the F&SF Memorial Service. She said she felt so blessed to have been able to do both together. The second Memorial Service provided and even deeper experience for her after the natural intensity of that first service on the RV retreat.

She then stood up in front of her congregation one Sunday morning and gave her testimony about both RV and F&SF and two women came forward to take the next F&SF class. From that next class another woman went down to an RV retreat before starting our F&SF class.

How can RV and F&SF help with the necessary ongoing emotional and spiritual growth when the program ends and you “come down from the mountain?”

The other woman who did her RV first and then waited a few weeks before our F&SF class shared that many issues that were brought up at the RV retreat needed to be addressed further. The class allowed her to take the healings she received at the RV retreat and go deeper and for some issues to find true closure.

 RV teams and  F&SF (through the PRC or church it is based out of) can keep an open network of sharing when there retreats are happening and encourage the retreatants from both to keep an ongoing process of healing and recovery going. Each time I go and serve on a RV team or teach an F&SF class I receive additional healing and spiritual support.  I share this with anyone that will listen.

In our FSF classes I stress over and over that the process is just that and it will become more wonderful and cleansing as they go. They became excited about looking for ways to keep it going and still “come down the mountain” into everyday life.

In Denver I am in charge of the “aftercare gift bags” that are given out after the retreat on Sunday. They contain some unique brochures that I have found that deal with some common hurdles women and men have to face when they leave the retreat; such as how to talk about the retreat to family, children, friends, and spouses.  Included also is the location of some of the PRC that offer other abortion recovery programs.

Why is important for women and men active in pro life and especially service in Pregnancy Resource Centers to consider abortion healing programs if they have experienced abortion loss?

You cannot give what you don’t have. Unaddressed past abortion issues come out of nowhere when you are faced with a defiant and sometimes volatile client bent on abortion. You will either back away from her and not truly engage her because it causes you interior pain or you will jump in with both feet and possibly lose perspective and not be as effective as you can be… and over time burn out.

The type of healing you receive from these programs allows you to be not only a good listener but to truly understand the girl who comes in wanting answers about whether she should get an abortion.

The peace and closure you have received over the death of your own child(ren) will help you lead another on their journey of decisions and options open to her. And in the event she still chooses abortion you will be there to lead her to recovery.

Women and men who have gone through either or both of these programs offer a profound insight into the issues surrounding an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy. They are truly “Resurrection people” and it has been my experience that their sense of joy is very apparent and generously shared.

What was your personal journey that led you to Pregnancy Resource Connection and Abortion recovery ministry?

I made my Rachel’s Vineyard retreat in 2010 in Corpus Christi Texas. I later became part of the team. The following year I went to my first March for Life in Washington DC and marched with the Silent No More Awareness Campaign (SNMAC) and gave my testimony on the steps of the Supreme Court. I then became SNMAC Regional Coordinator (RC) for the Texas Coastal Bend area.

My task as RC is to contact the women and men who register their regret on the national website and contact them via phone or email and introduce myself and let them know they are not alone in their feelings. This conversation usually leads to a confession that they are in need of some kind of emotional support and spiritual healing. It is then my job to find what kind of post abortion healing resources are in their areas. At this point I knew of the Rachel’s Vineyard retreats and had only heard of the Forgiven and Set Free Bible Study by Linda Cochrane. Two of the Pregnancy Centers in the Corpus Christi area offered individual counseling and other lesser known post abortion healing programs. 

I went in person to each of these centers and told them my story and introduced Silent No More and Rachel’s Vineyard. Both centers really embraced the fact that there was an organized movement for post abortion healing. The brochures were then placed in their offices along with my card.

When we began to live more full time up in the mountains of Colorado I noticed that there was not any information on post abortion healing in any of the small mission parishes.

I also noticed a particular Pregnancy Center that sat directly next to a Planned Parenthood on Main Street. It is the Pregnancy Resource Connection in Granby Colorado.

It was eerie to say the least to walk up to the center’s door and just opposite was the door to a Planned Parenthood office. Planned Parenthood and I have HISTORY.  Literally there is a door for life and a door for death.  I felt an urgent sense of determination as I stood there. Was I to stand and pray at this site or was I supposed to continue trying to spread the word about the availability of healing after an abortion?

 I turned and walked through the doors of the Pregnancy Resource Connection.

It was like a match made in Heaven…literally I believe. Through a series of events where God opened doors I came to offer the F&SF at PRC and serve on the RV Team in Colorado.

 I hope and pray that others might consider how both these programs could provide a comprehensive outreach to the many women and men who have experienced abortion loss.  This can occur with one ministry offering both programs or like in our case by networking between different organizations or churches. 

The Spiritual Starvation of Contemporary Culture: Feeding the Hunger for Eternal Beauty

October 11th, 2013

notre-dame-cathedral-montreal

This is such a rich post from Rod Dreher’s blog at American Conservative.

Part one is the article in First Things.  In Part two of the blog, Rod shares a reflection by Catholic Bishop James Conley. While a student at the University of Kansas, the Bishop came into the Catholic Church deeply influenced by teacher John Senior.  As Rod writes, “The Bishop reflects on how being introduced to beauty opened his mind and his soul, and transformed them both.”

After reading the blog and links I  reflected on my recent post on Pope Francis and how this relates to how others encounter Christ, how we evangelize in this dynamic, complex, at times corrupt and ever changing world we live in.   Bishop Conley’s reflection struck me as saying something very similar to what Pope Francis has been communicating concerning how we encounter those that are in desperate need of the compassion, love and truth of Christ and His Church:

My godfather loved beauty—not for its own sake, but for the sake of Jesus Christ, the creator and redeemer of beauty. Senior saw the beauty of this world in the light of eternity, and he helped others to acquire the same transcendent vision.

The Bishop reveals that in the contemporary culture which shapes our youth, you often cannot engage them with lofty theological concepts or doctrine before engaging them on a deeper personal level with the source of these religious truths:

Our lives had largely been shaped by the crass appeals of the mass media, and the passing fads of popular culture. There was a lack of truth in our lives, certainly; but there was also a profound lack of beauty. Our souls were starving for both, and we did not even know it. (my emphasis)…students had to encounter beauty, and have their hearts and imaginations captured first by beauty, before they could pursue truth and goodness in a serious and worthy manner. 

Perhaps this is what the Pope is saying on an interpersonal and pastoral level.  When we encounter the woman or man after abortion, the person struggling with same-sex-attraction, the traumatized veteran, our first encounter is not one where we dispense moral and theological truth…as indispensable as they will be for an ongoing conversion and recovery.

But it is essential that they experience in our eyes, in our words, in our spirit something of this Eternal Beauty.  It is really a challenge to open ourselves up in a more radical way to the beauty, power and truth of the God’s Word, the Sacraments, and through them to an intimate encounter with Christ.  It is in this ongoing transformation by the Way, the Truth and the Life (which by necessity will at times be painful,) that we can become the most effective instruments of the new evangelization.

When you encounter someone like John Senior in your life, there is something special that is beyond words that engages you.  Our gifts are different, so the Lord will transform you in a unique way, and you will evangelize this beauty and truth in your own time, place and station in life.

As the Bishop Conley writes, believers need the Church and it’s leaders to understand the primacy of preserving and in many cases restoring the beauty found in the Mass as an integral part of transforming each of us and in turn our culture:

To renew Catholic culture, and evangelize our contemporaries, we must restore beauty to the sacred liturgy. If we cannot restore beauty and holiness to our sanctuaries, we will not be able to restore it anywhere else.

Read the Bishops full reflection  and feast on this rich post at Rod Dreher’s blog (and others like it found there.)

(I will be blogging soon about St Maximillian Kolbe and how his love for the Immaculata transformed his entire being, and touched everyone he encountered.)

 

Don’t Believe the Media Hype Pro Lifers: Pope Francis Has Your Back!

October 10th, 2013

pope-Francis

The interview with Pope Francis published in the Italian Jesuit Journal La Civiltà Cattolica caused a firestorm of reaction.  Media and entertainment outlets cranked up their spin machines to proclaim a fundamental shift in the Church’s emphasis concerning the hot button issues of contraception, abortion, and same sex marriage.  Some of the faithful, after battling for years in the pro-life/pro-family trenches felt confused and discouraged by some of the Pope’s quotes as highlighted in the media.

But the media has a very short attention span and quickly moved on to the next big story.  So now we can take a deep breath, and take a closer prayerful reading of this interview.  Perhaps you will find as I did that there is much that affirms the evolution of pro life ministry over the last 40yrs and the movement as a whole.

First let’s look at some key excerpts.

Ongoing Repentance and Conversion in Christ

Pope Francis reminds us that our ministry to build a culture of life and heal a culture of death, always begins with a deep awareness of our own spiritual poverty and the generous gift of salvation.

Pope Francis reflects on the painting of The Calling of St. Matthew, by Caravaggio:

 That finger of Jesus, pointing at Matthew. That’s me. I feel like him. Like Matthew.” Here the pope becomes determined, as if he had finally found the image he was looking for: “It is the gesture of Matthew that strikes me: he holds on to his money as if to say, ‘No, not me! No, this money is mine.’ Here, this is me, a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze.

 The Lord understands well Matthew’s struggle to let go of his worldly concerns, while calling him to embrace a treasure that moth and rust cannot destroy (Matthew 6, 19-21.)   Worldly concerns are not always bad things, like Matthews attachment to money.  We can be tempted to see the necessary business of our apostolate as more important than sacraments, prayer, contemplation, and devotions such as daily rosary, Eucharistic adoration and study of God’s Word.

Ongoing repentance, conversion and communion with Christ are the foundations of our pro life vocation.

 Closer to the Heart

There is a strong emphasis from this Pope, in this interview and in other sources that sees the mission of the Church, not as an imposition of truth from above, but initially an intimate respectful encounter with each unique human person, especially those wounded by poverty, violence and neglect.

“I see clearly,” the pope continues, “that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity.”

 When asked about those who struggle with same-sex-attraction, the Pope did not contradict in any way the fundamental teaching of the Church when he expressed that our initial encounter with those who struggle with this burden and other complex human problems, is not the righteousness and truth of our cause, but an intimate relationship of mercy:

We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy.

The Church as Field Hospital – Pro Life Good Samaritans

I see the church as a field hospital after battle.  “How are we treating the people of God? I dream of a church that is a mother and shepherdess. The church’s ministers must be merciful, take responsibility for the people and accompany them like the Good Samaritan, who washes, cleans and raises up his neighbor.

The pro-abortion forces and their allies like to portray pro lifers as mean spirited, narrow minded, and obsessed with saving the unborn at the expense of other victims of social injustice.  Sadly this prejudice has crept inside the Church at times in the unnecessary division between social justice and respect life ministries.

Pro Life and abortion healing ministries work daily with people ravaged by the consequences of sexual freedom and the promotion of “reproductive rights.”  Unplanned pregnancy, single parenthood, abortion while impacting all of us, have in a special way attacked the most vulnerable in our society, the poor and minorities.  (Six out of 10 African American children conceived in New York City are aborted.)

I have been involved as a social worker in pro life and abortion healing efforts in the Church now for 25 years.  I have travelled across the United States and around the world.  The overwhelming majority of pro life people I encounter are clearly Good Samaritans that the pope speaks of.  They embody in their outreach the personal humility and a merciful love for each person they serve…unborn and born.  They are moved by decency and justice, a love for the unborn, love for the mothers and fathers of those threatened with abortion and those who suffer after abortion.  I have had a similar experience in my relationships with those working in the arena of law or politics to try and end this evil.

Many of these pro-life good Samaritans can be found at the local Pregnancy Resource Centers where women in crisis find not judgment and condemnation, but love and practical assistance.   Leading the annual March for Life in Washington you will find women and men from the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, who intimately understand the cost of “reproductive choice.”  They carry signs that publicly acknowledge regret of their abortions, and later before the Supreme Court they share riveting stories of suffering and redemption from the Paschal mystery of their lives.    Where did they find the courage and strength for this very public witness?  It is the love, compassion and accompaniment of pro life people and after abortion healing programs where they found freedom from shame, and confidence to proclaim their truth in Christ.

When Pope Francis speaks of accompanying the poor, marginalized and so many that have lost their way in our modern world with love and mercy, he is affirming the pro life movement in the United States and around the world.

Who’s Really Obsessed Here?

This provides a good opportunity to turn our gaze to the one excerpt from this interview that has received the greatest attention and media spin:

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the timeThe dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.  

The obsession with the issues of abortion, same sex marriage and contraception are pervasive in media and entertainment promoting an agenda that is clearly at odds with Church teaching.   This obsession flows from a distorted understanding of the human person and like other well intentioned social movements, is capable of tremendous evil and destruction in the name of corrupted concepts of freedom, rights and personal liberty.

Perhaps the Pope is saying to us, we cannot let the secular agenda, which is truly “obsessed” with the issues of same sex marriage, abortion and contraception to dictate the Church’s overall message and compromise our primary mission to present the Gospel in all its beauty and splendor.  It is not necessary as the Pope said, to “talk about these issues all the time.”

This is no way contradicts the prophetic call of his predecessor, Blessed John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae.  It is very necessary, especially in a nation with over 50 million abortions since 1973 to proclaim the Gospel of Life to a culture of death.

Again the Pope offers an important caveat:

The proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives. 

Our pro life/pro-family efforts, the moral and religious imperatives, are rooted in the mystery of the incarnation of God in the womb of a humble virgin facing an unplanned pregnancy.  With God’s help, Mary was able reach beyond her natural anxiety and fear to embrace the call of the Father to become the Mother of His Son, who embraced our sin and death and transformed it into the power of resurrection.

With that said, the Pope’s use of the word imperative (moral and religious imperatives) is instructive concerning the urgency of our cause:

Imperativesomething that demands attention or action; an unavoidable obligation or requirement; necessity

 The primacy of the Gospel proclamation in no way diminishes the urgency of our cause.  In fact, as Evangelium Vitae reveals, they are intimately connected.

 Pope Francis in this interview is reminding us that our work for social justice flows not from a myopic focus or obsession on the particular evil we fight at the expense of a loving encounter with those we serve.  Our marching orders are not from any political party or ideology.   We proclaim the Good News of the salvation of God, and his saving love for each person, no matter what their history, sin struggles and wounds.    This foundation will bring us to an encounter with individuals that respects the unique dignity of each person, and is willing to accompany them in their sorrows and struggle.

Pope Francis is very clear in other preaching and speaking concerning the evil of abortion and the need for healing for all who have participated in the death of the unborn.   You can read an excellent presentation on this important topic by Fr Frank Pavone in the National Catholic Register.  Fr Frank touches on the special affirmation by the Pope on the ministry of healing for those that have experienced abortion loss:

The Pope is not criticizing the Church’s focus on abortion. He is actually protecting it. He is protecting it from being seen just as a “rule” or a “directive,” detached from the fundamental teachings of the faith that make us Christian in the first place and detached from the compassion and mercy that Christ extends to those who have had abortions.

Regarding that latter point, the Pope made a special point to encourage me in my work as pastoral director of Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries throughout the world. The Pope, who came to know of the ministry in Argentina, said to me, “Rachel’s Vineyard is very good; it is an excellent work! Go forward with that!”

The reason he is particularly affirmative of Rachel’s Vineyard, and of the Church’s overall work of healing after abortion, comes out in the recent interview that made headlines. He made it clear that, in dealing with abortion, we have to extend mercy to those who have committed this sin. We who reject abortion do not reject those who have had abortions. Rather, we embrace them with forgiveness and peace.

Healing the Troops in the Trenches

Finally, in our reflection on the Pope’s interview we have focused much on the wounds of those we serve in our pro life and abortion healing outreach.  But it is important to remember that the leaders and troops serving on the front lines are intimately connected by virtue of their ministry, to the death of the innocent unborn…and over time this can take its toll.

Think of those praying at abortion centers, reaching out in love to the mothers and father…yet many still choose death.   Consider the ultrasound technician who reveals an image to a mother of her unborn child in all its wonder and beauty…yet the mother still chooses abortion.  Think of the scars and wounds of those that battle in secular politics and in the legal arena to defend the unborn and those injured by abortion and face continual attacks from pro abortion forces.  We know that many who have experienced abortion loss and come to regret that decision, become involved in Pregnancy Resource Center outreach to help other mothers avoid that tragic decision.  Pro life leaders and those serving in this ministry also need healing and restoration in Christ.

That is why we can receive the Pope’s words with consolation and as a gentle reminder…not as the media would present as a scolding to back off from our efforts.

Many pro life veterans are well aware of the need to step back from the battle so we are not consumed or obsessed by the very evil we are fighting.  One who is obsessed is not filled with peace and joy…and cannot share the compassion, mercy and love of Christ with one who is wounded and in crisis.  Perhaps there is more we can do as a movement to minister to the leaders and troops on the front lines and provide opportunities for healing, restoration and refreshment so we emerge renewed.

Don’t believe the media hype pro lifers.  The Pope’s message in this interview and elsewhere is clearly one of affirmation and support with some always welcome spiritual direction.  The primacy of our cause remains as an imperative flowing from the Annunciation and incarnation of Christ our savior in the womb of our Blessed Mother Mary.

The Pope and the Church have your back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Avanti! Pope Francis Enthusiastic Support of Rachel’s Vineyard and Healing After Abortion

October 3rd, 2013

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Fr Frank Pavone, Pastoral Director of Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries, shares the following enthusiastic support of the world’s largest outreach to those suffering after abortion loss:

You have probably heard this by now, but I wanted to encourage you once again by passing along to you the personal encouragement of Pope Francis for Rachel’s Vineyard. On the first of  September, I was in a private audience with him, and had the chance to give him the greetings of our entire Priests for Life family, including Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries around the world.

Here is what he said to me, in a very animated voice: “Rachel’s Vineyard is very good; it is an excellent work!         Go forward with that!”

He was aware of Rachel’s Vineyard from Argentina, where the dedicated work of our RV team there caught the attention of the local bishops, who then made the other bishops aware of it.

Friends, the word the Pope used in speaking to me is the Italian word “Avanti!” It is a word of vigor, courage, and determined, forward-looking progress. May we all encourage one another in that spirit, and let’s pass along to everyone who knows  about Rachel’s Vineyard the encouraging words of the Pope.

Fr Frank Pavone 

Pastoral Director – Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries

National Director – Priests For Life

Priests For Life Newsletter Article on Fatherhood Forever

September 30th, 2013

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Check out the latest Priests For Life Newsletter with a feature on the Fatherhood Forever Section of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign (SNMAC) website for men who have suffered abortion loss.  Read the inspirational story of the man who lost a child to abortion, nearly lost his life, and later developed the Fatherhood Forever site .

[In the picture above PFL Executive Director, Janet Morana, was chosen to greet the Pope after the Mass on the Day of Life (June 16). She updated him about the work of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign and Rachel’s Vineyard.  Pope Francis spoke to her about his awareness of and appreciation for this work, including in Argentina.]

 

 

 

Comedian Louis CK: The Eternal Rewards of Unplugging from Technology and Facing the Existential Void

September 23rd, 2013

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Emmy winning Comedian Louis CK had a great bit on Conan recently where he talked about kids glued to their smart phones and how we use technology/entertainment to run away from the darker things we struggle to face (like grief.)

Louis CK shared a personal experience about taking a break from technology and taking the risk to enter his personal “existential void.”

Check it out (language can be a bit spicy at times.)

As Louis Ck points out, it’s so easy to remain obsessively connected, numb and distracted from the scary deep-dark-waters that lie beneath the surface of our hyper busy lives, continually attached to our devices.

To be fair, this is an inevitable part of trying to manage personal and professional responsibilities in a 24/7 society.  But this continual connection to ever present technology does have the capacity to change our sense of reality and our relationship to others, and a connection to our deeper selves. There can be a high price to pay for all that distraction, especially when there is some important stuff to sort out and grieve and deeper longings that we are being called to cultivate.

These longings, if we can give them some attention, alert us that unwittingly, even innocently, we have made idols out of our devices and busyness.   In addition is it possible that the related immersion in entertainment, media, pornography and drugs have become addictions that keep us distracted and numb, safely walled off from the painful and scary void Louis Ck spoke of in his Conan presentation?

That great emptiness Louis CK spoke of is actually the existential void that can lead us to either despair or contemplation of the deeper meaning of our lives.   When we allow ourselves to be still, to put away the smart phone for a few hours…are we afraid of the silence?

I believe there is a great longing in people, perhaps unconscious and unspoken, but a longing to quiet all the hyper-activity and at least for a time let go of the gadget obsession.  I think people hunger to give a voice to the deeper longing of the soul for reconciliation of past losses, to stop running from the pain and allow a healthy expression of the feelings and memories.

One very important caveat that Louis CK did not mention:

If you are going inward, and you encounter some complicated and painful areas of loss, such as abortion or abuse, please don’t try to go it alone.  Once you recognize the truth that something like abortion has left a deep wound on your heart and soul, (and this is a great grace!) make sure you fight the temptation to recover from this loss by yourself, and reach out for the help you need.  This is especially true for you men out there who may struggle to reach out for help.

As Louis CK points out, our bodies and souls will reward us if we can safely do that grief work because along with the necessary pain and copious tears will come good chemicals, feelings, new insight and understanding.

Best of all, when we safely open up deep parts of our hearts and souls that have been long ignored, numb and lifeless…this freshly tilled soil provides an excellent place for God to sow new seeds of faith, hope and love.

We can come to know in a deeper and intimate way the God who created us and embrace him as our Heavenly Father.

BTW: It was great in that segment with Louis CK and Conan seeing Conan trying to imitate Bruce Springsteen’s primordial wailing at the end of Jungleland.  Here’s a powerful beautiful live rendition of Jungleland from Bruce.

The dual wailing of both Clarence Clemons on saxophone and Springsteen’s howling at the close of Jungleland, reveals the depths of human longing and the desperate cry of a suffering soul.  I have to agree with Louis CK that this song is deeply moving.

 

 

 

 

 

Chemical Weapons Attack U.S. Family! What Happens to Couples When Their Home Becomes an Abortion Clinic?

September 18th, 2013

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Lifesitenews ran a deeply disturbing article from a self described pro choice woman who experienced an RU 486 abortion.  She was shocked by her treatment by Planned Parenthood and the excruciating pain of the procedure.

What I found most disturbing about this piece is the fact that with RU 486, the home is now the place where the abortion occurs.  Even more insidious, when you read this couples experience note where the climax of this horrific tragedy takes place:

Her husband got her out of the tub, and into the bed…

It was then, with her husband lying next to her, that Kay says, “I went through the worst experience of my life.”

“After two hours of this,” Kay says, “I felt a rush of blood and a large lemon-sized clot came out. I assume that was the pregnancy. I was horrified. Why hadn’t anyone told me that it would be like this?”

Her husband cleaned the blood off her, cleaned up the towels, changed the sheets, dressed her because she was too weak from the pain.

The same bed where this tiny “lemon sized” unborn baby was likely conceived (with great pleasure and joy as the mutual gift of their marital union), is the place where the child is painfully and forcefully expelled from its mother’s womb.   Copious amounts of blood cover her and stain the sheets of their marital bed.

The father of the child lies next to his wife during this nightmare.  He carefully attends to her and removes the bloody sheets…and we can assume disposes of their very small baby after the deed is done.  The sheets serve as a type of burial shroud for his tiny son or daughter.

What must he have been thinking and feeling as his wife went through this traumatic labor?  Might he have felt a sense of shame and guilt that their “choice” led to so much physical and emotional anguish for his wife?  Did he feel helpless and powerless as he witnessed what Planned Parenthood said would be a simple process morph into an unforgettable and traumatic nightmare?

It doesn’t really matter what this couples political and moral opinions are about abortion.  There are things more powerful than ideology and politics.  The intellect can rationalize about lost pregnancies and women’s rights.  But the painful truth of the heart and soul will not be denied.

Based on my professional experience, let me offer just one likely scenario for this couple post RU 486:

They have both clearly experienced a traumatic event.  The bedroom and bathroom will continue to be triggers of their painful memories and emotions from that experience.  Ongoing physical complications are possible as the article revealed.  Nightmares, insomnia, anxiety and depression are likely.  Sexual relations will be challenging if not impossible.  Even after the physical challenges end, they will need to dissociate from their feelings and go through the motions of sexual intimacy.

But there will be powerful flash-backs and feelings being triggered in what should be a place of safety, peace, intimacy and joy…their home.   Regardless of ideology, the marital bed will remain a place of death, and an unspoken sense of loss will permeate the bedroom and relationship.  The image and memory of that tiny “pregnancy” will rest there between them as they struggle to sleep.   Each bath or shower will trigger flashbacks of her excruciatingly painful self-inflicted labor of death.

The unresolved feelings and memories will lead them to drink more, work more…whatever it takes to get away from the pain.  The distance will grow between them.

Over time this couple will be unable to meet one another’s needs for emotional and physical intimacy.  They will begin to look outside the marriage for support from someone who is not connected to the trauma.  Marital infidelity will begin a process of marital dissolution.

See, RU 486 is a very powerful chemical.  It didn’t just end the life of their unborn child.  The drug traumatized this couple, made their home a place of death, and in time will kill their marriage.

They may never be able to associate any of this to their chemical abortion…pro choice ideology forbids such honesty.  But the physical, emotional and relational symptoms will be screaming out for them to acknowledge this loss, to face the truth of their actions…to repent and heal.

The insidious nature of chemical abortion reveals that all the participants in this tragedy are victims.  The baby is foremost an innocent victim of his parent’s actions.  The mother and father are victims of our nation’s legally sanctioned “choice” and the consequences of their home becoming an abortion clinic.

Isn’t it tragically ironic that President Obama recently spent so much political capital, time and effort to threaten Syria for their alleged use of chemical weapons on innocent men, women and children?

Yet here in the United States, our President thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to legalize chemical warfare attacks on our families.  These deadly chemicals traumatize parents, desecrate the marital bed and family home, and kill innocent little children.

Isn’t it ironic…or it is criminal?

Isn’t it time to Recall Abortion?

 

 

 

A Father Attacks Mother of His Aborted Child: “Do You Realize How Badly You Hurt Me?”

September 15th, 2013

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Those familiar with my writing and speaking know that I often focus on men and abortion loss with a special emphasis on those fathers who are powerless to stop their partner/wife/girlfriend from aborting their unborn child.  This unleashes powerful emotions in men…and without healing this can lead to some really bad outcomes.

Check out the following excerpts from this woman’s abortion story:

Every day for two weeks prior to the abortion, Jace would plead with me.

“We can get married and I will get another job; we can be a family and make this work” he would say to me over and over again.

I was angry and I wanted someone to blame. I refused to speak with him about it, and he eventually gave up. My mind was made up and there was nothing he could do or say to change that.

January 2014 will mark 5 years since my abortion. I recently came into contact with the Father of my aborted child, whom I had not seen or barely spoken to in years.

I agreed to see him…and he attacked me.

            He pinned me to the seat of his truck and told me that he had to get even with me for the abortion. I cried and screamed and fought him. He said that hurting me was the only way we could make things ‘right’ between us.

“Do you realize how badly you hurt me?” he kept yelling. When I begged him to stop, he said “you know what is funny about that Annie, I begged YOU to stop, I begged YOU not to have an abortion, but you did it anyway, you let someone rip our child from your body”.

 After a half hour struggle, I was finally able to escape from him and run for help. The police were called and he is now facing assault charges.

This father will have to face the legal consequences for his actions and there is never an excuse for violence against women.   But his powerful feelings and actions powerfully proclaim that men like Jace desperately need to know about healing programs for recovery from abortion loss…especially traumatic abortion loss.

  The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines a traumatic event as    follows:

1. The person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others. 2. The person’s response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror.

Jace was clearly traumatized by his partner’s abortion and wrongly took out his helplessness, powerlessness and rage on the mother of the child.

I recently shared in my blog about a prison inmate who linked his life of crime and other immorality to his participation in 2 abortions.  Police, prison administrators and chaplains, mental health professional and all of us need to understand that whatever their role in an abortion, men are profoundly affected and need to hear about resources for recovery after abortion. 

Fortunately for this mother, her story did not end in death and despair.  She writes:

In March 2011, 2 years after my abortion, I had reached another breaking point. One day I just had a complete melt down. That’s when I decided to seek spiritual help. I attended a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat.   My family did not agree with my decision to attend this retreat, but I knew that I had to do it if I wanted to heal. I thank God every day for the women at Rachel’s Vineyard. That weekend truly changed my life. I was able to make peace with God about my abortion, and I didn’t have to do it alone.

Let’s pray the father of her child also learns about healing resources and reaches out for the help he desperately needs.  Jace needs the support of others who understand his loss, and a healing process where he can safely express his painful emotions and encounter the power of God.  Jace will find that the end of his story is not Calvary, but an empty tomb, and a spiritual relationship with his precious child.

This is the only path away from violence, despair and death…to peace, recovery and new life.  Let’s pray for all fathers of children lost to abortion, that they discover this path of healing.

-        And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new!”  

(Revelation 21)

To Learn more about  Men and Abortion Loss:

http://www.fatherhoodforever.org/

http://www.menandabortion.net/