"I cannot think of another work of this kind so well done," Fr. Benedict Groeschel has written of Rachel's Vineyard. "A most difficult and painful human problem is engaged with faith, psychological insight and trust."
Having been involved for years in these retreats for people wounded by abortion, I could not agree more with that assessment. That is why I was so pleased when Theresa and Kevin Burke, the founders of Rachel's Vineyard, approached me at the end of last year with the request that this retreat program become a ministry of Priests for Life. As such, it is now becoming even better known by the priests of the nation and provides yet another way for them to extend the healing power of Christ through the Sacrament of Penance, through counseling, and through preaching. Moreover, the Rachel's Vineyard retreat can also be conducted in an ecumenical format, allowing Christians of all denominations to take part in a way that is consistent with their own background.
Rachel's Vineyard is a weekend retreat experience for women and men who have lost children through abortion. With the assistance of counselors and clergy, they explore the emotional and spiritual pain of their abortion in the presence of the Lord and in a confidential and supportive atmosphere. Because the wound of abortion is compounded by its secrecy and in fact consists of a destructive isolation of the individual, the person on the retreat finds a new freedom by sharing his or her pain with the others on the retreat, who have all had similar experiences, and benefits from their understanding, acceptance, and additional insight.
One of the most powerful and unique aspects to the retreat is the use of "Living Scriptures." This is essentially a group reflection on various Scriptural events, utilizing a traditional method of meditation on Scripture by which a person imagines himself present at the event and involved in it. But instead of having this reflection within oneself and only in thought, the group dramatizes it together, again utilizing a very traditional Catholic approach, namely, using signs, symbols, and gestures to make spiritual realities more tangible. A simple example of this is the healing of Bartimaeus in chapter 10 of Mark's Gospel. At Rachel's Vineyard, the passage is read in the presence of all; the priest then goes to each person, along with a team member, who says, "Have courage, he is calling you." The person says, "Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me." The priest then says Jesus' words, "What do you want me to do for you?" The person then makes her request, in her own words. The priest bestows an individual blessing.
Thousands of Rachel's Vineyard retreats are taking place around the United States and around the world. Many dioceses have officially adopted this program for their abortion healing ministry. As more and more people come forward, breaking out of their guilt and shame-filled isolation, let us together welcome them to the Vineyard of the Church!
See www.RachelsVineyard.org for additional information.