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Embrace

Picture yourself as a 5-year-old. You fell and scraped your knee. You didn’t get a turn to play on the swings. Your brother ate the last ice pop in the freezer and wouldn’t share. The tears are falling down your face. Who comes to hold you? In whose arms do you find comfort? As always, mother’s embrace is what makes everything okay.

Now, think of a time when you were really hurting, a time when your whole world seemed to be coming to an end. To whom could you run? Mom is now many miles away, there are no comforting arms, or are there?

I’ve learned in my life that many times I need to feel the warmth of a mother’s embrace. Fortunately, within our Catholic faith we have a heavenly Mother, a mother that always seeks to comfort her children.

My road to understanding Mother Mary’s role in the Church and in my own personal faith walk has been full of a lot of twists and turns. I was baptized in a Free Church and raised with some Christian influence, but we rarely went to church. My grandparents were probably the strongest Christian influence, at least in practice. I wandered into the Presbyterian Church as a teenager and remained there for some time. Upon my graduation from high school, I began a journey through the Protestant churches, finally landing back in a Presbyterian Church. I can’t say that I was particularly faithful, or faith-filled, especially given the way I was living. I was slowly going down a long, slippery slope of drug abuse, abusive relationships, and extremely poor decisions.

My life was slowly becoming out of control. I found myself lost in a situation that I couldn’t handle. I found myself pregnant. It was at this time that I made the decision that would change everything in my life. I chose to abort my unborn child. This act was the beginning of my painful journey toward truth.

Following the abortion, I was in a state of despair. I had separated myself from my family; most of my friends were conditional, that is to say that they didn’t care about me, just about what we did together; I escaped a bad relationship. I found myself totally alone. I tried to reach out to the local Presbyterian minister, but was told I didn’t do anything wrong, so why should I be concerned. However, I knew in my heart that I had killed my child. I needed help to deal with that, to grieve, to heal. It was at this time that I met a holy, Catholic priest.

I wish I could say that I was instantly transformed, that my life turned around immediately, unfortunately, that is not the case. I began to ask a lot of questions, and received a lot of answers. Some of these answers were extremely difficult, as they forced me to accept that I had turned totally and completely away from God. I also had to realize that I was broken and in need of healing and help. I had turned so far away from accepting help from anyone that I didn’t even know how to ask. But God, in His infinite mercy, placed in my life several people to walk with me through these years.

My journey into the Catholic Church began with my meeting with this priest. He spoke the truth to me, regardless of the pain that it caused. I’m not saying that he spoke without compassion, because that is surely not true, he simply spoke the truth without padding it to make me feel better. Through his assistance and prayers, I entered the Catholic Church. I was sacramentally reconciled with God and was able to receive Jesus in the Eucharist for the first of many times.

There were many things that I still struggled with in Catholic teachings; in particular I struggled with Mary. Who was she? What role did she have in the Church? What role did she have in my life? These answers did not come until I began to seek healing from my abortion, until I grieved the loss of my child, until I accepted that I, myself, am a mother. This begins my journey through the dark recesses of my heart. It also begins my journey toward acceptance of my heavenly Mother’s embrace.

My entrance into the Catholic Church was the beginning of my upward climb. Obviously, I had to go to my first confession, my opportunity to be reconciled with God and the Church I was embracing. This was a frightening experience. I actually had to admit to another person that I had done the worst thing a mother could do; I denied my child life. I’d like to say that I walked away from this experience freed, however, there was much work God had to do in me.

One of the ways our Lord worked in my heart was to slowly introduce me to Mary, His Mother. I moved through many stages in my relationship with Mary, but through most of them, especially early on, she was always His Mother, never my Mother. I had a hard time with a personal relationship with her. I think that my biggest obstacle was my denial of my own motherhood. You see, after the abortion, I pushed aside any thoughts of motherhood; I wasn’t a mother, I wasn’t going to be a mother, therefore I wasn’t, at that time, going to relate to a mother, even my own. There was so much that I hadn’t dealt with as far as the abortion experience itself that I just moved away from anything that made me think of or remember any part of it.

Up until this point, I would have some memory come up every once in a while. I would just talk about it and it would go away, at least for awhile. To be quite honest, I shoved most of the pain down and tried not to let it boil over. I didn’t want to, or just couldn’t, deal with it yet; the time was not right. When was the time right? I don’t really know. I spent a lot of time watching several priests, testing them, I guess. I was testing to see whom I could trust with this depth of myself, with whom I could make myself this vulnerable. I think in many ways I was hoping that I wouldn’t find anyone. Fortunately, God had other plans.

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