A Remarkable Autobiography by Medjugorje Visionary Mirjana Soldo: Mirjana Shares of her Persecution under Communism and our Blessed Mother’s Words on the Fate of the Souls of Aborted Children

December 8th, 2016

 

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By Kevin Burke, LSW

December 8th, 2016 – Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary

In 1981, 16 year old Mirjana Soldo was living with her family in Sarajevo in the former Yugoslavia.   She took a train to spend the summer with relatives in the tiny village of Medjugorje.

On June 24th, feast day of St John the Baptist,  Mirjana strolled with her friend Invanka in the late afternoon.   They saw a mysterious woman with a baby in her arms on Podbrdo Hill.  Soon they learned her identity – she was the Virgin Mary, the Blessed Mother of Jesus.  Mirjana and five other children would experience apparitions of the Blessed Mother each day  at the nearby parish of St James rectory.

The children were both in awe and overwhelmed by this experience.

Mirjana:

“My heart whirled with fear and wonder…my heart was in such turmoil that I could hardly identify one emotion before another took over. “Pinch yourself,” I thought.  “You must be dreaming!”[1]  

Fear and wonder were natural reactions to such a supernatural encounter. But they had other reason to be anxious.  They were entering dangerous and complicated waters in communist controlled Yugoslavia.

In her autobiography My Heart Will Triumph Mirjana shares about her family life in the city of Sarajevo.  The account reveals she grew up in a stable and loving family and matured into a happy and well adjusted young woman.   Mirjana was not prone to unusual religious fervor, or exaggerated emotional displays.

Yet after the events of June 24th 1981, the young woman’s life was turned upside down.

Life Under Communism

The citizens of Yugoslavia, as they went about their day to day lives, were well aware of the power of the communist government to harass, hurt and even murder those they felt threatened the regime.

Mirjana shares:

In communist Yugoslavia, religious books were practically contraband, so our knowledge of miracles was limited to the measured homilies of our priests who were always aware that government spies lurked in the pews. Anything misconstrued as an attack on the regime, the priests knew, could send them to prison—or worse.[2]

On June 29th 1981 as word spread of the heavenly visitations, the children were summoned to the Citluk police station for interrogation. An officer inquiring about visionary Jakov, who was not with the other children, asked Mirjana:

Where’s that little shit?”

Jakov is only 10 years old,” I said.  “Leave him alone…”

You lying bitch,” growled the policeman.  The interrogation went on like that for hours.

Failing to get the children to recount their experiences, the officers stuffed them in the back of an ambulance for a rough and painful ride to Mostar hospital.

When they arrived the officer sneered, “Get used to this place…it might be your new home when the doctors declare you insane.”

The police locked them in a dark, windowless room. The air was cold, damp and foul as described by Mirjana.

I thought someone was sleeping on the table, but as my vision adjusted I realized the person was dead. Scanning the room, I saw more bodies.

They were in the hospital morgue.

Next they were examined and questioned by a cold and threatening physician:

You know,” he said, “we have a special place for the insane.” [3]

This physician then locked the children in a ward with severely mentally ill patients.  The children huddled together terrified fearing they would never be released.

It is important to keep in mind the methods of Eastern European communists to control their populations.  All manner of diabolical physical and psychological torture, personality destruction and abuse were used to control and punish those that were seen as threatening the power of the state to form the new communist man and society.

Turning Up the Heat

Thankfully the children were later released but as news spread across Medugorje and beyond about the apparitions, the government went on the offensive. The visionaries’ relatives were threatened with imprisonment and the children with confinement in mental institutions if they continued to “perpetuate this religious hoax.”

The government declared a state of emergency in Medugorje and the military with soldiers and attack dogs entered the village. Federal police took over the investigation of the apparitions and the interrogations of the visionaries became lengthier and more intense.

The following exchange with a federal officer is telling. It reveals the spiritual peace as well as the character and tenacity of young Mirjana.

The communist official pulled his handgun off its holster and laid it on the table between him and Mirjana:

Confess,” he said… “Come clean,” he said glancing at the gun.  “You didn’t see anything.”… “Now give me the truth.”

Mirjana looked at him straight in the eyes:

The truth is that I see Our Lady, and I’m willing to die for her.”[4]

If the visionaries were adults, they would have found themselves locked away in some dark prison cell and likely tortured and killed. The fact they were children was a saving grace.  The government, as corrupt as they were, did not want to be seen as imprisoning children.  This did not prevent government agents from terrorizing the children and their families.

You can read more in My Heart Will Triumph about the ongoing harassment and oppression of Mirjana and her family, priests of the village and others by the communist authorities in the early days of the apparitions.  Mirjana and her family as well as some of the clergy of that village paid a high price for being faithful to the mission entrusted to them by the Blessed Mother.

The Fruit of Forgiveness

One of the many beautiful fruits of the spiritual events in Medugorje is the cultivation of reconciliation and forgiveness.

Mirjana shares many years later:

“A few years ago a man came to my door. He looked vaguely familiar, but I did not recognize him at first.  He seemed reluctant to speak and he avoided eye contact.”

Can I help you” I said.

“Please forgive me.”

“For what?”

“I’m one of the policemen who interrogated you back in 1981. I’m really sorry for what we put you through.” [5]

The policeman shared with Mirjana a tape of one of their interrogation sessions and he played a portion of the recordings as they both sat and listened. As I reflected on my own experience in abortion and trauma healing ministry, I saw this exchange as a healing ritual of confession and closure for the officer…but also for Mirjana.

Mirjana shared how this encounter led her to recall the events and feelings of those early days of the apparitions. She was struck by the voice of that previously timid teenage girl on the tape who spoke with such confidence and with no fear to her interrogator; truly a gift of faith.

She’s Just Like You and Me

I was deeply moved by Mirjana’s very personal account of the apparitions, our Lady’s messages and mission, and the personal suffering of Mirjana and her family. I now see the apparitions through a different lens.

Prior to reading her account I remained open but skeptical at times given some of the criticisms of the apparitions and challenges to the authenticity of the events of Medjugorje.

After reading her story, I believe very strongly that the experience of the children is authentic and true. As with any powerful spiritual event or movement over many years involving human beings, there will be controversy and confusion – at times even scandal.  This has been true from the time of the Apostles. [6]

What about the Ten Secrets?

Mirjana does touch on the ten secrets entrusted to the visionaries by our Blessed Mother. These are all future events in Medugorje and the world.  Mirjana is careful to present the secrets without sensationalism. While some involve difficult and painful events, (some which can be mitigated by prayer,) ultimately they are properly seen in the context of the overall mission of our Blessed mother as a message of hope in the coming victory of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary over Satan and his agenda.  Mirjana mentions in her autobiography that the events in Medugorje are a fulfillment of the apparitions of Fatima Portugal in 1916.

The information In My Heart Will Triumph about the secrets compels us to return to a fervent practice of our faith that features fasting, daily Rosary, and frequent reception of the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist.  This is a special time of repentance and conversion so we can establish God’s Kingdom in our hearts and share the transforming love of God in our families and communities.  It is also a time of preparation for that encounter with the Lord at the end of our lives, but also for the events that will unfold in the world in the years to come.

Mirjana is now married and lives in Medjugorje with her husband Marko Soldo and their two daughters. Despite her very intimate experience of the Blessed Mother, and knowledge of the ten secrets entrusted to the visionaries, she leads a normal marriage and family life.  The book reveals that despite her very unusual vocation, she has the same responsibilities, joys and sorrows that we all encounter each day.   (With that said, her personal description of the visual and emotional experience of being in the presence of Mary is both fascinating and moving.)

Our Lady’s Words about Children Lost to Abortion

Along with my wife Theresa Burke, Ph.D., I am co-founder of Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries for men and women who long for emotional and spiritual healing after abortion.

One of the more moving parts of the Rachel’s Vineyard weekend program, are those meditations and exercises where the humanity of the unborn child and their unique dignity and identity engages the heart, mind and soul of the participants. This is an essential emotional and spiritual gift of this powerful and very effective retreat process developed by Theresa.

Women and men can despair when they come to face their role in the destruction of their unborn children and struggle to accept God’s forgiveness and find peace and closure. The spiritual reality that their children are alive in the Lord is so important to recovery from this loss. As St John Paul II declared in Evangelium Vitae, To the same Father and to his mercy you can with sure hope entrust your child.”

This was reinforced for me when I read this passage from Mirjana’s book where she asks the blessed mother what happened to the souls of abortion victims after their death. The blessed Mother’s responded:

They are with me in Heaven.” (Pg 108)

A Gift that will Keep on Giving

Reading My Heart Will Triumph was like sitting down with a good friend and being riveted by a fascinating and compelling story.  Mirjana’s personal experience and journey of faith, the messages of Mary and the passages on the ten secrets left me with a sense that while we are perpetually distracted by the unending flow of news, entertainment and information that saturate our daily lives – there is a powerful spiritual drama unfolding in Medugorje.

God through Jesus and His Mother will perhaps manifest their presence in unprecedented ways in this tiny village and throughout the world in the years to come.

But on a deeper and more immediate level, it moved me to have a greater appreciation for the power of the rosary, cultivated an increased awareness of the presence of Mary in my life, and a renewed hunger for prayer. As a Catholic, it has impressed upon me the importance of regular confession and receiving of Christ in the Eucharist.

What a precious and invaluable gift to receive in this advent season.

I encourage you to consider this book as a Christmas gift to yourself, or for a friend or family member that would be blessed to read such an inspirational and moving story.

I close with a message of our Lady Queen of Peace from November 25th, 2015:

Dear children… be carriers of peace and hope in this restless world where Satan is attacking and tempting in every way. Little children, be firm in prayer and courageous in faith. I am with you and intercede before my Son Jesus for all of you…

On this feast of the Immaculate Conception of our Blessed Mother, let us pray with Mary that she will form us – so that we can fully surrender our hearts, minds and souls as never before to her son Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

[1] Mirjana Soldo, (Catholic Shop, August 2016), page 15.

[2] Ibid, page 16

[3] Ibid, page 59-60.

[4] Ibid, pages 80-81.

[5] Ibid, pages 87-88.

[6] I will respect whatever decision the Catholic Church reaches after they complete their current ongoing assessment of the phenomena.

The Sword of the Prince of Peace – Preparing for Pro Life Battle in this Season of Advent

December 2nd, 2016

 

sword-of-revelation

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  (Mathew 10:34)

Pro life advocates are rightly encouraged by the outcome of November’s election.

Conditions now are more favorable for the ongoing battle to protect the life of unborn children in our nation. The tide has shifted, for a time, and the overall conditions present a unique opportunity to advance our cause.  The troops are in good spirits and our prospects for success have perhaps never been better.

This advent season presents a perfect time to prepare for the coming battles but also to give us the proper perspective as we move ahead.

The Sword of Christ

When Jesus speaks of bringing a sword in Mathew’s Gospel, this is clearly not a call to physical violence (see Mathew 26:52.) Jesus speaks of the fact that his words, actions and teaching will cause division, foment controversy, and at times provoke a violent reaction.

But this sword also points to to the fearsome power of the Risen Christ as he comes again with his power and glory fully revealed to the nations. Jesus will consummate his victory over Satan and unleash the mercy and justice of God upon the nations:

From his mouth came a sharp sword to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will release the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty, like juice flowing from a winepress. – (Revelation 19:5)

To Us a Child Is Given

We live our lives within the boundaries of this brief journey through a particular time and place. But mysteriously, our lives are also woven into an eternal struggle between the forces of good and evil, light and darkness that in time will reach their climax with the Second coming of the Christ.

Advent touches upon this great mystery in such powerful ways.

Israel was called forth in time to be a people set apart among the nations to love and serve Yahweh the one true God and turn away from idolatry and sin.  In a similar way, the humble daughter of Israel, the Virgin Mary was set apart for her special vocation from the beginning of her existence.

Mary would receive the first redemptive fruit of her son’s sacrificial death, and be conceived without the original sin, that rejection of God’s providence, that has injured the human family from the beginning.

This Immaculate Conception of Mary was not so much a special privilege for her, but more a precious gift to each of us.  Mary became the Tabernacle of the Holy Spirit, and the mother of the incarnate Son of God.

The Rage of Satan and the Womb of Women

The incarnation of Christ reveals how God used the vehicle of a Jewish woman, and specifically the consecrated womb of Mary and her child Jesus, to save the human family from the power of sin, death and Satan.

Yet this action of God arouses murderous rage in the heart of Satan:

Then the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, so that he might devour her child as soon as it was born… But her child was snatched away and taken to God and to his throne; and the woman fled into the wilderness…The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. – (Revelation 12)

Satan wants to devour Mary’s child as she gives birth. Thanks to an angelic warning of Herod’s designs, and the protection of St Joseph, Satan was unable to destroy the child and abort the mission of Jesus to save humanity.

But mysteriously, Satan and his demonic accomplices continue to have power to wage war on the human family.  It is the all consuming passion of Satan is to corrupt and disfigure the image of God in the human heart, mind and soul and to separate as many souls as possible from eternal union with their heavenly Father.

A Gathering Darkness

Our Blessed Mother appeared to 3 children at Fatima in 1917 to warn the world of the emergence of a gathering darkness and greater war that would envelop the world.

Failing to heed Mary’s warning, we witnessed the destructive rage of the great dragon of revelation unleashed in communist and Nazi attacks on Christians and Jews across Europe, and as communism spread, around the world.

But there is another battleground where the dragon has focused his powers of deception and rage.

Given that the womb of Mary was the vehicle through which God saved the human family from sin and death, we can safely assume that this only increased Satan’s hatred and rage against humanity, and especially of women and their unborn children.

The Hellish Power of Deception

The womb of women is the battleground where Satan is manifesting his agenda with unprecedented powers of deception and destruction in our time. Satan has made a woman’s body and womb, human sexuality and reproduction as battle grounds where he would manifest his passion to deceive and destroy.

In Revelation John says Satan is “the deceiver of the whole world.”

If you want evidence of this power to deceive, consider this statement by Christian pastor Rev. David Selzer, of Concerned Clergy for Choice found in this “blessing” he wrote for abortion facilities:

Bless this building and those who work here… who provide safe, legal, caring and loving reproductive services, including abortion… they are doing God’s work.

While the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Medjugorje are still under discernment by the Vatican, the following reflections by the visionaries on their exposure to the reality of Hell help us to see the eternal nature of our struggle:

Vicka: We saw many people in hell…The Blessed Mother says that those people who are in hell are there because they chose to go there…It is their choice. In this way they choose to enter the fire of hell where they burn away all connection to God.

Marija:  At the moment of death, God gives everyone the grace to see his whole life… And each person, when he sees himself in the divine light of reality…chooses for himself what he personally deserves for all eternity.  Anyone who goes to hell chooses hell. God condemns no one.

Jakov:  The self-chosen suffering there is beyond your ability to comprehend.

When asked if this vision was a painful experience for him Jacov replied: More than you can understand…Because no one needs to go to hell. It is the ultimate waste.

A God of Justice…and Mercy

Our Creator is a God of Mercy, reconciliation and healing. He desires that no woman or man is abandoned to their grief and despair after abortion. Most of us, if we are honest, have aborted God’s will in our lives in times of weakness and fear.  We are continually in need of the repentance and healing of Christ.

The heart of Christ burns with a passionate love for sinners, and desires their reconciliation and healing.  No sin is greater than God’s love and mercy.  He only asks that we have a humble and repentant heart, and he will bless us abundantly with his forgiveness and healing.

But sadly, some will persist in their promotion of abortion as a social and moral good and basic human right. Those who have been wounded by abortion can be tempted to avoid the very natural spiritual and emotional pain and grief that follow abortion.  They instead may justify and fiercely defend their choice.  Some even become aggressive advocates for abortion rights and lead many others astray contributing to the death of countless unborn children and the sin and suffering that flow into the lives of their parents.

This places those who advocate for abortion rights as accomplices in the death of countless unborn children. They are in grave risk of ongoing deception and eternal estrangement from God.  This includes those who serve in positions of public office, medical and counseling professionals and others who act in ways that facilitate the death of unborn children.

Silence is Deadly

This is seldom something we hear from the pulpit. There is an understandable desire to be sensitive to those who have experienced this loss and to invite the wounded to healing.  God’s mercy and forgiveness must always be our first response and proclaimed on a regular basis from our Churches.

But are we neglecting to preach about the justice of God, and the risk of eternal estrangement from our Heavenly Father for those who are persistent in their pro abortion advocacy? Is it merciful to be silent?

This is the greatest tragedy and the endgame of Satan. He not only wants to destroy and desecrate unborn life in the womb.  Satan wants to separate as many souls as possible from eternal union with their heavenly father.

As the visionaries of Medjurgorje suggest, God condemns no person to hell. Tragically, a human heart and soul can become so twisted by lies that they recoil from the light of truth, and when the time comes to encounter their Lord, they may experience the holiness of God as a repulsive darkness.

This is the ultimate horror and tragic fruit of abortion and similar types of sin that lead the soul into such deep darkness and blindness.

Prepare for Battle

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

In this Advent season we have a time of preparation to once again welcome the Savior into our hearts, homes and communities. In this time of peace and preparation – let us also prepare for battle.

We are not led by a particular political leader or party in this battle.  God can use current events and even weak and sinful men and women to accomplish his will.  We must read the signs of the times and fight the good fight to advance the cause of life and reduce and end the destruction of unborn children.

Yet the larger battle is for the heart and soul of the human family. While we fight against abortion and other attacks upon marriage and the family, we do so not in anger, derision or with hatred toward those we oppose.  We do so with love and concern for the unborn and all who are being deceived by Satan.[1]

We know that without God’s grace, we can do nothing. We rely on continual repentance and the deepest humility, immersion in the Word of God, prayer, rosary (and for sacramental Christians, Reconciliation and Eucharist.)

It is also important to take time to grieve our losses in this ministry.  This will strengthen us in our pro life vocations.

Perhaps this prayer to St Michael the Archangel can be particular focus for us in this advent season as we prepare for the coming of our Savior and the battles that lie ahead to advance the cause of life.

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God  Thrust into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

[1] In my personal experience, this is indeed the heart of the pro lifers I have encountered around the world.  They are humble, faithful servants of the Lord acting out of love for the unborn and those wounded by abortion.

Social Work with the Poor: The Temptation to Play God

November 7th, 2016

 

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By Kevin Burke, LSW

Early in my social work career I served as the director of a shelter for pregnant women and children in a poor neighborhood with all manner of family dysfunction and economic challenges.   Grounded in our faith and values, abortion was never an option for a young woman coming to us for assistance.

But I am a minority in my profession. Many of my colleagues see abortion as a necessary evil, especially for those in poor communities where single parent families, addictions, and violence are far too common. Most of my fellow social workers will vote this Election Day for political parties and candidates that they believe will advance the public good by making more  abortion services available to poor women.

Working in communities with great suffering, cycles of abuse and dysfunction can be overwhelming. There is a temptation over time to play God.  No one wants to feel powerless in the face of evil and injustice.  We naturally want to take control, help others assume control of their chaotic lives and break out of the cycles of abuse and poverty that can span generations. Empowering others to assume control and responsibility for their lives is of course a worthy goal of social work intervention.

Yet when taking control means ending the life of a unique member of the human family, we have crossed a chasm that in time drags us and those we serve into deeper sin, blindness and dysfunction.

Our poorest communities have not been blessed by their high rates of abortion.  It’s just the opposite; more abuse, addiction, family dysfunction and death.  Now some candidates in 2016 are telling us we need more public funding for groups like Planned Parenthood to fund contraception and abortion services for the poor.

In the last year alone 325,000 unborn boys and girls died in the womb of their mothers at Planned Parenthood facilities.

Social Work in the Vineyard

I have also spent many years as a social worker in Rachel’s Vineyard helping those who have participated in the death of an unborn child find reconciliation, peace and closure.

The memorial service on Sunday of the weekend program is both beautiful – and deeply painful. Once a parent or grandparent is given an opportunity to open their heart to the truth of their child’s unique life, they can experience the fullness of that loss.  In Rachel’s Vineyard they receive the precious gift of a spiritual relationship with their son or daughter now, and the hope of a reunion in the life to come.

There is peace and closure…yet there is still a heartache that remains. It is now a healthy and healing grief, but also a yearning for what could have been.

Election Day 2016 – It’s Time to Stop Playing God

When you vote on Election Day please reflect on the following; as a nation we need to find peaceful solutions to an unplanned pregnancy. There are no simple answers to the chaos, abuse, addictions and family dysfunction in our poorest communities.

But as a social worker with years of service with the poor and with those wounded by abortion, I can assure you that destroying our unborn children in the womb, and wounding their parents, will never bring peace and blessing to this nation.

Catholics and all Christians need to send a clear message to all political candidates and parties:

We need non-violent solutions to unplanned pregnancy and the challenges faced by poor communities.

Life and death are the Providence of the Creator. We have to stop playing God – or the Creator of Life will allow us to continue to experience the consequences of this most grave and original of sins.

Those consequences have been eating away at the fabric of our nation, our families and communities.

There is still time…but the hour is late.

Vicarious Trauma: Caring for Our Pro-Life First Responders

November 4th, 2016

 

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By Kevin Burke, LSW

When we hear of vicarious trauma, we often think of first responders; the brave men and women who serve as firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and police officers.

There is a growing awareness of the importance of caring for these public servants after repeated exposure to accidents, violence, injury, loss of life, and other tragedy. The Trauma Center of the Justice Resource Institute indicates that the longer the exposure to such events, the higher likelihood symptoms of post- traumatic stress will surface.

There is another Population of First Responders

These women and men are frequently marginalized, cursed, and ridiculed as they try and protect the innocent and advocate for their lives.  They are ignored or maligned by the media, society and sadly sometimes even by their own faith communities.

They are the pro-life advocates on the front lines:

– Counselor Donna Gardner, shares about her work with a pregnancy care counselor helping an abortion minded client:

   “I worked with one counselor who developed an ongoing relationship with a pregnant mother. The counselor naturally developed a close working relationship with this mother and child.  The mother abruptly stopped coming to appointments.  She later learned the mother aborted her 5 month old baby.  She was emotionally devastated by this loss.”  [1]

– June Matson has been the director of Pregnancy Resource Connection in Granby Colorado for the past 26 years.   Their center has an ultrasound machine. In most cases seeing the ultrasound image of the unborn child helps many mothers to continue with their pregnancy.

Sadly some parents still make the tragic decision to abort their child. June shared that not only the ultrasound technician, but all volunteers present at the center during the time of the mother’s visit are impacted by the loss of this unborn child.                   

– A Front Line Pro-Life Advocate praying in front of an abortion business approaches a woman with love.   She tries to engage her in a life affirming decision for her unborn baby. The mother goes into the abortion center and comes out with an empty womb. The pro-lifer who has encountered this mother and child is naturally intimately connected to and deeply touched by this abortion loss.

– Women and men pray before abortion centers in all kinds of weather interceding for the conversion of the employees, for the parents and their babies. At times they are cursed at, spit upon, mocked and abused by pro-abortion activists and sometimes an angry parent, grandparent or friend of the pregnant mother.

– Pro life advocates may suffer from the Institutional Spiritual Neglect of their religious leaders and churches.   They stand for years on the front lines of the abortion battles, praying, educating, and legislating to try and save unborn lives and protect their parents from abortion complications. These spiritual children can feel ostracized, marginalized and unappreciated by their spiritual fathers.  This causes deep pain and grief that may be expressed as bitterness, anger and depression.

Disenfranchised Grief

Therapist Donna Gardner shares an experience that can help us better understand the disenfranchised grief of pro-life advocates [2]:

I recently spoke with an older group of pro-life veterans who spent years in pro life ministry and advocacy.  I asked them to close their eyes and bring to mind one particular situation; think of that one baby lost to abortion that especially touched you deeply.  They all began to tear up and express the grief that has been hidden in their hearts for many years.

As previously noted, the effects of trauma can be cumulative.  After repeated exposure to situations where a pro-life advocate is unable to save an unborn child, while continuing to face the hostility or indifference of the wider community, they can reach a tipping point.

The repressed grief and pain can emerge in symptoms that can impact life and relationships.  Keep in mind a single event where one is unable to prevent a tragic death can also lead to some of these feelings and symptoms:

– Anxiety, depression, trouble sleeping, irritability and anger.

– Withdrawing and isolating from others.

– Some may experience a sense of confusion, distance and darkness in their spiritual life and relationship with God.

– Nightmares, flashbacks, or other intrusive thoughts or memories of the event.

– Using substances to avoid feelings, feeling numb, spacing out, or feeling as if things are unreal [3]

[In part II of this series, we will explore the good news of how what we have learned in abortion recovery programs can help minister to those women and men on the front lines of pro life advocacy.]

 

[1] Thankfully she was able to find emotional and spiritual healing and closure by attending a Rachel’s Vineyard Weekend.

[2] Disenfranchised grief is a term describing grief that is not acknowledged by society.

[3] Regan, Laura. When Helping Hurts: Trauma’s Effects on First Responders. Good Therapy.Org, February 12th 2015.

 

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

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

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

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

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.

The Suicide of Western Nations: The Abortion Connection

September 15th, 2016

 

suicide-of-the-west

By Kevin Burke, LSW

…I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child… – St Teresa, National Prayer Breakfast, February 3rd 1994, Washington D.C.

Mother Teresa’s comments bring to mind the sudden destruction of a child dwelling peacefully in its mother’s womb. We know that abortion also attacks the peace in the hearts and souls of parents and others that participate in the death of the unborn.

But is it possible for abortion to have an impact on a nation’s domestic and foreign policy…even armed conflict and war?

Immigration is a hot-button issue in the upcoming 2016 election and for many European countries – is there an abortion connection?

Can western nations with their high abortion rates, like individuals suffer from a collective trauma from abortion loss?

The Shockwaves of Abortion

Many of the leaders in business, academia, media and government in western nations have either personally experienced abortion or were part of abortion decisions and procedures. Countless others have been complicit in various ways in the death of millions of their own unborn citizens.

Health care professionals, counselors, educators and family and friends often remain neutral or advocate for abortion when a woman is discerning how to respond to an unplanned pregnancy.

Large segments of the population in western nations have lost an unborn son or daughter or other family members to abortion.  Many have participated in various ways in the death of unborn children (e.g., helping pay for a college roommate or sister’s abortion or driving a friend to the abortion center.)

Given the widespread impact of abortion in these countries, they are truly Post Abortive Nations.

Let first look at some relevant post abortion issues that individuals may experience that can help us understand the impact on entire nations:

We know that women who are traumatized by the procedure, especially those with previous abuse, can lose a sense of healthy personal boundaries and respect for their own bodies. This leads to self destructive and abusive behaviors and relationships.

– A common way that women and men can deny and displace their disenfranchised grief [1] from abortion is by involvement in various forms of political activism and charity work.  There is often an unconscious need to atone for the death of the unborn child that fuels their human rights and charitable activities such as advocating for victims of human trafficking, vulnerable children and the poor.  Others focus passionately on issues related to impoverished immigrant populations, animal rights and the environment.

– Abortion denial can be powerfully enforced by helping others facing unplanned pregnancy to be similarly “empowered” by having an abortion. On an international level activists with abortions in their personal history seek to expand access to abortion around the world with evangelical fervor.

The symptoms suffered after abortion are rooted in the inability to express and process the feelings and memories from the abortion event and come to a place of healing and peace. The heart of healing is a going through a safe process to express and process those painful feelings and memories, repentance of one’s role in the abortion and most importantly, reconnecting in love with the aborted child or children.

The Impact on Western Nations

Just as some women can struggle with personal boundaries and self destructive behaviors after abortion and other abuse, so too can a nation with its heritage, culture and borders.  Post Abortive Nations and their citizens can also share a collective unconscious need to atone for the death of their own unborn children.

This may contribute to a number of serious issues impacting western countries:

– Western nations are no longer preserving and valuing what is best in their culture and heritage as collapsing birthrates and uncontrolled immigration threaten the very existence of some countries.

– Post Abortive Nations are vulnerable to responding to humanitarian crisis and immigration issues in ways that place global and ideological concerns over the needs and rights of their own people.

– There has been a complete denial and repression of our need to individually and collectively mourn the death of close to 60 million unborn babies in the U.S. alone. Government officials and politicians become entangled in foreign conflicts and humanitarian crisis, nation building, and regime change (such as the U.S. in Libya) that may not be in the national interest  and often cause chaos and violence in the places of intervention.  While there are of course many factors, this collective repressed emotional grief may influence some of the decisions by high level government officials with personal abortion loss, or directly complicit in the death of aborted children.

– The excessive focus and at times obsession with the grievances and rights of those with same sex attraction and the growing transgender madness is at least partly fueled by this collective blindness to personal and national abortion grief.

– The U.S. seems to be losing its bearings. We stand back in disbelief at the acceleration of previously unheard of social engineering in our schools.  We have been grossly negligent and impotent as a society to stop the spread of pornography that threatens the moral and social foundation of our society.  Music and entertainment continues to glorify the ugliest excesses of a consumer culture that deifies personal gratification, is excessively violent, exploits women, and corrupts innocence.

Restoring National Sanity…Before It’s Too Late

The Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion has had far reaching effects on the citizens of the United States and all western nations.

This upcoming election here in the U.S. provides a clear and decisive moment when we can begin to retreat from the precipice of self-destruction.  It is time to stop the expansion of the culture of death, here and abroad, so our nation can begin to heal.

Urge your friends, family and colleagues at work to get to the polls this November 8th 2016, and vote for candidates that will protect our most vulnerable citizens in the womb.  Our nation’s survival may depend on it.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Disenfranchised grief is grief that is not openly acknowledged, socially accepted or publicly mourned.

The Impact of Abortion on Poor Communities: Bridging the Gap Between Pro-Life and Social Justice Christians

September 12th, 2016

 

bridging-the-gap

By Kevin Burke, LSW

Kelly Rosati is the vice president of Community Outreach at Focus on the Family:

  … it often seems as if pro-life and pro-justice Christians come from    two different planets…They lean in different political directions, and each thinks the other should prioritize the issues differently…they have little interest in working together—and in fact, they can often seem “at odds” with one another. (Christianity Today)

Public Religion Research Institute’s 2012 American Values Survey, revealed the division between those who identify as social justice and right to life Catholics:

“Social justice Catholics” (60%): believe…the Catholic Church should focus more on social justice and the obligation to help the poor, even if it means focusing less on issues like abortion and the right to life.

“Right to life Catholics” (31%): believe that the Catholic Church should focus more on abortion and the right to life in its statements about public policy, even if means focusing less on issues like social justice and the obligation to help the poor.”

If social justice Christians of all denominations could see the dynamic connection that exists between abortion and the challenges faced by those suffering poverty and oppression, maybe it would help bridge the gap between Social Justice Christians and Right to Life Christians. They may come to see that pro life advocacy, abortion prevention, and healing after abortion are essential in communities ravaged by violence, family breakdown and social and economic injustice.

There are two populations served in abortion healing programs like Rachel’s Vineyard that can help us better understand this relationship of abortion and poverty:

  1. Minority female victims of sexual abuse and other trauma
  2. The Male Prison Population

Sexual Abuse, Traumatic Re-Enactment and Abortion

In Forbidden Grief: The Unspoken Pain of Abortion, Dr Theresa Burke reveals that while abortion may initially appear to solve the problem of an unplanned pregnancy, the unfolding consequences of the procedure can be devastating for women with a previous history of sexual, emotional and physical abuse.

Dr Burke shares in Forbidden Grief that the invasive and painful experience of the abortion procedure serves to re-enact the physical and emotional violation of previous sexual abuse and other trauma. After the abortion these women may experience a powerful resurgence of symptoms; addictions, impulsive acting out in relationships, episodes of rage, anxiety, depression, self-injury, nightmares and difficulty sleeping.

The Shockwaves of Abortion have especially devastated the African American family in the United States.[1]  Since 1973, 13 million African American pregnancies have been ended by abortion.  If we look at the rate of sexual abuse among Africa Americans, we find a group of women that is especially vulnerable to post abortion complications.  Statistics reveal that 1 in 4 or 3.3 million African American women have been sexually abused.[2]

It is indeed challenging to face the scope and complexity of the problems facing poor families. But abortion creates emotional, spiritual and physical wounds and vulnerabilities that only exacerbate a woman’s pre existing trauma.

Women are left more vulnerable to ongoing exploitation, dysfunction and abuse in their relationships. We know that this instability and dysfunction in relationships leads to breakdown in family life, leaving women and their children vulnerable to predatory relatives, partners and friends.

The cycle continues; more abuse, more trauma, more abortions, more death.

Abortion prevention and abortion healing – if possible after the initial abortion – is essential to help break dysfunctional patterns in the lives of the poor (including repeat abortions, which make up half of all procedures.)  The emotional and spiritual recovery process in abortion healing programs helps to significantly reduce destructive symptoms and behaviors and provide a foundation to build a healthier relationship with God, spouses/partners and living children.

Abortion Healing and Prison Ministry – Reclaiming Lost Fatherhood

The Diocese of Palm Beach has a vibrant prison ministry at the maximum security facilities in that area. Under the leadership of Catholic Charities and Donna Gardner, they began ministering to men with abortion loss in the prison population using a support group version of Rachel’s Vineyard along with exercises from the Healing a Father’s Heart bible study.

Initially, there was some understandable skepticism by prison ministry staff of the need for such a program given the very serious issues with which these men were already struggling.  What they quickly learned is that close to 90% of the inmates were part of abortion decisions in the past, and it did impact their lives in powerful ways.

The healing journey of the inmates has revealed something very important about the interaction of abortion with childhood loss. This has relevance to men outside the prison walls in our poorest communities who have been hurt by abusive or absent fathers, and those families where children were emotionally wounded when their parents divorced.

Here’s some of what these men have taught us:

–        The abortion healing journey provides a unique opportunity for those men who have unresolved rage and hurt from fathers who were absent and/or abusive.  Many inmates had fathers that failed to treasure them as sons and serve as good models of manhood/fatherhood.  You can think of this rejection as a type of emotional abortion.

–       A solid post abortion healing program allows the participant to progress through the steps of emotional and spiritual recovery so they can repent of their role in the child’s death and also are able to restore their fatherly relationship with the aborted child or children.

–  They invite the Holy Spirit into the dark wounds of their own fathers’ loss, abuse, or neglect.  As they address their abortion wounds men learn on a deep and intimate level how to grieve, within a process immersed in God’s Word, sacrament, and the Holy Spirit.

–        The post-abortion recovery experience empowers them to let go of the rage and unhealthy behaviors that were their only way of coping with their pain in the past.  They are restored and strengthened as men and fathers.

The Foundation of All Human Rights

The great mystery of our salvation in Christ Jesus begins at the Annunciation and the incarnation of the Word of God within the blessed womb of Mary.  How can the dignity and protection of the unborn child not be a priority for all Christians?

It is tragic when we fail to see the fundamental relationship of abortion to the serious problems that impact all of our families, but especially the vulnerable, the poor, and the minorities who have especially high abortion rates in their communities.

For the Christians to emphasize the foundational primacy of the right to life of the unborn in no way diminishes the value of ministry to the poor, sick, elderly, and disabled.  A society that protects its most vulnerable members and treasures the dignity of unborn children will be even more effective in building a just and compassionate church and society.

[1] According to the Census Bureau, the rate of abortions in 2006 among black women was 50 per 1,000, compared with 14 for white women and 22 for “other” women. In New York City, 6 out of every 10 unborn African Americans are aborted.

[2] Robin D. Stone. No Secrets No Lies: How Black Families Can Heal from Sexual Abuse. Harmony (March 8, 2005)