I just completed a Rachel’s Vineyard Weekend for healing after abortion loss, where I served as team counselor.
The retreat process features special scripture meditations, the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist, and exercises that lead women and men to a deep emotional and spiritual healing.
I was struck how each participant drew closer to Jesus as the meditations and exercises helped them express their pain, shame, anger and fear. In the growing safety and solidarity of the group, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, they discovered a yearning in their heart to draw closer to Jesus, their merciful Savior.
A number of the women in this group suffered abuse, rejection, and exploitation by significant male figures in their lives. This made their encounter with Christ even more profound and healing for them.
As we enter Holy Week and the coming Easter Season, I wanted to focus on two Gospel figures that played important roles in the life and ministry of Jesus. Each offers inspiration and hope for women and men suffering after abortion loss. But they also offer a message of consolation for those burdened by past abuse and anyone suffering from emotional, spiritual or physical illness.
Mary of Magdalene – Apostles to the Apostles
Contrary to the common misconception, Mary (from the town of Magdala,) was not the other Mary of scripture identified as a prostitute. Mary Magdalene was a woman of some financial means, as she was in a position to contribute money to support the ministry of Jesus and the Apostles.
In Luke 8:1-3 we read that at the start of Jesus’s ministry:
“The twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was called Magdalene from whom seven demons had gone out …and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means.”
Mary’s conversion to follow Christ followed a personal experience of His healing power. While her deliverance from “seven demons” could be a reference to an emotional or physical illness, it is also possible that she was involved in occult or pagan practices that may have opened her up to demonic oppression or possession.
Regardless, this healing encounter made her a generous, but also courageous disciple of Jesus. Mary was present at the foot of the cross, grieving and loving her Master as he suffered the horrific torture of Roman Crucifixion.
Pope Benedict XVI had this to say about Mary Magdalene in a 2007 address referencing her role as first witness to the resurrection of Christ:
St. Thomas Aquinas reserved the special title, “Apostle of the Apostles” (apostolorum apostola), dedicating to [Mary Magdalene] this beautiful comment: ‘Just as a woman had announced the words of death to the first man, so also a woman was the first to announce to the Apostles the words of life’ (Super Ioannem, ed. Cai, § 2519).
After many years in abortion recovery ministry, we encounter many women set free by the power of Jesus, who become grateful and fervent Disciples. Like Mary Magdalene, some are called to courageously witness to the saving power of Jesus in the sharing of their abortion testimonies.
The Shame of Peter – His Liberation by Christ
Men with abortion loss, and those who have experienced abuse in the past, understandably struggle to enter into the emotional and spiritual vulnerability that is so essential to healing.
Peter had to face his own pride and fear on the Sea of Galilee, and at that fateful Passover in Jerusalem during the last hours of his Master’s life. Men who make the challenging but rewarding journey of abortion healing discover that, like Peter, they emerge renewed and strengthened as men, spouses, fathers and disciples of Christ.
Here’s a music video of a song I wrote with Henry Gennaria, “Dawn” on the experience of Mary Magdalene and the Apostle Peter at the time of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus. It features live performance of the song and excerpts from a beautiful Claymation movie about the life of Jesus, called The Miracle Maker. (I highly recommend The Miracle Maker, a movie faithful to the Gospel accounts, and a great presentation for family viewing during Holy Week and Easter season.)
A blessed Holy Week and Easter Season to you and your loved ones.