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Deirdre Ink Slingers NFP and contraceptives Respect Life

NFP Awareness Week: Growing in Love, Mercy, and Life

NFP Awareness Week: Growing in Love, Mercy, and Life

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has designated this week as National Natural Family Planning Week in honor of the anniversary of the encyclical Humanae Vitae. The theme of this year’s campaign is Love, Mercy, Life: Opening the Heart of Marriage. Here are just a few ways practicing NFP can help one grow in love, mercy, and life.

NFP teaches us how to love like Christ by turning the focus away from our own instant gratification and instead focusing on our spouse’s and family’s best interest. We learn to deny ourselves out of love for the other. NFP helps our love for our spouse grow – through struggles, communication, and triumphs, we grow in love and respect for each other. Our priest gave us some wonderful advice during our pre-marriage counseling: that with each new child we welcomed into our family, my spouse and I would learn to love each other better, because each child would teach us how to love in a new way. He suggested that each child would stretch us and force us to grow, and through learning to love each child in a different way, we would be learning to love our spouse in a new way as well. NFP allows us to grow in love for our spouse and our children. Of course one’s love for one’s spouse isn’t determined by how many children one has, but practicing NFP and being open to life do stretch us and help us to love deeper, to rid ourselves of selfishness and love our spouse more selflessly.

NFP teaches us to extend mercy to our spouse, especially during difficult times. Extending mercy and growing in patience are not often celebrated in our culture, but NFP requires the continued cultivation of mercy towards others and oneself.  NFP also teaches us to extend mercy to those struggling with crosses slightly different than our own: those with many young children close in age, those suffering from infertility, secondary infertility, miscarriage, those struggling with extended periods of abstinence, and even mercy towards those who are contradicting Church teaching by contracepting. We don’t know the struggles of others and certainly should not judge others based on how many children they do or do not have, but we are called to show mercy to all.

NFP teaches us to be open to life within our marriage, but also helps us recognize the dignity of human life throughout all stages- recognizing the sacredness and uniqueness of every human life. When we are open to life in our marriage, we are better able to see what is truly important in life, to differentiate between needs and wants, and to plan for the long term while placing our trust in God.

Sometimes, NFP is misrepresented as just Catholic-approved birth control, but this is not true. Our culture’s contraceptive mentality is all about control – controlling a woman’s fertility, controlling her body, controlling when we have children and when we don’t. But the truth is, we aren’t in control. God is in control. NFP helps us accept that truth, and allows us to work with God in understanding the beautiful gift of our fertility, and work with Him in bringing another unique soul into this world. But it always reminds us that ultimately, we are not in control, God is. And it’s only when we fully embrace this truth that our marriages will flourish.

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Deirdre Pro-Life Issues

Pro-Life Women’s Conference Highlights Changing Approaches in the Pro-Life Movement

The first ever Pro-Life women’s conference is being held in Dallas, Texas this weekend.   This conference lineup is indicative of how a new generation of young women are taking the reins of the pro-life movement and leading it into new horizons.

PWC_MEME_01262016

The conference is being hosted by former Texas Planned Parenthood abortion facility director Abby Johnson and her organization And Then There Were None (ATTWN). ATTWN is a one-of-a-kind pro-life ministry that reaches out to abortion facility workers, encourages them to leave the industry, and supports them in recovery and in searching for a new, life-affirming career. ATTWN has helped guide over 200 former abortion facility workers out of the industry, including 7 abortionists. This is just one new way pro-lifers are thinking outside of the box and meeting many different needs within the pro-life movement.

Leah Jacobson, founder and CEO of the Guiding Star Project, a 501(c)3 organization that seeks to provide holistic and comprehensive women’s health care across the country, will be speaking about health care in the feminist movement. Leah envisions Guiding Star centers as the pro-life, pro-women alternative to Planned Parenthood facilities, because Guiding Star centers focus on supporting women’s health rather than suppressing our natural biological functions. Leah’s centers represent an exciting new front for pro-lifers: not just protesting Planned Parenthood, but presenting a viable health care alternative that recognizes the dignity and worth of every person, born and unborn.

Laura Ricketts’ discussion of pregnancy loss and the pro-life movement will be an important contribution.  One in four women will experience a pregnancy loss, miscarriage, or still birth. Sadly, many of these women suffer and grieve in silence and feel alone in their pain. How do we as a pro-life community minister to them? What resources are available to help them? How do we speak about miscarriage and stillbirth in a life-affirming manner that recognizes the dignity of the unborn child and the pain of the grieving parents? Laura has a lot of personal experience on this topic and will be sharing valuable resources for addressing this issue in the pro-life movement.

Rebecca Kiessling was conceived in rape and will be sharing her powerful story and the pro-life response to the ‘hard cases’. Her organization, Save the 1, focuses on bringing attention to the humanity of unborn children conceived in rape. So often children conceived in rape are conveniently bargained away in an effort to pass pro-life legislation. Rebecca and her organization put a face to those exceptions and fight for legislation that protects every unborn child, no matter how they were conceived.

Melissa Ohden and Claire Culwell, both abortion survivors, will share their remarkable stories of survival and healing, and how that relates to building a culture of life.  Lauren Muzyka will share the secrets of success of Sidewalk Advocates for Life and how their peaceful, loving approach to sidewalk counseling is changing hearts of abortion-minded women.  

Sadly, the Hispanic community is one of the largest targets of the abortion industry. In response, Astrid Bennett Gutierrez of The VIDA Initiative will be discussing the importance of activating Latina women in the pro-life movement. The Catholic Pro-Life Committee of Dallas is also sponsoring an entire Hispanic track of panels discussing ministry, outreach, and healing for the Hispanic community.

New Wave Feminists and Secular Pro-Life both represent alternative approaches and focus their outreach on groups that we don’t normally consider pro-life. They will be discussing ways to reach secular and feminist groups. Their non-traditional approaches bring a fresh perspective to the pro-life movement.

Star Parker will offer the keynote address Sunday morning, sharing her story of past abortions and post-abortion healing, as well as addressing the racist aspects of Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry.  And there will be much, much more!

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This conference is a significant opportunity to determine what the goals and vision of the true women’s movement, the pro-life movement, will be in the future. It is an amazing chance to learn about various pro-life ministries and outreaches, and how you can get involved in an area that fits your vocation and uses your talents. You can still sign up for the conference here. Some panel discussions will be live streamed throughout the weekend and videos might be available afterwards. Watch ATTWN’s Facebook page for more details.

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Current Events Deirdre Ink Slingers

The Real War on Women: ISIS’s Slaves

The Real War on Women: ISIS's Slaves

The Catholic Church teaches us that the highest expression of love is self-gift.  This teaching flows from Christ’s gift of himself on the Cross.  This is the ideal that should guide our understanding of sex and marriage, in which husband and wife give the gift of self to the other and cooperate with God to generate and rear new life.

We are familiar with how this understanding is rejected in the modern West.  Less familiar is how this ideal is being radically rejected by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). 

According to ISIS, unbelieving women in conquered territories are the rightful spoils of war, given to the conquerors by God.  ISIS argues in its propaganda magazine Dabiq, the practice of saby or taking slaves, including sex slaves, in war is sanctioned by the Sunnah, the verbally transmitted teachings and sayings of the prophet Mohammed.  ISIS laments the many Muslim leaders who reject this teaching, and accuses them of burying the teaching and being enemies of Allah.  Notably, ISIS denies that the purpose of sex slavery is pleasure.  One Dabiq author, apparently a woman, argues that anyone who makes that claim is a “mistaken ignoramus.”  The purpose, rather, is liberation:  the sex slaves are freed from their unbelieving communities and given the opportunity to believe in Allah.

According to ISIS’ interpretation of Islamic law, a man must make sure his sex slave is not pregnant before he has sex with her. The rule, supposedly, is to protect against confusion over the child’s paternity. This has led to ISIS forcing their sex slaves to take contraceptives, and even forced abortions in some cases. Many of the women who have been freed from slavery and shared their stories did not even know they were being forced to take birth control every day. They shared their accounts of being forced to take a pill each day in front of their captor, of being injected in the thigh with what they later found out was the contraceptive Depo-Provera, forced or pressured into taking abortion pills, and required to pass urine tests to prove they weren’t pregnant before being purchased by a new fighter. Some women were even forced to take two or three different types of contraception at the same time just to be sure they did not become pregnant.

Surely these facts belie ISIS’s assertion that sex slavery is really a tool of evangelization in the minds of its practitioners.  ISIS fighters are taking every measure to keep the wombs of their captives barren not for the sake of their conversion, but to maintain them as perpetual sex objects.

But suppose there are some who sincerely understand their rapes to be evangelistic.  Would this not demonstrate the deep bankruptcy of ISIS’s rape theology?  The Apostle John teaches that he who does not love does not know God, for God is Love.  Indeed, Love is a Person, eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son, the Logos.  God is Love and Reason, not Arbitrary Will.  This is why it cannot be true that God desires conversions by rape.  Such is the theology of darkness, of those who wrap their hatred of non-believers in the clothing of light.   But, we know that “He who says he is in the light and hates his brother is in the darkness still” (1 John 2:9). 

How to deal with ISIS is of course a massive geopolitical question that cannot be adequately addressed here.  But there are things we can do.  Let us pray for these victims and their persecutors.  And let us reject the theology of darkness by how we live.  In our workplaces and homes and ball fields, let us give witness to Love by allowing God to love through us.

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Current Events Deirdre Ink Slingers Offering your suffering Prayer Vocations Year of Mercy

The Blood of the Martyrs

The Blood of the Martyrs

Today, as the Catholic Church celebrates Holy Thursday, and with that the institution of the Most Holy Eucharist and the Priesthood, most of us will be able to practice our Faith in peace. Our constitutional right to freely exercise our religion is a blessing we often take for granted.

Unfortunately, many Christians throughout the world do not enjoy the right of free exercise of religion. Today, let us remember four Yemeni martyrs.

Blood of the MartyrsOn March 4, 2016 ISIS terrorists attacked a retirement home in Yemen, killing 16 people. Four of their victims were nuns with the Missionaries of Charity: Sister Judith from Kenya, Sister Anselm from India, and Sister Marguerite and Sister Reginette from Rwanda . These brave women were brutally murdered: they were tied to trees, shot in the head, and then had their heads smashed in.

One nun, Sister Sally, survived the attack by hiding behind the door in the refrigerator room. The terrorists knew there were 5 nuns at this location, but they had only killed four. They searched the property for the missing nun, including checking in the room she was hiding in at least three times, to no avail. She miraculously escaped, and shared her first-hand account of the martyrdom of her sisters.

The Blood of the MartyrsFr. Tom Uzhunnalil from India, was kidnapped by ISIS in the attack. He has not been found yet, although rumors about him being tortured seem to be unfounded. It has been reported that Fr. Tom was in the Chapel praying after Mass, and that he consumed the remaining consecrated hosts to prevent the Body of Christ from being desecrated by the terrorists. This persecution of Christians is just the latest of many perpetrated by ISIS.

The brutality of Christian persecution by ISIS has been recognized by Secretary of State John Kerry as an act of genocide. This is a systematic targeting of Christians, alongside other nonadherents to ISIS’s violent version of Islam, precisely because of their faith.

As we celebrate the most sacred events of the Triduum, let us remember and be inspired by these modern day martyrs: their zeal for the Faith and desire to bring Christ to foreign lands, their faithfulness in remaining in dangerous territory in order to serve the elderly and disabled in their nursing home, their courage in dying for Christ, and ultimately their final reward in Heaven. Let us also pray for Fr. Tom’s release and Sister Sally’s safety, as well as the safety of all Christians throughout the world.

As Pope Benedict XVI said in 2011, “Then, as now, the blood of the martyrs, their tangible and eloquent testimony touches the human heart and makes it fruitful, able to put forth a new life in itself, to accept the life of the Risen Christ to bring resurrection and hope to the world around him”.

May the heroic actions of these four Yemini martyrs strengthen us this Holy Week and bring us ever closer to Christ.

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Abortion Deirdre Ink Slingers Pro-Life Issues Respect Life

Growing Up Pro-Life

Growing up, I thought my family’s pro-life activist lifestyle was normal. Only as an adult did I realize how abnormal it truly was, and how thankful I am for being raised in such an environment.

March for Life, 1978
March for Life, 1978

My parents were active in the pro-life movement from its infancy. Nellie Grey, the founder of the March for Life, had told my parents of her plans to hold the very first March for Life while having dinner at my parents’ home. We attended nearly every March for Life in Washington, DC, standing for life in the bitter cold, sometimes even snow. We prayed at the local abortion facility regularly. My mother was even present for this event with Martina’s mother-in-law.

My parents were very active in pro-life politics as well. I remember my entire family sitting around the family room, stuffing mailers for our pro-life state delegate in Virginia. He was a member of our parish and won re-election several times and I always remember my parents making a big deal about how important it was for us to work to elect a pro-life representative to fight for the unborn. 

Besides public and political activism, my parents’ personal example was also profoundly pro-life. In addition to raising several of their own young children, my parents were also foster parents. They took in a young pregnant woman who had been in and out of jail, and continued to welcome her into our home after her daughter was born. Once the mother was committed to a psychiatric hospital, my parents attempted to adopt the toddler, who had grown up in our home and they had grown to love. Eventually, the toddler’s biological extended family stepped in and raised her, but this example stuck with me.

 Upon graduating college, I worked in politics in Washington, D.C., where I met my husband. After getting married in 2007, I moved to Austin, TX. It was shortly thereafter that I started working as a public policy analyst for Texas Alliance for Life, where I have worked ever since. During that time, I have had a chance to be a part of some amazing pro-life work in Texas. 

Growing Up Pro-LifeIn 2009, I lobbied for the Choose Life license plate, defunding of Planned Parenthood, and the sonogram bill, all while pregnant with my first child. Unfortunately, all of those bills failed. But we were back the next session, Spring 2011, where the Texas Legislature passed the sonogram law, the Choose Life license plate, and partially defunded Planned Parenthood. I happened to be pregnant with my second child during this session, and when the pregnant woman who was supposed to have her sonogram done at our press conference promoting the sonogram bill did not show up, my boss volunteered me instead. That’s how I saw my unborn daughter for the first time – on a live sonogram inside the Texas Capitol. The video of her ultrasound became the image the media used whenever covering the sonogram bill that session.

Growing Up Pro-LifeIn 2013, I was again pregnant, but this time I was due in the middle of the legislative session. The timing actually turned out to be quite providential because by the time the special sessions dealing with SB 5 and then HB 2 came around in June and July, my baby was about 3 months old, the perfect age to come to the Capitol with me every day, snug in her Ergo carrier, while lobbying for the passage of HB 2. Despite the famous filibuster and chants of “Hail Satan”, HB 2 finally passed, putting into law common sense safety requirements for abortionists and abortion facilities. It was truly a remarkable experience, one I am so grateful to have been a part of, and glad I could bring my daughter along with me.

Through my pro-life work in Texas, I have also had the pleasure of getting to know and love former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson, and am honored to be a board member of her amazing ministry for former abortion facility workers- And Then There Were None. I’m grateful that the pro-life movement has come so far from the days of graphic images of aborted babies and sit-ins, to peaceful, loving approaches toward women, workers, and unborn children.

In the fall of 2014, we had to move out of Texas due to my husband’s job, and added our fourth child to our young family. Thankfully, I have been able to continue my work for Texas Alliance for Life while also home schooling my two oldest children.

Growing up, one of the songs we always used to sing at the abortion facility was Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world. Last fall, when I was praying at the abortion facility with my children, I again sang that song. After I had finished, my 4 year old daughter said “Mom, now we need to sing ‘Jesus Loves the Scared Mommies’ so they know not to be scared anymore.” So I substituted the words and we sang her version as well. My heart swelled, knowing I was passing on such a meaningful song that I so clearly remember singing with my mother at abortion facilities growing up, but also seeing my own daughter grasping the reality that we aren’t just there for the babies, we’re there for the mothers, and for the workers too. It was a glimpse of my life coming full circle – I am continuing the pro-life work my mother started decades ago, and although I pray abortion will be a distant memory by the time my children are adults, I hope they will continue to work to build a culture of life in whatever way God calls them to do so.

Looking back, it is evident how important parents’ pro-life witness is to their children for instilling a sense of justice and a passion for protecting the innocent. Parents have a special duty to do this in light of St. John Paul II’s call for Catholics to build a Culture of Life. I look forward to sharing my thoughts on how to build a Culture of Life with you here on the Catholic Sistas blog.