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Abortion Ink Slingers Michelle Pro-Life Issues Respect Life

The Sanctity of Life and Our Catholic Response

I can remember the day I found out I was pregnant with Leo as clearly as if it happened just yesterday and not 8 ½ years ago. I remember the joy, the pain, the fear, and the worry. I wrote about my journey through a high risk pregnancy here at the website and the outpouring of love and support that our readers showered on me helped to make each day a little easier and less scary to face, especially as many family and friends abandoned us in our time of need.

If you aren’t familiar with my story I will give you a short overview (unless you’d like to read it and then you can find it here, here, and here). During the birth of my 10th child we discovered my son was breech. The doctor, who had delivered more breech babies than any other doctor in our area, was confident in both my ability and his to safely deliver my son. However, try as I might, I simply could not deliver him. Worse yet, while trying I felt an incredible amount of pain (that was a different kind of pain) and my instincts jumped into overdrive. I began to plead with the doctor to take me to the OR to do a cesarean section. I couldn’t get them to understand how vital it was to get us there quickly. They wanted to simply numb my lower half, but I knew we didn’t have that much time. I begged them to put me under and to take the baby. I think they were pacifying me because I was so panicked, but I am forever thankful that they listened to my pleas.

I woke up 3 ½ hours later to find that my uterus and bladder had ruptured and that I had lost so much blood the doctor didn’t feel I would survived a hysterectomy and so he put the “puzzles pieces” of my uterus back together, tried to fix my bladder, and then closed me up. He would tell me that had we not followed my instincts both the baby and I would have died. He also told me that my uterus was so badly damaged it would never hold another pregnancy again; that if I got pregnant that both the baby and I would die.

Fast forward a mere 5 ½ months and after Herculean efforts to not get pregnant, I was sitting in my bathroom with a positive pregnancy test, tears spilling down my cheeks, fear and joy filling my heart simultaneously, and wondering how in the world I was going to tell my husband and children. Never in my thoughts, though, was what would I do about the pregnancy. I knew without a shadow of a doubt I would risk my life to give my child a chance to live.

The events that followed still hurt. We were discharged at my OB office because I refused an abortion, we lost friends as they turned their backs on us and judged us, we felt isolated and alone, and truly felt persecuted for living out our Catholic faith. My heart still reels from the injuries that friends and family inflicted on us during that time. Thankfully my story ended beautifully- a sweet, healthy little boy in my arms, doctors astounded that my uterus was perfectly and “miraculously” healed, and a new gift of life for my son, for myself, and for our family.

I write about my choice for life because today is a dark day in the history of our great United States of America. On this day in 1973 a ruling in the Roe v. Wade case legalized abortion across America. The case denied the rights of the unborn and instead gave women the “right” to decide to end a pregnancy for whatever reasons she may have. The case made it possible that today we have reached over 62.5 million abortions performed in the United States alone. It set a precedence that said a woman’s right to choose is more important than a child’s right to live. It demeaned life in the womb as unworthy in comparison to the mother and it set into motion the false ideology that one human is more important than another. It made a god out of “choice” and placed it on an unholy altar to be worshiped. It has directly affected the importance and sanctity of marriage and family life as well.

As much as I could write about the horrors of abortion and how it has torn at the fabric of our families and our faith, instead I want to touch on what our response is and what it should be towards those faced with the decision to choose life or to choose abortion.

In my own life I faced the condemnation of fellow Catholics who thought I was irresponsible for either “getting pregnant on purpose” or for allowing myself to “fall pregnant again”. Neither scenario was correct as we had done everything within our faith to avoid pregnancy, but that didn’t matter to those who condemned me. I was married, had many other children, and was a faithful church-goer and volunteer. If someone like me, who up to that point had “done it right”, was condemned in such a terrible way, I can only imagine what single young women, poor women, women who made “bad” life choices, drug addicted women, and others feel when faced with an unplanned pregnancy. It’s not hard to understand why they may choose to end a pregnancy instead of face the flames of condemnation.

A dear friend of mine chose differently than me. When faced with an unplanned pregnancy while still very young, her family encouraged her to have an abortion. It was just “what you did” she told me. There was never any thought that she would have the child; it was taken for granted that she would take care of the problem. And she did. We didn’t meet until I was in the middle of my pregnancy with Leo and as I told her my story about choosing life, she shared her story with me. My heart broke for her. The pain caused by her abortion long ago was still present. Her abortion was encouraged and supported and yet the pain she carried was heavy in her heart and on her soul. Even though we chose differently, the pain that lingers in both of us is evident.

The Catholic Response

If we want to convince others of the horrors of abortion, we have to be willing to live what we preach. I found that were many who claimed to be pro-life and yet could not understand that even though I had 10 other children to take care of, I had no other choice but to offer my life for my son so that he had a chance to live. I found that, to some, our Catholic teachings maybe meant one thing on paper and another thing in real life.

Which is it? Do we believe that life is sacred and worth protecting or do we think that there are ifs, ands, and buts that supersede the teachings of our Catholic faith? If we truly believe that every life is sacred and worth saving, how are we working to help those who find themselves in crisis or unplanned pregnancies to choose life and to endure the hardships they are facing? Are we simply quoting Catechism passages and Bible verses or are we truly living out our call to help others understand and respect the life that God has blessed them with and then support them as they bring life into the world, regardless of the circumstance?

So far, this year in the United States alone there have been nearly 50,000 abortions performed. Friends, we are only 22 days into the New Year and nearly 50,000 babies have died because abortion is considered a valuable commodity in our country. How can this be ok? More importantly, what can we do about it?

It seems as if for now, legally, we don’t have much recourse to reverse Roe v. Wade and to make abortions illegal in our country. But we do have the ability to help women choose life. We have the ability to not only teach about the sanctity of life, but to live out those teachings by supporting women who find themselves in unplanned or crisis pregnancies. In order to help others respect life, we must first respect life. Not just the life of the baby, but the life of the mother, the father, and the entire family. We can’t just talk the talk, we must walk the walk.

  • We must teach our children that all life is sacred from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. We have to begin teaching them at a young age. Our children innately know and understand the sacredness of life and are horrified at the thought of someone killing another person, especially a baby. We must encourage their understanding and foster their love of all people.
  •  When we encounter someone who is experiencing a crisis or unplanned pregnancy we should meet them with love and hope, not judgment and condemnation. We should encourage them in their choice for life and support them as they go through pregnancy, birth, and family life. It’s easy to tell someone they should choose life and then never show our faces again. It’s more difficult to be an active participant in their lives, willing to help at every turn when possible.
  • Volunteer at a pregnancy center, at your church, at a homeless shelter, at a women’s shelter, a low income day care, or a soup kitchen- anywhere that provides services that a pregnant woman may need. If we don’t have the time to volunteer, we should financially support those programs that help women and families. Don’t worry about why they are in the position they are in, but simply love them enough to help them to better the situation they are in.
  • Be vocal in your support for life. Don’t be obnoxious, but be genuinely loving and kind as you explain why life is so precious and worth saving. There will be those who want to fight you… be strong in your faith and convictions but also in your love for those who think differently from you. The love we extend wins over more hearts and souls than hate ever could.
  •  Pray. Pray for the mothers, pray for the fathers, pray for the babies, and pray for the extended families. Spiritually adopt women who are considering abortions and offer up your hardships, your worries, and your own trials for their well-being and for their choice for life.
  • Offer a healing hug for those who have experienced abortion. Listen to their story, offer prayers, and don’t judge them. Guide them to understand that they are still loved and that they can be forgiven. Point them to resources that will help them through the pain that accompanies abortion- not the just the physical pain but the mental, emotional, and spiritual pains.
  • Work within your legal system to encourage our leaders to make new laws that focus on ending abortion and the need for abortions. Abortion is big business that lines the pockets of many and so it will be difficult to eradicate. But we have to continue our work to bring about those changes.

Today, on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I ask that you pray with me for all those women who are facing crisis or unplanned pregnancies, for those who are facing medical emergencies in their pregnancies, for those who feel alone and abandoned in their time of need, and for all those who are facing a decision between life and death. Let God use us as His means to provide help and hope to those who need it most. I pray that God will wrap them in His arms and help them to see their worth, their child’s worth, and the joy that comes from choosing life.

If you or someone you know is facing a crisis pregnancy, please know that we are here for you. Reach out and we will do our best to put you in contact with those who can help you.

If you are in need of post abortion healing, please consider contacting Rachel’s Vineyard. They can help you find hope, healing, and peace.

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Ink Slingers

A Deeper Look

My mom and I share an interest in flower gardening. Over the years, she has given me many “starts” from her perennial gardens, and I try my best to keep them alive. Sometimes it works, other times I am forced to take the walk of shame from the flowerbed to the garbage can to toss the feckless, fruitless, failure into the bin.

A few years back she gifted me with one of her “money plants” that grew for years in wispy waves in the flowerbed along her garage. I always admired the cuttings she made from the plants every fall. Delicate, pearlescent silver dollars dangled from tall stems in a vase on her table. No additional flowers were needed to brighten the arrangement— these beauties made a bold enough statement on their own.

With that vision in my head, I planted her silver dollar money plants along my garage too, and took special care not to kill them. Turns out, these plants are hard to kill. In fact, given even slightly reasonable conditions, they will multiply. Massively. Like dirty laundry in the corners of your kids’ rooms. By the following fall, I had more than enough plants to create my own stunning centerpieces.

But there was a problem: My silver dollars weren’t luminous white discs. They were ugly, bumpy and brown! They looked dead. Oh no, I thought. Here comes another shameful trek to the garbage can. Stupid plants. What did I do wrong? I couldn’t figure it out. My money plants all died back over the winter, with no chance to adorn my table.

Calling in the Plant Calvary

The next year, I was determined to do better. The prolific plants doubled in number again! But when the end of summer came along I was in the same frustrating boat, staring with furrowed brow at a sad crop of dry, wrinkly pods. That’s it, I decided. Time to call in the plant cavalry (i.e., my mom).   

What she told me on the phone first made me fall silent. And then it made me smile. And then it made me laugh for a good long time.

I had been missing a very important piece of knowledge. I dashed outside to snag a stem of silver dollars and pinched a pod between my finger and thumb. Then I slid my fingers back and forth, ever so gently, and voila! The unattractive outer layer fell away and revealed the lustrous shiny coin I was yearning for. The ugliness that I had scorned for two seasons was merely a protective covering— a botanical bodyguard— that hid the fragile beauty beneath it.

 

Quick to Judge Instead of Love

Isn’t that the way it goes sometimes, Sistas? I pondered the notion in my prayer journal: We can be so quick to make judgments and come to conclusions that turn out to be so wrong. And I’m not talking just plants here, of course. Whether it’s the mom who is consistently late to her children’s events, or the co-worker who is struggling to stay awake, or the child who is throwing a tantrum in the grocery store, we have to remember we are looking only at the unpleasant outer layer. We don’t know if there’s an elderly parent’s care making the mom late, or an abusive spouse situation creating the co-worker’s exhaustion, or a special needs diagnosis causing the child’s behavior. Only the outer layer is visible to us in that moment of time.

God has made us all in his image. We are unique, fabulous creations of His— no two of us are alike! Yet we live in a fallen world with challenges, complexities, and outright sin. These factors can give us an uninviting outer shell and can also hastily cloud our initial perception of others. The foggy glasses of snap judgment can prevent us from seeing the beauty that most certainly exists right below the surface of each one of us. I, for one, don those foggy glasses of snap judgment wayyyy too often.

Saint Mother Teresa teaches us, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” So let’s give each other a break, shall we? We all have struggles, we all have faults, we are all sinners. Let’s look beyond the outer layer, avoid snap judgments and give each other the benefit of the doubt. Better yet, let’s show some love. Let’s vow to save a seat for that latecomer, bring a cup of coffee to that co-worker, and give an empathetic smile to the frazzled mom in the grocery store.

People, like plants, deserve a deeper look.

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Amy M. Ink Slingers Motherhood Vocations

Gardening with Weeds

weeds

We have had a garden for a few years now. Each year we spend time together deciding what we want to plant. Our first year we planted watermelons. Our garden, at the time, was a tiny square in our backyard, and the watermelon vine took over the length of the garden. We decided we needed to research a little more about how to plant and what to plant in our smallish space. Possibly we needed to nix the idea of viney vegetables or fruits! As our garden has changed, both in space and area, we have changed what we grow. What we grow changes as our tastes change and depending on what the children want to grow. This year we decided to try squash. We came home from vacation this weekend to find a squash vine has grown out of the garden and attached itself to the grass. The squash that is maturing looks like it will be delicious, but it will be difficult to mow the grass in the meantime!

In the winter and spring, we are gung-ho about picking out our plants and preparing our garden space. As the summer goes on, one thing or another seems to distract us from continuing to tend to the garden in the way we would like. Many times by fall, we forget to till under the remaining garden before frost and freezes start.

Last year this resulted in many, many tomato plants that grew from the previous year’s leftovers. As in, we had a garden of tomatoes and basil without much of anything else surviving. We didn’t complain! The tomatoes and basil were delicious.

With our young family, having the “perfect” lawn or garden has not been a priority for us. We try to keep up. Occasionally though, it means we end up with a garden of tomatoes from last year’s “leftovers” gone to seed. Another time I discovered that the “weeds” growing around our light pole were actually snapdragons from the annuals I had planted a year earlier.

We belong to a co-op, community-supported agriculture, that delivers fresh vegetables from two local farms each week during the summer and early fall. One of the things we have tried because of this membership is purslane. Purslane is actually a weed and grows easily in sidewalks. I never knew that it was also high in omega-3s and delicious! We all get excited when we find we have purslane in our CSA bag.

A few weeks ago Sunday’s gospel was about the harvest. Jesus was instructing his disciples not to pull the weeds until the harvest. As I listened to the gospel in literal terms, my mind went back to the snapdragons we would not have been able to enjoy had we pulled our weeds too soon and to the bountiful harvest of tomatoes we had because we did not pull the tomato plants and to the purslane that we have come to know and love.

My mind began to wander to other times we rush to judgment of people, places, and things. When we don’t wait for Jesus’ timing and His harvest, we miss out on the great and glorious offerings He has in store for us.

Jesus did not only associate with those “beautiful plants.” He ate with the “weeds” of society. He treated each person as the gift He knew them to be, a person created in the Father’s likeness and image. “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:32 Jesus looks beyond society’s idea of perfection to what is inside, knowing that it may take until the harvest to find out if a person is truly a “weed” or not.

 

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Current Events Evangelization Faith Formation Ink Slingers Michelle

Following Jesus, the Original Narrow-minded Christian

Lately we’ve been hearing a lot about “tolerance” in the news.  Recently there was a huge debate over a few companies that have come out either in support of the gay marriage like Oreos, and those, like Chik-fil-A, that have come out supporting the traditional Christian view of marriage.  There are other hot button issues out there as well, many that will be the issues at hand in the coming months leading up to our presidental election.  Regardless of where you stand on these issues it’s important to know where Jesus stood and where the Church stands and why.

There are two different views of tolerance that we have to address.  The first is the secular view on tolerance.  We are asked to accept and approve all lifestyles and beliefs different from our own. We are asked to look past our moral compass, what we believe to be right or wrong, and just accept anything and everything without question.  While this sounds wonderful and ideal we know that this is not what Jesus taught.  That brings us to the second view on tolerance- the biblical view.  We know that Scripture tells us that while God loves us and we are called to love each other despite our differences, we are not called to tolerate all lifestyles or others beliefs.  If we see someone, especially a fellow Christian, who is acting in a particular way that goes against our Christian beliefs it is our duty to help them understand what they are doing is not only wrong but can lead them away from God.   Two of the Spiritual Works of Mercy are to admonish the sinner* and instruct the ignorant* (this does not mean a person is stupid but perhaps unaware of the spiritual damage they are doing to themselves). * Luke 15:7, Proverbs 28:23,Galatians 6:1,  Col 3:16, Jude 1:23, Mark 16:15, Ezra 7:25

But didn’t Jesus spend his time with sinners?  Wasn’t he tolerant of everyone he came in contact with on a daily basis?  Of course he was tolerant… but then again, he wasn’t so tolerant either.  Christ teaches us that to be tolerant doesn’t mean that we look the other way when someone is not living in accordance with His teachings.  It means we still love that person but we instruct them and guide them back to the life that God is calling each of us to live.   There is a quote that says, “Love the sinner but hate the sin”.   We can love a person who is sinning yet hate what they are doing in their lives.  It’s hard for some to understand this concept.  Instead they believe that if you say you disagree with a particular belief or lifestyle that you must also hate the person who holds that belief or who is engaged in that lifestyle.   Nothing could be further from the truth.

If we think about Jesus spending his time with sinners we see that it wasn’t because he just embraced all that the people were doing with their lives… quite the opposite.  Jesus spent time with sinners because he knew that they were the ones that needed him the most.  He quietly (and not so quietly… think money changers in the temple) taught those sinners that they were indeed wrong in how they were living.  He called them to change their ways.  I think of the woman who in John 8:1-11 was going to be stoned to death because of her sin of adultery.   When Jesus was asked what he would do with this woman he told the scribes that “whoever is without sin let him cast the first stone”.  Of course no one was able to throw a stone because after all, they were all sinners.  Likewise, we are all sinners too, so why is it that we feel the need to say that any lifestyle that doesn’t go along with what we believe is sinful?   Isn’t this proverbially “throwing the first stone”?
Many people forget the rest of this story.  After all the people had left, dropping their stones to the ground, Jesus said to the woman, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”  Jesus, while not condemning her, tells her that she is indeed a sinner and now she must not sin again.   As followers of Christ we are expected to also remind others not to sin.  We shouldn’t cast a stone but we are called to encourage those we know to be sinning to change their ways and to avoid the occasion of sin.

Isn’t there a line in the bible in Matthew 7:1 that says, “Judge not, lest ye be judged”?  Aren’t we judging a person when we disagree with their lifestyle and say that it is sinful?  No.  We are not.  We must understand the biblical reference to judgment here.   Jesus is not telling us that we are never to decide if an action is right or wrong, but that we are not to judge a person’s soul as a result of the sin they are committing.  Only God can make that kind of judgment.  However, we are called to lead those who are going astray through sin back to God.  To do this we must be able to tell what is sinful and what is not.  We must make a judgment about their actions alone.

When we disagree with a lifestyle it does not mean we hate the person living that lifestyle.  Most of the time we love that person so much that we want them to live in accordance with our Christian beliefs.  But what about the fact that not all people are Christian who are living this lifestyle or committing the sin we are so against?  Some are atheist, Muslims, Wiccans, Jewish, agnostic, Buddhist, and the list goes on and on.  Aren’t we pushing our own beliefs on people who don’t want to follow what we believe to be right?  As Christians, while we are taught to respect the beliefs of others, we are also taught that God doesn’t like to see His people divided.  We have been taught that everyone is a child of God.  We should hope and pray for each and every person to come to know Jesus and accept His gift of salvation.   Additionally, Christ and the Church tell us that we must administer to those who are falling away from God.  How can we do this if we don’t make a “judgment” based on the criteria that Jesus left us to determine what is right or wrong?

Our society is based on laws.  Without them we would live in mayhem.  We trust law enforcement and the judicial system to help uphold these laws and to keep us safe.  These laws are based on what our society has deemed right and wrong.  It is imposing a set of beliefs on society because ultimately we know that it is for the betterment of that particular society.  Most people would never argue that we shouldn’t have these rules and regulations in our lives.  Likewise, we look to Jesus and the Church to help us understand the moral rules that we should be following.  We look to them to keep us spiritually safe.  We don’t have these rules because we hate any particular people, we have them because we love them so much we want them to be in Heaven with us one day.  We know that sin and rejection of Christ and his love will keep us spending eternity with him in Heaven.

It is completely possible to “love the sinner but hate the sin”.  Unfortunately many people have a hard time with this concept.  Perhaps they themselves are not able to separate the two but as Christians we must separate them.  We are all sinners and we are all loved by Christ.  We are all called to love as Christ loved.  This means that we should always show love and respect for each other and sometimes, because of that love, we must point out our brother’s sin so that he is able to turn back to God.   This is hard to do, knowing we will be called bigots, intolerant, judgmental, hypocrites, small-minded, uncharitable, conservative, unfair, or narrow-minded.  Still, as it says in Matthew 5:11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.”

 

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Catechism Charla Doctrine Faith Formation Ink Slingers Sacred Scripture

Here Comes the Judge!

Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1).

We have all heard differing ideas about what judgment means. Being judgmental is condescending and patronizing and altogether wrong, right? Judgmental is one of those words whose negative connotation immediately leaves people with a sense of, what else, judgment. Therefore, accusing others of being judgmental is, ironically, judgmental. Here’s why: when one has a strong conviction about morality or has a strict value system, he or she is forced to make judgments on behaviors that he or she knows within his or her heart is wrong. As Catholics who attempt to live our lives according to the Catechism and precepts of the Church, we have to make judgments every day. It is necessary to weigh decisions and manners of being up against a moral code. Unfortunately, we must analyze the behavior of others in this process. It is the finest line to have to walk, because as dutiful Christians, we are not to judge others. Their behavior is another matter, and that is where the difficulty lies.

Jesus could love all the sinners he encountered and still chastise them for their immoral behavior. (Sometimes Christians conveniently forget that he called people out on the things they did wrong.) He had the authority to do so, obviously. We are called to love one another, without judging the character of others, but the behavior of a person is so intricately entwined into the character of a person, that the two are hardly discernible. For example, I can respect and love someone who is dealing with same sex attraction, but if that person acts on those impulses and I do not condone that action, it is hardly discernible whether I am judging the person or the action, because they are so closely related. This is where “love the sinner, hate the sin” comes into play. Most people, especially non-Catholics, refuse this can be done. For instance, you cannot disapprove of a person’s lying, without calling him or her a liar, right? Wrong. We can and should disapprove of sin, but we cannot and should not disapprove of people. There are girls I know and love, both 19 years old, who have had abortions. I abhor the sin they committed, but I cannot call them murderers. They were scared, placed in horrible situations by others, and committed a sin because of it. I weep for those babies, I pray for these girls. Nevertheless, they were absolutely wrong; their sins cry to Heaven, and I told them so in the most loving way I could. I have to believe that God knows the sinner’s heart; in fact, I rely on it. He will be the one to judge. Now, I also believe in a just God, one who will hold us accountable for our sins. That is why I cannot justify someone’s sinful behavior; that in itself would be my sin. We are each burdened with something; for some people it may be insecurity, SSA, poverty, etc., and all these things can lead us to sin, but it is the sin we must say is bad, not the person. I think most Catholic are clear on this matter, but we are then judged on being judgmental; even though in our own hearts we have made the distinction, many others do not think the division is even possible.

So here is the second struggle: praying for those who have committed such sin or for those who have such burdens. When we profess to be praying for someone, it can be misconstrued as judgment. For instance, I pray for a friend who struggles with SSA. However, I made the mistake of saying to someone else that I was praying for her. I was called judgmental and “hateful” and that I could not have those “opinions.” Praying that others will see their behavior as sinful and praying that I will see my own behavior as sinful are prayers I come to God with on a daily basis. This is the first step in reconciliation and true contrition. Who does not want that for themselves or others? Nonetheless, I have learned my lesson that those prayers must be my own, but I have also learned that I cannot keep quiet in regards to general sinful behavior. It was difficult to be called judgmental and hateful, because I know I am neither. I have come to the realization as well that it is guilt that leads us to blame others as judgmental and vice versa. If my behavior is not justified, it reminds me that what I am doing is not okay. None of us like being reminded that we are imperfect and neither are our actions or viewpoints. St. Philip Neri said, “If we wish to keep peace with our neighbor, we should never remind anyone of his natural defects.” So in an attempt to simultaneously keep peace and our own good consciences, we cannot rationalize sinful behavior, and we must love our neighbors, in spite of their sin.

I think it is a good idea to remain true to our convictions, the ones God has given to us through the Church and our consciences and pray the following for ourselves and others:

“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest” (Psalm 51).