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Abortion Alyssa Azul Ink Slingers Respect Life

The Plan after Unplanned

The Plan after Unplanned

*Spoiler alert* 

Unplanned was screened in just over 24 cinemas across Canada, and done so despite strong protests against it. In my city, the movie was only shown in two theatres and for less than a week, so you’d better bet I was rushing to go see it. Before I get into the thick of it, one positive outcome was that the movie ended up selling out across the country. Not just because of the amount of pro-lifers wanting to see it, but  because of those who were on the fence, or pro-choice altogether. There were loads of mixed reviews after the movie aired, some quite offensive, but I think that the most powerful thing to come out of that film was the conversation it started.

I was no stranger to the Planned Parenthood controversy before entering the theater. I used to listen to Lila Rose podcasts, of her research and undercover investigations in the clinic. I was also familiar with Abby Johnson’s story: a former clinic director turned impassioned advocate for life and anti-abortion. I thought I would be prepared for this movie. 

The film opened up immediately with a scene of a young girl at about 13 weeks pregnant undergoing an ultrasound-guided abortion. It was the first time that Abby would witness firsthand, what a fighting life looked and felt like (as she was holding the probe).

It was a shockingly graphic scene, and I don’t think there was one woman in the theatre that wasn’t clutching her stomach, or feeling uncomfortable. It felt like somewhat of a physiological response to something deeply unnatural and inhumane.

As overwhelmingly emotional as the movie was, I think it’s so important for women of my generation today be aware and adept at speaking about these issues. What’s more, we as Catholics should learn how to have a conversation about protecting the sanctity of human life without drawing on religious arguments right away. This doesn’t mean we hide the truth, but we have to find a way to open up the ears of our brothers and sisters who are non-believers. We know there are valid non-religious arguments for the existence of human life at conception, but are we equipped to use them? When we have conversations with our coworkers, friends, and family outside of our religious circles, we need to learn how to converse with them and find the moment. I call the moment the tiny door that opens up and allows you to ask a question that crosses into personal territory without raising any sort of debate. People tend to let their guards down when they feel they are being heard. 

I recently found a moment at work. My female coworker and I were casually talking about life goals and ambitions. As she was of a certain age and professional status, my curiosity compelled me to push a tiny bit into that personal territory, with respect of course. 

I asked her, “What are your thoughts on having children?”

I was genuinely curious. I wanted to know what women today truly thought. It stunned me how tough it was, how we often try to censor ourselves when it comes to talking about kids, motherhood, and family. I braced myself for a guarded response, but she instead started talking about why she wouldn’t have kids until she was fully ready. Our conversation spun into one about why people have kids while in unstable relationships, or because of pressures from friends and family, and even pressures from the marriage itself. What I realized was that we actually cared about the same thing: children being raised in a stable home.

We didn’t agree on everything, but I got to see some of the underlying issues as to why men and women divert from the God-designed family structure, and see some of those “where we went wrong” points in society. I never made any comments about what I believed in, I just asked questions. We don’t have these conversations enough, especially with other women. I think some of us are too busy judging each other’s lifestyles that we forget about our common ground.

This connects me to a moment that inspired me from Unplanned. It was the perseverance of Marilisa, the young woman that worked for 40 days for Life on the other side of the fence, praying for and speaking to the girls about to go in to the clinic for appointments. The most ‘scandalous’ thing about her behaviour to me was the relationship she formed with Abby Johnson over the years that Abby ran the clinic. Both women were fully aware that they were on opposite sides of the issue, but both continued to do their work for their causes in front of each others’ eyes, with an unfailing grit and determination . They spoke to each other cordially, and sometimes even crossed lines into personal territory. The scene that intrigued me was when Abby was getting into her car with balloons and such after celebrating her baby shower at the clinic, and Marilisa saw this. Instead of asking pointed or loaded questions, she congratulated her. She spoke to Abby with a gentle, genuine demeanor, as she was also carrying a child herself. I thought it was a powerful moment between the two women, and it’s as if Marilisa saw who Abby Johnson truly was in that moment –  not only two people, but two souls. It was a moment that fueled Marlilisa’s prayers, that Abby would one day wake up and see the truth. It was the respect and love that Marilisa treated Abby with over the years that led to the ultimate action of Abby running into her arms when she finally realized the lie that she had been living, and selling.

It’s a question we all have as pro-lifers: How can we have a meaningful impact on the other side of the fence? I think that genuine love must drive our words and actions. When we speak with people about the value of life, our bodies, motherhood and abortion, we must attempt to listen and empathize before expressing judgement. I am of the belief that small, meaningful conversations can change the game as much as large movements, protests and political sanctions can.

It’s hard to see the scale of the impact that our words have, but changing just one woman’s life is a win in itself. Teaching a girl or woman to love her body is a win. Celebrating children in all families, whether broken, blended, or nuclear is a huge win. Supporting women post-abortion is a win. Sharing information on the biology of sex, hormones, and childbirth is a win. There is so much information about the human body that kids don’t learn in schools anymore…the internet has become a new teacher with lessons that range from real to dangerously ‘fake’. You just never know when your small win can influence something as big as convincing a woman that the fetus inside of her is truly alive.

In my reflection of the film, I recall David’s awe and humiliation in Psalm 139,

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”

even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, 

for darkness is as light to you.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,

 I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. 

When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were 

written in your book before one of them came to be.

Psalm 139, 11-16

I pray that one day every man and woman recognizes how intentionally and intricately designed their bodies are. I pray for the day that every woman sees how precious her body is, and the part it plays in God’s beautiful love story with us. I pray that my sisters all over the world continue to draw strength and grace from our Immaculate Mother in times of confusion and turmoil.  I pray that children are loved completely and without condition, just as Jesus loved. Lastly I pray for the unborn babies. They are loved and not forgotten.

Categories
Fatherhood Ink Slingers Matrimony Motherhood Parenting Respect Life Sacraments Sarah Vocations

Greater the Gold: Adding Siblings is Worth the Sacrifice

This spring, we were thrilled to welcome our seventh baby. And to add to the excitement, it was a boy, after twelve years and three daughters. Our two older sons were thrilled to have a new brother and our daughters were equally as thrilled to have a baby to dress up. They even fight over who gets to change his diaper!

After nine months of debating (read: arguing with me), the kids won out and we call this little guy Blaise. I can’t even imagine how special it must be to feel like you got to name your little brother! Even three months in, they’ll occasionally comment “Aren’t you glad we named him Blaise? What a great name!” He is theirs and he couldn’t be more loved.

Our big kids have made many sacrifices, now that our little guy is here. There are the regular newborn sacrifices, of course, such as learning to change a diaper (you’re welcome, future spouses!) and deferring their preferences to the baby’s demands. They have all pitched in and helped out without a single complaint.

They’ve also made sacrifices for his particular needs. Blaise was born with bilateral clubfoot, which is one of the most common congenital defects. It’s not a huge deal–it’s easily correctable and we’re fortunate that one of the top orthopedic surgeons specializing in clubfoot is only a five-hour drive away.

But that’s a five-hour drive nearly every week for their entire summer break. This means there hasn’t been any time or money for much else. Family trips to the pool have been slim. Family vacations have been non-existent.

Our family van, which had been faithfully limping along for months, finally met its end shortly after Blaise was born. We are searching out a replacement, pinching our pennies, and making due in the meantime. Have you looked at the price of high-occupancy vans lately? Ouch!

I don’t mention this to complain, but rather to point out the abundance we have been given. Yes, between a vehicle, mounting medical costs, and life in general, things have been tight.

But you know what? No one has complained. Not once. No one has suggested that our family is too big, that maybe a new baby was a crazy thing to do. And I am absolutely certain that if we asked them outright, not one child would regret this little guy. Not one person would suggest that maybe we were better off before.

Because the truth is, we weren’t. Isn’t it funny how you don’t realize what you’re missing until you have it? And then you can’t imagine life any other way? We are all better forever each time we welcome another child to our unruly gang.

Money, time, energy, and stuff are not worth the trade-off. Fancy vacations are boring compared to hearing our little boy laugh. Money seems useless when I step back and watch six older siblings cheer him on as he tries to roll over for the first time. (Still working on it!)

Summer is winding down and the return of the school routine is looming. As I look back on our summer, I am inclined to regret all that we weren’t able to accomplish. The garden that was eaten by weeds and rabbits…the trip up north never happened due to car troubles…the rare, long leisurely days at the pool or the park…so few spontaneous meet ups with friends.

But I’m better served to remember all that we did do and all that we have. Money is tight and only our small vehicle runs, and our sweet baby needs to be in St. Louis every week or so. That was still special time with him, every week when we traveled. Because we could only fit one extra person in the car, we were able to spend special time with one “big” kid each trip. The kids who stayed home had an abundance of time with their cousins, while we were out of town.

We spent long summer days watching our baby grow and change. Older siblings spend afternoons rocking their brother to sleep and playing with him as he learned to giggle at their funny faces. We are still hoping that our Kateri will learn the age-old rule “never wake a sleeping baby!” But it’s hard not to snuggle with him when he looks so peaceful.

In reality, this is probably the best summer we’ve ever had. As our five-year-old likes to remind us, “Aren’t you glad I asked God for a baby?” Yes, dear. We are so, so glad.

 

Categories
Amy M. Loss Respect Life Respect Life Month

Celebrating Life

Last summer, I received a phone call from a lady who was new to our parish and wanted to see if we would be interested in starting a ministry for parents who have lost children. We talked for a while and then decided to meet with our pastor to discuss the idea further. During our meeting, Father suggested we start by having a Mass in memory of the children lost and in support of their parents while celebrating their lives on this earth, however short or long.

amy1We entered the planning stages with a small group to work out the details of the Mass we would celebrate in October. I went into it not completely knowing how I would feel. I have lost three babies throughout my motherhood years. I also have six wonderful, active children who help ease my sorrow.

We didn’t ask for people to let us know ahead of time if they were coming, so we really weren’t sure what to expect as far as how many would be attending. We planned for a small group for our first Mass.

The Mass was held on October 7th, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. We had candles and hearts to memorialize names of children lost. The music was beautiful. Father’s homily focused on the importance of the Rosary as our lifeline, praying to God and Jesus through Mary, who had also lost her only child. The emotion in the church was palpable. Mothers and fathers attended. Some had lost children as long ago as 55 years, but the pain was still there. One couple had lost twins two weeks ago. They were not from our parish. They had heard about the Mass and came seeking the comfort only God and our Blessed Mother can give. I pray they found some peace to get them through the next moment.

2014-10-07 20.09.26After Mass, we processed to our Garden of Hope, which is next to our church. Each person carried a luminary to the garden, where Father gave the final blessing.

The evening was beautiful, a wonderful memorial to all of our lost children and also a celebration of life, the life and love each of those children brought to the world, no matter how short or long they were on this earth.

The emotions at Mass were so much more than I expected. The air was heavy, but at the same time, there was an air of camaraderie. Everyone there could empathize with loss.

My oldest three children were three of our altar servers. After Mass, the four of us gathered in front of the altar. My oldest was upset. He realized the due date of the first baby I lost was very close to his birthday. He commented that he would not be here if that baby had not died. While that is true, it is not what happened.

2014-10-07 20.16.38His comment sparked a discussion that last all the way home. Each and every life God gives has a purpose. While our three babies died very early in pregnancy, each and every one of them changed our perspective on life a little, each one brought us closer together and taught us a little more about love and self-giving. Each one of my children on this earth has a specific purpose as well. I believe whole-heartedly that God’s plan for this world involves each of us. How we fit is revealed step-by-step and moment-by-moment as we open ourselves daily to Him.

Each morning we pray as a family that God will inspire us to be the best “us” that we can be on that given day, that He will lead us through His will for our lives for that day, filling us with His grace to accomplish His purpose for our lives in this moment and on this day. I pray that my children will continue that prayer for all their lives, becoming the people that God created each of them to be.

Categories
Allison Pro-Life Issues Respect Life Month Special Needs Connection

Prolife Conversations over a Werewolf

I’ll take prolife conversations wherever they occur, and my daughter’s and my recent completion of the Harry Potter books provided many heart-clenching prolife storylines. “Every human life is worth the same, and worth saving,” said Kingsley Shaklebolt (and this family took it to heart!). But the one closest to my heart and family is found in the character of Remus Lupin.

lupin1As a child, he was attacked by a werewolf and afflicted with lycanthropy. His parents worked tirelessly for a cure, although one was never found, and helped him weather the terrible transformations. Extra-worried the way parents of chronically ill children are, they nevertheless allowed him to attend Hogwarts School, where young Remus was petrified that his best friends would discover his condition and reject him. When they figured it out, not only did they not reject him, they learned how to temporarily turn themselves into animals in order to remain near their friend and keep him safe while he was suffering as a wolf. Because of their fierce support, Lupin became tamer during the moon-lit transformations. Living with an illness forced maturity and perception, which explains why he was an excellent teacher, encouraging the underdog and putting himself in harm’s way to protect the innocent. Remus married but suffered great mental anguish when he realized he could pass on lycanthropy to his unborn child:

“How can I forgive myself when I knowingly risked passing on my own condition to an innocent child? It would be better off without a father of whom it should be ashamed.”

Harry passionately denounced him as a coward; Ron was shocked that their beloved professor would consider himself so worthless; and Hermione tearfully whispered, “How could anyone be ashamed of you?” Eventually, Lupin embraced his family with his entire self and asked Harry to be little Teddy’s godfather.

(I was bawling all over the books for several chapters at this point.)

lupin2We too, have a 25% chance of passing on not lycanthropy, but cystic fibrosis to each child we conceive. It has happened twice with seven children. We trust in our Mother Church’s joy in openness to life and understanding of redemptive suffering. We do not see their illness as a curse but their journey to unity with Christ. They bear their own good fruit. Like Mr. and Mrs. Lupin, we also work for a cure both with our money and our prayers, especially asking St. Therese and Padre Pio to pray for them, they who understand pulmonary distress. We also have extra-worries when they leave us, both for their health and their treatment by the Big Bad World. Like Remus’ buddies, we see friends exhibit fierce support and loyalty to our kids that would not be so strong without cystic fibrosis. And we see (mostly in our eldest) the maturity, perception, and recklessness ~ again due to chronic illness. Do we recognize the beauty and value of an afflicted life? Of course. Do we work and pray for a cure? Even more.

Remus Lupin made his world a better place; my kids are making their world a better place.

Every human life is worth saving. How could anyone be ashamed of them?

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7 Quick Takes Campaigns Current Events Faith Formation HHS mandate Ink Slingers Kerri Marriage Matrimony Our Favorite Things Pope Prayer Prayer Campaign Priesthood Sacraments Vocations

7 Quick Takes Friday, no. 16: Prayer Intentions

The most important thing we can do as Catholics is pray. I’m sure we have all seen examples of the amazing power of prayer in our lives or the lives of others. With this in mind, I thought it would be interesting to highlight the intentions we Catholic Sistas currently have high on our list. We invite you to pray with us on many of these matters and to add your own intentions in the comments or to our Prayer Requests page. Here are our seven high-priority prayer intentions, in no particular order.

–1–

40 Days of Prayer for Conscience

There are two very pressing, current event prayer requests that are on all the Sistas’ minds. The first of these is the HHS Mandate that will go into effect August 1, 2013, which will force institutions and businesses that morally object to contraceptives and abortion to provide these things to all employees. This includes Catholic dioceses, schools, and hospitals. We’re praying our bishops will stay strong against the mandate and not be bullied into providing goods and services that our faith teaches are wrong. We hope you’re joining us for this 40 Days for Conscience Prayer Campaign that began July 1. We need everyone to pray. Follow our Facebook fan page to get the daily prayers.

Today’s prayer:

 

–2–

The Abortion Bill in Texas

The second pressing, current event on all our minds is the abortion bill in Texas, that would outlaw abortions past 20 weeks gestation. We happen to have several Sistas in Texas and many are in the Austin area. We are praying for their safety as they attend sessions at their state capitol, as well as praying for passage of this bill. To learn more, please check out these links and please join your prayers with ours.

Protect Babies and Women — Stand with Pro-Life Texas by Birgit

For Pro-Choicers: What Does the Texas Bill REALLY Say by Kerri

Word-FILLED Wednesday: They Chanted Hail Satan by Martina

–3–

CS Prayer Requests: General Intentions, Homeward Bound, Teardrops, Heavenly Ambassadors

If you haven’t noticed, at the top of our page there is a link titled, “Prayer Requests.” Click on that link and it will bring you to a form where you can submit a prayer request for all of us to pray for. We keep four lists and post them in our private group for our members to pray over. These intentions include:

General Intentions: Anything on your heart

Homeward Bound: For Christian friends and family we’d like to see come home to the Catholic Church

Teardrops: For those who have lapsed from the Catholic faith

Heavenly Ambassadors: For children who have returned to our Heavenly Father through miscarriage, stillbirth, or death at any age.

 –4–

Marriage

Praying for our marriages and those of our friends is always high on the priority list for us. Even those who aren’t married are praying for their future husbands. Praying for marriages (plural) in a much broader sense has taken on much more meaning of late due to the recent Supreme Court rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8. Marriage is under attack in our country and we need to pray. We even had a recent prayer campaign for sacred matrimony in anticipation of the attacks on marriage we were all feeling. We have a great resource list here and you can see our prayer intentions here. Please pray for our individual marriages, those of friends and family, and for the strengthening of all marriages between one man and one woman.

–5–

All Priests and Religious

Pray for our priests and religious. They need our prayers! They are always in our prayers. Our priests have difficult jobs and both priests and religious live a very counter-cultural lives. They need our prayers to stay strong in their vocations. We also need to continue to pray for more vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Please add your prayers to ours and don’t neglect this important intention.

 –6–

Our Pope

The Pope always has the prayers of the Catholic Sistas. We hope he has your prayers too. Pray for our Pope to be a light to the world, to always be open to the Holy Spirit, and to keep the Church strong and united.

 –7–

Holy Mother Church

It goes without saying that praying for Holy Mother Church is on all our prayer lists. We hope it is on yours, too. As the Church experiences more attacks across the world, we must pray for strength for all Her people.

Thanks to Jen F. for hosting the weekly Quick Takes. Check out her blog, Conversion Diary, for more Quick Takes posts from across the blogosphere.