The Sixth Street Bridge

The Sixth Street Bridge
At the tender age of 17, I walked across this bridge, alone, into Downtown Pittsburgh, with $300 in my pocket that my mother had given me to get an abortion. I went into the Fulton Building (in the picture) and did what I was told to do. I didn't have a choice - if I did, I wouldn't have chosen abortion.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Psalm 51 - The Miserere: Prayer of Repentance

Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness
in your abundant compassion
blot out my offense.
Wash away all my guilt;
from my sin cleanse me.

For I know my offense;
my sin is always before me.
Against you alone have I sinned;
I have done such evil in your sight
That you are just in your sentence,
blameless when you condemn.
True, I was born guilty,
a sinner, even as my mother conceived me.
Still, you insist on sincerity of heart;
in my inmost being teach me wisdom.

Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure;
wash me, make me whiter than snow.
Let me hear sounds of joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Turn away your face from my sins;
blot out all my guilt.

A clean heart create for me, God;
renew in me a steadfast spirit.
Do not drive me from your presence,
nor take from me your holy spirit.
Restore my joy in your salvation;
sustain in me a willing spirit.

I will teach the wicked your ways,
that sinners may return to you.
Rescue me from death, God, my saving God,
that my tongue may praise your healing power.
Lord, open my lips;
my mouth will proclaim your praise.
For you do not desire sacrifice;
a burnt offering you would not accept.
My sacrifice, God, is a broken spirit;
God, do not spurn a broken, humbled heart.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

No words...for the moment.

I find myself approaching this, the 24th anniversary of my abortion, at a loss for words, at a loss for actions, at a loss...

But, I'll find my way back to it. Even though I'm shut down now, I can't and won't remain this way. So for the time being, I'll let song and music and prayer, the laughter of my children and the light in my husband's eyes carry me through my "change in the making."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"Do not depend on the hope of results..."

When I first had the idea for this blog… I had my list of pros and cons ready to discuss with my husband.  We had lots of pros, very few cons.  Among the cons: the nut-jobs, whack-a-do’s and other assorted just‑plain‑crazies that would undoubtedly find my blog and attack it or me personally, or both.  So far, the nut job contingency has been relatively silent.  I thank God for the delete button that I am able to press in a matter of seconds, resisting the urge to fight back or worse, be thrown into despair because of something some idiot in cyberspace feels the need to say to me. 

The pros list was quite long – but the biggest pro for my blog was the one I most likely would never have a measurable outcome for.  I had to be sure that I was okay with that.  I can sit and try to analyze my “stats” page all I want but, really – I pray more about those who read my blog who I have no idea about.  I pray that just one 17-year-old girl out there is reading my blog and finds the courage to show it to her mom after  two lines show up on the pregnancy test.  I pray that just one Priest will find some small morsel of insight from my story to help one of his sheep that come looking for forgiveness and mercy.  I pray that just one woman who thus far has told everyone to “keep your rosaries out of my ovaries” has just a twinge of a change of heart.
I have been blessed with feedback and comments from a variety of sources and I remain completely overwhelmed by the receipt of them.  In the moments where I wonder why I started this in the first place, I look to them for reminders.  I have to admit that I do print out all the comments I receive and do an old-fashioned cut and paste job into my paper (yes, I said paper) journal. 

A glimpse of some of the blessings bestowed…

“May you know God's mercy and love in an intimate way and rejoice in the reality of his Resurrection. May our Lord give you the strength you need to carry your cross with love and patience, and give you his peace.”
“My friend, this is what I needed to read! Make today beautiful!”

“I am so glad that the Holy Spirit prompted you to put your blog back out there today!  God loves you so much and I so appreciate you offering your blog to help others!!!!!”

“God Bless you, dear.  God met you in the road with tears in His eyes and ALL of Heaven rejoiced.”
“Saw your sign on the Groups wall (I regret My Abortion), just wanted you to know I think you must be a very strong person and that God loves us no matter what. We all make mistakes we regret or are forced to do things because we can't find another way.”

“God bless you!”

“Your blog is so beautiful; it's almost made me cry. Your post about adoration especially is wonderful.”
“When we receive absolution God wipes us clean of the guilt of sin and does not remember it at all. It is Satan who wants us to doubt the efficacy of God's grace through His sacraments.”

“You are not alone. The reason I don't ask God to take my suffering away, or to take my memory away is that I want to suffer those moments (not wallow in them) in reparation and penance for myself and others. I give my suffering to Jesus, place my little cross next to His, take a hold of Our Mother's hand and then move forward again. I hope this is of some small help to you. May you be blessed with deep knowledge of His Mercy.”
“What you have gone through is a terrible thing. But even an abortion is not bigger than the love and mercy of Jesus (or His Church).   And you are valuable to the Church. And we need you.”

“The Devil hates growth in holiness, because it moves the person further from his corruption. When starting on the path towards evil, Jesus simply waits for you with open arms. When starting on the path towards holiness, the Devil becomes rabid with fury - and a war begins. The battlefield is your soul, and the holier you seek and strive to become, the bloodier the battle. The holier you become, the harder the Enemy will try to drag you down - because you are closing yourself off to his temptations.”
“Place your trust in God and Pray for St Michael's help.  But ultimately, who should you fear? He's on your side because you are on His. If you truly only want God's will to be done who should you fear?   Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou art with me.  I love the story of one saint (I don't remember which one), but the devil came into her room and started a ruckus. She rolled over and saw him and said, "Oh, its only you." and then rolled back over to go to sleep.”

“Wow. Tears are flowing as I type. Thank you for sharing your story. I hope it touches the hearts of many confused girls out there!  You're in my prayers!”
“Don't give up. 

“If anyone out there 'knocks' what you're doing, what you have shared, it is irrelevant to the purpose God intends, and any opposition may quietly draw in persons who need the site.  You have done a good thing.”

“You have a beautiful blog. The background reminds me of the infinite ocean of Mercy that Jesus spoke about to Saint Faustina. God bless you! You will be in my prayers.”
“What a beautiful post! Adoration is so powerful, and yet so gentle and personal. No one could be worthy, and yet His Love makes all of us worthy. So glad you are on the front kneeler now!”

“I loved reading this! I remember that part of my retreat too and it felt wonderful.”
“Perhaps a good way for all of us to evaluate where we are as Christians is to ponder, ‘This is my body.’ How do we follow that statement? Is it with ‘and I will do with it what I please’ or with ‘which will be given up for you?’ It seems to me that you have moved a long way on that scale.”

“Thank you for writing this blog. Those of us who never had an abortion still have friends and relatives who have- even if we don't know about it- and your journey is eye-opening.”
“My baby was killed in Pittsburg[h], too, in 1973. I have told a few people, but I've never really talked about it. I was 17 also.”

“Thank you for carrying this cross with patience and dignity. May you have Veronica to give you a bit of comfort and affection when you need it and Simon of Cyrene to help when you just cannot do it alone and may the presence of Our Blessed Mother and her prayers give you strength.”

“I too am a Rachel's Vineyard graduate. I lost my child to abortion when I was 18 years old. It was the saddest day of my life. Please continue to keep speaking out so that others will never know the pain that we have had, never experience child loss the way we have. God Bless you”

“Thank you for starting this blog. Please keep writing. I'm looking forward to following. I think you have a very important message.”
I believe God led me to your blog today. Thanks for putting it out there.”

“I saw you link on the Catholic Answers Forums. Your posts are very poetic and moving. Good luck with you site!”
“God's blessing is with your blog even if you never or seldom see the results. I will keep you and those who need the grace God wishes to offer through this blog and through prayers, in my own daily prayers. May God continue to bless you and your family, and others through you.”

“Thanks for the blog link … Know of my prayers and Christ's forgiveness for you. Pray for my brother-priests who minister uncharitably. God Bless.”
“I've been blessed working with a woman who's been heavily involved in Rachel’s Vineyard and other Pro-life organizations that [has] helped me be more attentive and gentle, particularly with women who are post-abortive.”

“Glad that the initial priest didn't harden you from finding someone who would more accurately reflect Jesus' love for you.”

“I like the element of discussing the upcoming Sunday Mass readings, which can really help folks live the liturgy a lot deeper. God bless you!
“Amazing! Thanks so much for sharing this... the thing about publishing is that you never know how much good your words will end up doing. I'll share it on my blog this morning...”

"Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. You gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything."  ~Thomas Merton

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Sink or swim, or walk as it were… (Part II)

        I am a huge fan of music – of all kinds of music.  Most popular music typically holds ulterior meanings for me in the lyrics.  There is a song by the Indigo Girls called “Ghost.”  It’s a song about being in love with the ghost of a past love, what appears to be a romantic love in the song.  For me, the haunting lyrics speak to me in my struggle over being in love with the ghost(s) of my past – the ghosts that allow me to wallow in self pity and keep me from my full potential because, let’s face it, being good all the time is hard work.  For me, it’s about being in love with Grace’s ghost, being in love with the sound of the machine that took her from my body – and not in love with who she really is – my daughter living in His presence.  Which Grace I choose to love plays out in large part on my daily life.  I thought of this song when reading tomorrow’s Gospel because there is a line in the song that goes, “And I guess that's how you started, like a pinprick to my heart, but at this point you rush right through me, and I start to drown.”  I have to remind myself that being in love with ghosts causes me to drown, but my faith in what’s really true allows me to stay on top of the water, holding hands with Jesus.

There's a letter on the desktop
That I dug out of a drawer
The last truce we ever came to
In our adolescent war
And I start to feel the fever
From the warm air through the screen
You come regular like seasons
Shadowing my dreams

The Mississippi's mighty
it starts in Minnesota
At a place that you could walk across
With five steps down
And I guess that's how you started

Like a pinprick to my heart
But at this point you rush right through me
And I start to drown

And there's not enough room
In this world for my pain
Signals cross and love gets lost
And time passed makes it plain
Of all my demon spirits
I need you the most
I'm in love with your ghost

Dark and dangerous like a secret
That gets whispered in a hush
When I wake the things I dreamt about you
Last night make me blush
(Don't tell a soul)
And you kiss me like a lover
Then you sting me like a viper
I go follow to the river
Play your memory like a piper

And I feel it like a sickness
How this love is killing me
I'd walk into the fingers
Of your fire willingly
And dance the edge of sanity
I've never been this close
I'm in love with your ghost

Unknowing captor
You never know how much you
Pierce my spirit
But I can't touch you
Can you hear it?
A cry to be free
Oh I'm forever under lock and key
As you pass through me

Now I see your face before me
I would launch a thousand ships
To bring your heart back to my island
As the sand beneath me slips
As I burn up in your presence
And I know now how it feels
To be weakened like Achilles
With you always at my heels

This bitter pill I swallow
Is the silence that I keep
It poisons me I can't swim free
The river is too deep
Though I'm baptized by your touch
I am no worse than most
In love with your ghost

Sink or swim, or walk as it were… (Part I)

From Today’s Gospel - Mt 14:22-33

Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.
But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened;
and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter,
and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

        I have a great little app on my phone that has all the daily readings so I can jump ahead to see what’s coming. I find it to be useful to refocus my mind when it’s starting to drift to parts unknown – or known but where it shouldn’t be going in the first place – or known and visited many times before only to my own detriment – or known and only visited as a means of self punishment for sins already forgiven. It always amazes me (because He is utterly amazing) that usually when I do this, the words on the screen speak to me so directly, so overtly and address so perfectly whatever assault of the mind I’m currently having.

        The Gospel for tomorrow is a familiar story (even to this Cradle Catholic) [Note to self: you said you were going to start actually reading the Bible cover to cover.] I’ve heard this gospel many times in my life but, overnight it took on new meaning for me. (Don’t you love it when that happens?) I have a lot of idle time this weekend which can be a blessing and a curse. Last night it was definitely a curse wrought with bad movies, a touch of insomnia and way too much time on the Internet. I read some really great things about prolife activism which unavoidably leads to really horrible things about prochoice activism. I could spends weeks on end responding to all those out there who disclaim the after effects of having had an abortion. I’d love to dissect the studies they refer to as proof that such effects don’t exist and that my current issues only exist because I had pre-existing issues before my abortion. I’d love to debate those out there who claim that abortion is good for women and a necessity or else back to the back alley we’ll go. I’d like to tell them that the horrors of the back alley abortions they thump their fists about are not too distant from the horror of having an abortion in a “legally approved” facility. No, I didn’t die from my abortion – not physically. But, Grace did die and part of me died with her. My youth died. My zest for life died. I walked out of that clinic a changed woman, a changed girl really, never to be the same again and it wasn’t just because I was no longer pregnant and my “problem” had been resolved. 

        So many prochoicers out there love to argue that prolifers don’t really want to help women in a crisis pregnancy. Are we going to adopt their baby? Will we give them money, shelter, food, diapers? I’d like to ask the prochoicers – what are you going to do for those women who you escort into and out of that abortion clinic? What are you offering to provide afterwards? Since you don’t believe there are any ill effects from having had their legally sanctioned abortion – I guess you aren’t there to help them through the years of darkness and despair, bring them back from the edge of suicide attempts, explain their ongoing sexual issues, help to manage the terror of being found out, the grief over the idea that the Holy Mother Church they love might now reject them. I have yet to see prochoicers offer up some post abortion healing and recovery. Maybe there are such people out there – but I doubt they are addressing the real problem.

        I was wrong in my thinking about my Church for a long time, even though I was kind of absolved of my abortion many years ago – I still lived in fear of eternal damnation. Even confession wasn’t going to save me. Today’s Gospel is a reminder of how wrong I was for far too long.

"Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter,
and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

        It makes me chuckle a little over the idea of Jesus, standing on top of the stormy water, the Son of God holding out His hand to Peter and Peter seeing Jesus standing ON TOP of the water is still doubtful? What’s it going to take Peter, really? I wish I had that kind of proof! Peter had it right in front of him, literally, and he still doubted. And herein lies the good part – just a little faith is all you need sometimes to keep from drowning. Jesus will never let you drown as long as you have some little spark deep within you. 

        When I find myself going down the old roads to where I’m wondering if it’s all true, is it all real, why am I here, why do I write on this blog, why is the sky blue… that little flicker deep within just needs a bit of fanning to become a fire again. So now, I reach out for Jesus’ hand however I’m able. I pray, I write, I pester my Priest, I go to Mass, I go to adoration, I hug my children, I seek out my husband who knows just what I need and why.

        Most of the time I feel like I’m walking on the water, sometimes I feel like I’m walking in the water a bit with it sloshing around my ankles, but I’m not drowning. Perhaps sometimes we need to sink just enough as a reminder. Kind of like when little kids have swimming lessons – if you’ve ever seen the Plexiglas platforms that are submerged in the deep end, just as a precaution for new swimmers. The instructors let them thrash about a bit but then remind them – just put your feet down – and they can stand because of the invisible platform beneath their feet. It builds their confidence while they learn to swim better.

        When Peter cries out, “save me!” – is Jesus really saving him from drowning or saving him from his “little faith?” I think we all need that from time to time. I find that on my journey – I have those things that I know to be true, core, unshakable beliefs – but I also have doubts that nip at me, thoughts of despair that creep in, thoughts of the baby I allowed to be killed. At those times, when I’m falling back in love with the ghosts of my past – instead of the realities of my present – I hope that Grace is watching me and runs to our Lord and tells Him, please, help my Mom – and He appears once again, hand outstretched, to save me not from downing, but from myself.

Ivan Aivazovsky, 1888