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.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Feast of the Holy Innocents

I knew today's Feast was coming and I tried my best to ignore it.  Some things are just too difficult to deal with head on and still be able to function for the day.  But, at least here, I can "say" something about today's Feast of the Holy Innocents.

Matthew 2:13-18

...When the wise men had departed, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, "Out of Egypt I have called my son."  When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
"A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled,
because they are no more." 
I remember as a child I had an elaborate children's Bible with beautiful color pictures and a lot of them were down right scary.  The picture for this story always scared me a lot.  The image is scary today, on the heels of the Newtown tragedy.  A lot of debate has arisen with loud outcries and protests after Newtown and people attempting to draw similarities, if any, to the abortion holocaust in this country.  I can't speak to the argument at all, it's too emotional for me.  The only thing I can speak to is that the mothers of the Newtown children and any mother who has lost a child, no matter how, refuses to be consoled. 
When someone truly learns and recognizes and admits what abortion really is - they too will see that there is no real difference.  Live Action News promoted an article yesterday with a Review of Surgical Abortion.  Typically, I would read these types of articles as a form of self punishment.  I couldn't get to the end of this one, but then I thought I needed to share it and maybe someone who isn't convinced yet will read the whole thing and something in their mind or heart will change. Because really, what's the difference?  The loss of a child is the loss of a child.  I used to errantly believe that I had no right to grieve for my Grace because of the role I played in her death.  I know now that I have every right and need to grieve for her.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Touched by Grace

The past few days have been enlightening for me in that I'm trying deliberately to "just do" some things and not think and think and think and retreat to my room and write and debate in my head the things that should be simple, that are simple.

One of the things I'm talking about is this...the little angel from my first Rachel's Vineyard retreat, about which I have endured much self-induced drama and ridiculousness.  For some reason, let me rephrase, by the Holy Spirit, this morning after Mass, I picked it up from my dresser and brought it down to our lovely Christmas Tree adorned with all of the special ornaments we have collected over the years, and placed the little Angel on a branch.  No fanfare.  No sneaking down when no one was looking.  The girls and hubby were eating breakfast.  One of my girls asked a few questions, "Why are you putting that on the tree Mommy? You didn't do that last year."  And from the little one, "It's pretty Mommy, it should be there every year."  Out of the mouths of babes as they say.  Then to reinforce my braveness, I snapped a picture.

It is pretty. I should have done it last year.  It should be there every year.  It should be here every day.  She should be here every day, and she is, my Grace.  And this morning, I, symbolically anyway, brought her to the middle of our living room and placed her for all to see.  I brought her to the middle of our lives. Even though the girls don't know the whole story behind the little Angel, she's here. Even though my hubby is not her biological father, she's there for him to see.

The last couple of days I've been reading and reflecting on some of my favorite scripture...
"So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love.  But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little. He said to her, Your sins are forgiven.”
She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, [and] from now on do not sin any more.
When the woman realized that she had not escaped notice, she came forward trembling. Falling down before him, she explained in the presence of all the people why she had touched him and how she had been healed immediately.  He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Some common themes I cling to, sin much, get forgiven much; Jesus does not condemn; and my faith can and will save me.  Also common in these three pieces of scripture is the power of the healing touch of Jesus.  No, the scripture doesn't say that Jesus touched any of these three women physically, but in movies or other portrayals, Jesus almost always is shown reaching out his hand to the woman, helping her up out of the dirt and dust, touching her face, wiping a tear... and he releases her from everything.  Reminding myself what the touch of Him can do is a very healthy thing for me to focus on and I'm grateful that through the sacraments and our Church, I'm able to seek out that touch of grace whenever I feel the need.

It's been a learning curve, but I've recognized that I am constantly in need of reinforcement of the truth, even though I know what is true and what isn't.  I also need to constantly redirect my thinking to try and straighten out my crooked mind.  I'm starting to accept the idea that this need for help isn't a bad thing, it's my thing. More recently I've realized that I don't need to be in crisis to seek it out I can be a perfectly well adjusted Catholic woman, wife, and mother, and still be a complete Catholic geek and tear up upon any entrance to a Catholic Church or Chapel.

This need for constant affirmation of the Truth of our Church and of scripture has led me exactly to where I am now and let's face it, there are a lot worse things that I could be in desperate need of every day of my life.  I used to think, in error, that I was constantly seeking and needing proof.  I don't need proof, I know what's true, I just need the signs and symbols of that truth, every single day of my life and some days more than others.

So this Christmas, though I'm sure some melancholy will visit me in the quiet hours of the night, I'll refocus my thoughts on the above and on the Canticle of Mary.  Though she was chosen to bear Christ the Lord, her words echo truth for all of us.  ...He has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness and done great things for me and holy is his name.

The Canticle of Mary.
And Mary said:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is from age to age
to those who fear him.
He has shown might with his arm,
dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones
but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things;
the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped Israel his servant,
remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
Merry Christmas Grace. I miss you.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Grace in All Places

I've had a few events of late where I have been very conscious of Grace and her presence in my life, and her absence, in the here and now.  I've learned that it's up to me to choose which of these two facts to dwell on.  The very choice of the word "dwell" reveals which fact I tend to choose most often.  If I were to choose more often to remember that she is in my life, and has been since the day she left, but she is also in Heaven with Jesus - a  more fitting word might be happy, consoled, ecstatic, about her presence in my life in such a way.  If I remembered more often that since she is where she is, she's not capable of hating me or wishing me harm, she's only capable and wants to love me.

Alas (yet another word to magnify my dramatics), it is not so.  More often, especially around school events or an upcoming holiday or special occasion, I begin to dwell on the fact that she is missing from my life, here, physically.  I remember missing her terribly last Christmas Eve and struggling to not retreat into the darkness that I quickly will do sometimes.  Last Christmas Eve I wrote about it a bit.  When I recently attended a few Masses and special events to start off the Advent season, I would glance down at the empty space, however small, in the pew between my children or my husband and me and think to myself, Grace should be here.  I sometimes continue with the thought and imagine that she would be beautiful, and she would have a talent for singing, and she would make her little sisters laugh.  It doesn't last for long as I am usually interrupted by a whisper or the tapping of a small hand demanding my attention.

Last year I had written about a little trinket that I brought home from my Rachel's Vineyard retreat that I had forgotten about and proceeded characteristically to over analyze my lapse seven ways to Sunday about why, and now what should I do, and how horrible I was for forgetting it, etc.  Apparently, I'm still here, so I survived the crisis. This last summer I attended my second Rachel's Vineyard retreat, so I now have two of these pretty little angels.  Since the 2nd retreat, one of them has set out on my dresser among some other little possessions I hold dear.  My kids sometimes ask about it.  The little one sometimes claims it for herself, but she always returns it.  I thought keeping it out on display was a good move on my part.  A little reminder each day of Grace and that she is real, and she is here, and she loves me, and she forgives me, and she waits for me, but don't come yet, Mom, you are not in control of the "when!" 

A few days ago, I came across the 2nd little angel, in my dresser drawer, buried under some socks and what not.  The drawer is directly under where the other angel lies.  This one however, is shoved back in the corner, covered by clothing.  No one knows it's there except for me.  In an attempt to try and stop myself from over analyzing or going down the wrong road and stop the Devil in his tracks, I said a quick prayer in my head (that I'm still not sure I do correctly) and covered her back up and closed the drawer.  I came back later to snap a picture because I knew I was going to write about it.  She was still there, as evidenced by the photo and the fact that I did not open the drawer, found her somehow moved and suffered a fear-induced heart attack!  So, in these two pretty little angels is the however imperfect or distorted metaphor for my life at present.  Grace in two places, but His grace in all places.

Finding Grace, acknowledging her, attempting to know her, finding forgiveness for the loss of her - has brought so much grace into my life it's overwhelming at times.  It should be overwhelming all the time, but I'm not there yet, I'm not sure I ever will be.  I'm not sure being post-abortive will ever lend itself to complete and all sustaining joy and happiness and peace of mind and heart that some people seem to possess.  The part of my story that will always remain shoved in the back of a drawer, in hiding, covered up, not talked about - the giant elephant in the middle of my life - or angel in the drawer - will always and forever be there.   Even if I choose to someday go public with my story if I am led to do so, there will always and forever be a part of me that is broken and destroyed by abortion.  There's just no getting around that fact.   

But then there is the other part, the both/and part of my story - the grace that is on display, out there for the world hopefully to see.  The grace that my smallest daughter finds attractive enough to steal from me and play with for a while.  The grace that has allowed me to write about my story, given me the courage to stand outside of an abortion clinic where I know exactly what is going on inside, and witness to what I know is the truth.  The absolute love for my Church that I have now sealed upon my heart in all it's broken and sewn-back-together pieces.  The grace that comes from knowing that He knows I'm sorry.  The grace that comes from choosing to live every day, however ridiculously awful I may be at it sometimes.

I've only begun to really understand "grace" in the theological sense and the differences between actual and sanctifying grace and that some parts of it I will never understand because it is beyond all comprehension, mine or anyone else's.  But, I am grateful for my Grace who continues to teach me, in cooperation with Him I believe, with little things like these two little angels in the peculiar places that I just noticed were peculiar.

When I was thinking about this post, I started to read the Catechism about grace and tried to wrap my head around the definitions, etc., and then I just gave up and chose instead to focus on this little piece of understanding that has been shown to me. However many times I fall, however many times I mentally torture myself with the fact of my abortion, however many times I read and re-read my list of things I hate about myself, however many times the sin of abortion, and all of my past sins return to haunt me, Grace is still here and His grace remains, on display or hidden, it's here, in every part of me and every part of my life now.  I pray that I continue to recognize it every day, in all the things around me that should remind me constantly that I am loved by God.

Just one snippet from the CCC that contains a quote that someone shared with me a while ago [emphasis mine]...
CCC 2005    Since it belongs to the supernatural order, grace escapes our experience and cannot be known except by faith. We cannot therefore rely on our feelings or our works to conclude that we are justified and saved.  However, according to the Lord’s words — “Thus you will know them by their fruits” - reflection on God’s blessings in our life and in the lives of the saints offers us a guarantee that grace is at work in us and spurs us on to an ever greater faith and an attitude of trustful poverty.
A pleasing illustration of this attitude is found in the reply of St. Joan of Arc to a question posed as a trap by her ecclesiastical judges: “Asked if she knew that she was in God’s grace, she replied: ‘If I am not, may it please God to put me in it; if I am, may it please God to keep me there.’”
Please, Jesus, put me in your grace today and every day and keep me there, no matter how much I might struggle to get away sometimes.  Help me to find my way back to You again, and again, and again.