“I aborted my unborn child.”
What is left for a woman who’s thought or said these words? Last week, my friend Fr. Matthew, who’s worked for many years in the pro-life field, shared with us his experience of how deeply abortion wounds women and men physically, emotionally, and spiritually. His testimony corresponds with the findings of a recent meta-analysis of abortion and mental health research, which reveals overwhelmingly the negative effects abortion has on women’s mental health and well-being.
This week, however, he will share with us the bountiful grace and healing he’s witnessed in those who’ve been touched by God’s mercy and forgiveness and the ways in which they’ve been “resurrected” to lead new, heroic, hopeful lives.
The most effective healing Fr. Matthew has seen comes from programs based on Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection, such as Rachel’s Vineyard, a post-abortion retreat program and from the sacrament of confession. This mystery of Christ’s Death and Resurrection is one that the post-abortive who’ve received profound healing have come to know and cherish deeply, as they themselves have endured their own passion and death from the pain and suffering of abortion and now have been raised to new life through God’s mercy and forgiveness. The sacrament of confession, too, plays a crucial role in this healing, says Fr. Matthew, as this is where women and men receive total forgiveness from God, though unmerited, which leaves them free to “accept it with a heart full of gratitude and sincere hope for a brighter future, rejoicing in the mercy of God, ever ready to point others to the same Fountain of Blessings.”
This brighter future for those who’ve experienced God’s mercy includes a new life with their lost child. The mother and father can reclaim a relationship with the aborted baby, often by naming the child and writing a letter to him or her, “hoping with eager anticipation for their reunion in Heaven.”
“Finally, one of the greatest blessings,” writes Fr. Matthew, “for those who go on to receive healing after an abortion, is that they have faced their demons, which so many others deny and thus will not face until their deathbed, and they have slain them with the Sword of Christ, which is His Cross and His Blood, His Love and His Mercy.” Fr. Matthew notes that Our Lady, “with her heart pierced by seven swords, brings such gentleness, tenderness, humility, ease, and love to the process” of healing.
Men and women who have received such healing become what Fr. Matthew refers to as “the cream of the crop” in pro-life work. “One of the most amazing things I've seen is how ‘on fire’ the men and women become once they have been immersed in the healing process. In many cases, they become the strongest and most effective witnesses to life in the pro-life movement, because they know the pain, they know it's wrong, and they want to prevent others from going through what they have suffered.” These “healed warriors” are often marked by deep love and compassion for others, which includes spreading the truth of abortion with love.
Fr. Matthew reflects on God’s mercy, which is what fuels this radical healing in the post-abortive. His new favorite quote is from Fr. Sam Medely, SOLT, who said, "The authentic and eternal love of God can only be revealed when the scandalous gratuitousness of its generosity shames those who undeservedly receive it." Fr. Matthew comments, “God's mercy and His justice are both among His attributes, but because His nature is love and His will is our salvation, His mercy is the greater of the two, going on when the limits of justice have been reached or simply cannot be fulfilled. God's love is His mercy in the face of our human misery, which by justice alone would simply be condemned. Isn't that amazing? We believe that it is true by our profession of faith, but for how many of us it is so very difficult to let this truth permeate our hardened hearts.” This is especially the case with the post-abortive, but when this truth through grace infiltrates their hearts, their “joys begin to reach proportions previously unthinkable or unimaginable.”
Writes Fr. Matthew, “It is said in the pro-life movement that there is no greater joy than to help save the life of an unborn baby in danger of abortion, but I would argue that there is another joy that is in competition with this one, and that is the joy of helping someone to find healing after an abortion.”
May God bless you, Fr. Matthew, for sharing your wisdom with us, and may God continue to rain down His mercy upon all His children.
Copyright 2011 Meg Matenaer
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