January 17, 2014

Catholic Evangelization Outreach / Rebecca Niemerg

Pondering the number one

As we approach the 41st year since the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade, many of us will be overwhelmed by the number 55 million—the estimated number of unborn children who have died as a result of that decision. For me, 55 million is beyond comprehension, and so I think about one—one child, one woman, one man, one family.

The suffering of one is the untold story of abortion. It is the suffering of one who may no longer believe that God will extend his compassion or mercy. It is the story of one who is so full of regret she believes she no longer deserves happiness and that her suffering and grief is God’s just punishment.

In the past five years, I have encountered many women and men struggling with these feelings. I was not surprised to answer the phone to a tentative voice requesting information about Project Rachel.

“Terri”—not her real name—called Project Rachel and wondered: Would the person on the other end berate her as she imagined? What kind of help could they really offer her? Terri related her story of being in college, pregnant and alone. Her parents persuaded her that having an abortion was the best and only reasonable choice. No one in her life encouraged her to have her baby.

In the 15 years following her abortion, Terri suffered from depression, self-hatred and profound grief. The decision she made as a young woman affected all of her future relationships, including those with her husband and her two daughters. She was ready to seek help by attending an upcoming post-abortion healing group.

During our conversation, I read Terri the profound words that Blessed John Paul II wrote in his encyclical “The Gospel of Life:”

“I would now like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion. … The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the sacrament of reconciliation” (#99).

Terri was stunned by the words of compassion and hope that our Church offered to her.

Over the next two months, I witnessed the transforming power of God’s grace and mercy in Terri’s life. She chose hope over despair, honesty over denial, understanding over self-hatred and love over rejection.

Ultimately, Terri learned to forgive herself and to accept God’s forgiveness in the sacrament of reconciliation. When I saw Terri two years later, I encountered a completely different person—firm in her belief in the goodness of God, confident, joyful and eagerly anticipating the birth of her third child.

Perhaps you do not know someone who has had an abortion, but there is probably someone in your life who is longing to hear words of compassion and hope. Often it only takes an invitation—perhaps you could invite this person to attend Mass with you or to come with you to the sacrament of reconciliation.

As Catholics, we are called to witness to Christ’s forgiveness and mercy first by living it in our lives, and then by demonstrating it in our words and actions.

May we always ponder the number one—one Lord who continues to offer us his mercy, one faith in the healing power of Jesus Christ, and one baptism which incorporates us into the one family of God.
 

(Rebecca Niemerg is the director of the Pro Life and Family Life Office. E-mail her at rniemerg@archindy.org. The next post abortion healing retreat is March 21-23. Please call 317-452-0054 for more information. All calls are confidential.)

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