“The dignity of the human person is rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God; it is fulfilled in his vocation to divine beatitude…From conception, he is destined for eternal beatitude.”
– Catechism of the Catholic Church 1700, 1703
As a child, I was brought up in the Catholic school system. However, no one ever told me why I was Catholic and why faith was so important. I grew up incorrectly assuming everyone I met was Catholic as well. The Catechism of the Catholic Church hadn’t been published until 1992 and consequently, this left me lacking a sufficient explanation of what it means to be a Catholic person. However, I DO recall learning that we are all made in the image and likeness of God, which stuck with me for a long time. Unfortunately, after high school and especially after college, I allowed others to influence my choices and behaviors. I was easily manipulated into believing the lies of the world such as “You only live once so have fun now while you can,” and “It’s your body, you have every right to do whatever you want with it.”
“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world.”
– 1 John 2:16 RSV
This watered down vision of life was the perfect primer for me to be influenced by others whom didn’t have any faith or belief in God. There was never any talk or discussion about faith or Jesus or God in the least with my friends or coworkers in my young adult years. The friends I made weren’t Catholic so if I did attend Mass, I went alone.
Shortly after graduating college, I moved two states away from my family for many years. This meant there was no one to hold me accountable to my faith. The less I went to Mass, the more distant I became from God and the closer I became to outside influences. I would tell myself, “I’m young and single, I can do whatever I want.” This reasoning justified staying out late at the bars and clubs, drinking to excess, flirting with whomever I pleased, spending money on alcohol and material things excessively and unnecessarily.
My actions caused me to increasingly idolize material possessions and money, leaving me constantly unsatisfied with what I had. Being charitable was not in my thought process. My life was my own. I would go to the gym about 5 days a week and the bars 3 nights a week compared to my one hour in church. I was very proud to be a single, independent woman.
I’m not sure of the moment I became pro-choice just as I’m unaware of the exact moment I came back to being pro-life. All I know for sure is that the term pro-choice sounded much more appealing than pro-abortion or pro-death. At the time, I was surrounded by many pro-choicers in my workplace as well as my friendships. Fighting for a woman’s right to choose sounded attractive to me. I recall thinking pro-lifers must be close-minded to the way the world worked. In my eyes, I saw nothing wrong with birth control or taking part in a perfectly legal action like abortion if you got pregnant by accident. “If you aren’t ready to have children, then why not get this legal and safe procedure done and get your problem taken care of?” Looking back, it’s scary and sad that this was my thought process at the time. My response when posed with the question of which side I was on was always: “I’m personally pro-life because I could NEVER have an abortion. But who am I to tell someone else not to have one? After all, it’s their body, not mine.”
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
– Jeremiah 1:5 RSV
My mother was diagnosed with lymphoma in the fall of 2009. Upon hearing this distressing news, I decided to move back home. I immediately felt better being home and close to my family. My mother’s faith life was instrumental in changing my perspective. Her story greatly influenced my journey to becoming pro-life.
My mom was what I call a “quiet Catholic.” She made sure my siblings and I attended church every Sunday, said our prayers, and went to Catholic school. She was “quiet” in the sense that she didn’t speak about her faith very much. In fact, as my siblings and I grew older, she became less vocal about God and kept her faith closer to heart. I would see her praying the rosary in the morning before she took us to school, but that was about it. I know now, many years later, she would also read the daily readings every morning. But, for reasons unknown, she kept this under the radar.
After her initial cancer diagnosis in 2009, she started to become more outspoken about her faith. She surprised many of us in my family and joined a group at her church called 40 Days for Life. For those unfamiliar with this group, 40 Days for Life is a pro-life organization that runs campaigns twice a year for 40 days as volunteers pray outside abortion clinics. Volunteers will stand, holding signs, and pray for those affected by abortion. According to their website, “Those who are called to stand witness during this 24-hour-a-day presence send a powerful message to the community about the tragic reality of abortion. It also serves as a call to repentance for those who work at the abortion center and those who patronize the facility.” When my mom said to me one day, out of the blue, “I’m going to stand outside abortion clinics and pray for the babies,” I didn’t know what to say! She hadn’t ever volunteered for something so controversial in all her life. I recall thinking, “Well, this is a surprise! Good for her, I guess.”
Still, I was not about to join her for her sit-ins and prayer vigils. After all, I was pro-choice, and she knew it. Over the years, she tried to change my mind. She suggested I read a book written by a former Planned Parenthood worker who became pro-life, but I wanted no part of it. “No thanks,” I would say when she asked if I’d like to read it. “No thanks, I’m good.”
In the spring of 2012, the cancer came back and my mother requested hospice care. As she lay there dying, I recalled our past conversations, especially the ones about her recent efforts to save babies from abortion. I regretted how unsupportive I was and how that must have hurt her. I didn’t think praying outside an abortion clinic did anyone any good. I didn’t believe in the power of prayer at that time. It wasn’t until after she passed that I found myself praying more openly.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”
– John 5:24 RSV
Shortly after my mother’s passing, I found myself trying to follow in her footsteps. I wasn’t about to sit outside an abortion clinic; I was merely thinking of ways to increase my prayer life. This led me to read the daily scriptures online. I downloaded some apps to help me reflect on the meaning of the scriptures and I started journaling frequently. I did this every day for months until I came across a video from well-known Catholic priest, Fr. Robert Barron. He shared a video he made about the latest statistics on abortion. I clicked “play” and what he said in that 6 minute video shocked me to my core. He mentioned the number of babies aborted since Roe vs. Wade in 1973: 50 million. I had to go back and listen again because I thought I misheard him. After doing more research it became apparent that this statistic was all too true. Although I was shocked over this enormous number, I still didn’t do anything in particular to promote or evangelize a pro-life mentality. I actually thought this problem, this issue, was too big for God, so I did nothing; the problem of abortion continued to be “someone else’s problem.”
“For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.”
– John 3:20 RSV
This past summer a group called the Center for Medical Progress released a dozen undercover videos that exposed what goes on at abortion clinics behind the scenes. The major news outlets barely covered this story but that didn’t seem to matter because social media was all over it. Today, it seems most people, even those who are not social media savvy, have heard of these videos and the attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, the number one abortion provider. Shortly after the first video surfaced, I remember having dreams about dead babies. I myself have never had an abortion or known anyone who has had one, but I felt compelled to DO something. I couldn’t remain silent any longer. That video from Fr. Barron came rushing back to my mind and I found myself becoming enraged, a very un-Christian response.
I knew I had to channel this anger and frustration into something positive. That’s when I searched 40 Days for Life and came across some names of many other pro-life advocates, including Abby Johnson. Remember the former Planned Parenthood worker who wrote a book that my mother wanted me to read? Yep, that’s her. I found her book, Unplanned, on my mom’s bookshelf and read it in two and a half hours. I cried buckets of tears as I thought of Abby’s journey from pro-choice to pro-life and the hate that she has endured as the pro-choice group whom viewed her as a traitor. I also thought of all the good that she has done by helping people leave the abortion industry. I thought of my mother asking me so gently to please read this book and my quick dismissal, turning my back on her simple request because I couldn’t be bothered to hear the truth.
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.”
– Proverbs 31:8 NIV
If I had been on the casual side of the pro-life fence up until this point, it’s safe to assume that I made the jump to 100% pro-life advocate after reading Unplanned. I immediately searched for my local 40 Days for Life campaign and signed up. I was actually giddy the first time I drove up to the abortion clinic to stand outside and pray during my designated time slot. I was excited to be doing something constructive with my time, to finally be putting my prayers to use. I stood outside the clinic my sign that simply read: “Pray for an end to abortion,” as I simultaneously prayed the rosary. I was there with a few other volunteers and we got many honks and beeps in support. It’s an awesome feeling knowing that although the gesture of just standing and praying quietly appears as small, it has a huge impact on those around you.
For those who choose to engage in dialogue with the men and women coming to the clinic, there are people trained as Sidewalk Counselors. These counselors provide the people coming in for abortions or consultations with information on post-abortive healing centers and helpful literature on fetus development. Sometimes these counselors are met with unkind words or a “No thanks, we’re good” response (Does that sound familiar?). However, many times, volunteers report the women and men coming to the clinic will take the literature and drive to the nearest pregnancy crisis center to hear their options. There have been countless stories of success and testimonials in the last 8 years since the first 40 Days for Life campaign started. As far as we know, at least 10,883 babies have been saved around the world!
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”
– Matthew 5:43-44 RSV
Living in a Pro-Choice world is not easy. Being a Christian is not easy. It never has been. There are those who ridicule me and have “unfollowed” me for my pro-life advocacy. But my reaction is never one of anger or resentment. Why? Because I was like them. I was blind too. They are me from just a few years ago. And I love them. And I pray even harder for them because I believe they will have a change of heart. As much as people try to tell me that my prayers aren’t making a difference, I know better. I will never be ashamed to be pro-life. I have learned in just a few short years that the power of prayer and God’s mercy is bigger than any of us could possibly comprehend. I’ll gladly be on the receiving end of a few insults and remarks if it means I’m saving the lives of the unborn. I believe God hears our prayers. I trust in Him. I believe this evil will be abolished. I believe He heals the wounded, including the women and men who have been hurt by abortion. And I believe I can’t sit idly by and simply watch my fellow Christians pray and fast and protest peacefully; I need to be active in this movement.
What about you? You can be a part of the healing process by speaking up and being an advocate for life. Part of our mission as Catholics is to evangelize and spread the truth of the Gospel. The question becomes, for us all, are we going to stand by and say nothing, or are we going to save the lives of our brothers and sisters and get them to heaven?
If you’d like to become more involved in the pro-life movement, here are some groups to check out:
Students for Life – SFL is one of the nation’s most active pro-life organizations and the largest youth pro-life organization. They are the only national pro-life organization dedicated to training and equipping college, high school, medical, and law school students.
40 Days for Life – As mentioned in the article, this community-based campaign takes a determined, peaceful approach to showing local communities the consequences of abortion in their own neighborhoods. It draws attention to the evil of abortion through the use of a three-point program: Prayer and fasting, constant vigil, and community outreach.
Priests for Life – PFL represents a family of ministries that reach and enrich every aspect of the pro-life movement, for clergy and laity alike, in a wide variety of activities and outreach programs.
March for Life – Organizes the March for Life in Washington DC every year since 1973. It is the world’s largest pro-life event.
LifeSiteNews.com – A non-profit Internet service dedicated to issues of culture, life, and family. LifeSiteNews.com Daily News reports and information pages are used by numerous organizations and publications, educators, professionals and political, religious and life and family organization leaders and grassroots people across North America and internationally.
Do you know someone or are you someone who has had an abortion? There is hope and healing available from Project Rachel/Hope After Abortion. There are also retreats for post-abortive healing available thru Rachel’s Vineyard.
Cover Photo courtesy of Christine Szeto.