Healing is found in God's mercy
"My daughter, know that my heart is mercy itself. From this sea of mercy, graces flow out upon the whole world. No soul that has approached me has ever gone away unconsoled. All misery gets buried in the depths of my mercy, and every saving and sanctifying grace flows from this fountain ... Sooner would heaven and earth turn into nothingness than would my mercy not embrace a trusting soul."
These words from the Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska are a beautiful expression of God's Divine Mercy, which we celebrated April 7. For those who suffer from a past abortion, however, God's mercy can seem incomprehensible.
Personal and intensely emotional stories of women struggling with a past abortion give testament to this sad reality. I've received such letters in my office and many others can be seen on post-abortion websites such as www.hopeafterabortion.com (Project Rachel). Here is an excerpt from one of those letters:
"My personal journey of healing began after six long years of the most deafeningly silent pain ... I remember during those dark years, I would wake up each morning, and for a few brief seconds, all was well. Then I would remember what I had done. The grief was all-consuming. But, like so many other women, I kept it locked inside. I had accepted my fate. I was unforgiveable.
"The enormity of what I had done actually made my steps heavier ... I cried alone almost daily. For brief periods I could take my mind off of it. Sometimes I would even forget long enough to try and enjoy a comedy at the movies, but then mid-laughter I'd remember and my laughing would stop because, well, I didn't deserve to laugh.
"Growing up in a Catholic family that attended Mass every Sunday, I never expected that I, of all people, would be in this situation. I convinced myself that I had committed an unforgiveable act. I felt utterly alone. I desperately needed to connect with other women who were suffering as I was, and I longed to be the woman I used to be.
"And then one fateful Sunday morning during Mass, my husband handed me a church bulletin, pointing out the words on the back: 'Project Rachel - a program for post-abortion healing through the archdiocese.' I couldn't believe my eyes.
"It took me several months to muster up the nerve to call. I had done a fine job of beating myself up for years and I certainly didn't need the person on the other end of the phone to make me feel any worse. But, when I finally called, it was not like that at all. The voice on the other end was warm and full of hope for me. My journey of healing began on the day that I made that phone call.
"Thanks to Project Rachel, I am me again ... The power of forgiveness is life altering. I am happy again, and the people whom I love sense that. I will always regret my decision, and I will continue to carry my quiet secret with me. It has become a part of who I am, but it no longer defines who I am."
Project Rachel is comprised of specially trained clergy and professional counselors who provide individual, confidential counseling and reconciliation to women and men suffering from a past abortion. In Nebraska, Project Rachel can be accessed by calling 1-888-456-HOPE (4673). Information on Project Rachel and abortion's emotional and spiritual aftermath is also available online at www.hopeafterabortion.com.
In his 2009 homily on the Feast of Ss. Peter and Paul, Pope Benedict XVI cautioned that "without the healing of souls, without the healing of man from within there can be no salvation for humanity. How essential then to the mission of the church are the pastoral and apostolic activities that draw women and men burdened by the sin of abortion closer to God's merciful heart. It is no exaggeration to say that the church's ministry of healing and reconciliation after abortion is at the heart of the church's mission at this time in her history."
Greg Schleppenbach is the state director of the Bishops' Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities. Contact him at email@example.com.