Editor’s note: Below is the fourth and final installment of the Herald’s four-part series on ways that the Church can minister to those who have suffered miscarriage or infant loss.
In July 2019, Dr. Leana Wen, the only president in the history of Planned Parenthood to possess the title of “physician,” took one step too far for her employer when she wrote a moving and provocative op-ed in the Washington Post about her miscarriage. In this article, Wen spoke of her miscarried child as a human being, the biggest “no-no” in the abortion industry. Less than 2-weeks later, she was ousted by the board of Planned Parenthood. This was after just 8-months of using her role to push for the organization to live up to its own lies and offer actual health care services to women, not just abortion.
You see, you don’t call a preborn child anything other than a name that dehumanizes them when you work in the abortion industry. You can’t legally kill human beings and still call yourself a champion of health and human rights. You can however, “remove undeveloped fetal tissue” — at least according to the abortion industry. But we know better, as Catholics and as people of life.
If we, as a society, acknowledge the personhood of our miscarried children by carrying out the appropriate corporal works of mercy like burial and funeral masses, we must also acknowledge the personhood of aborted children. The enemy, Satan doesn’t want us to do that though, because he uses abortion and the Culture of Death to rob Heaven of more saints. It is also the work of Satan, infiltrating our hearts, and whispering lies to the faithful, that has allowed the silence around miscarriage and infant loss to continue.
Fellow Catholics, it is time to disarm the enemy, and break the silence. Our children are loved and cherished, in the womb and in our arms, on earth and in Heaven. We know this. Now let us show them, and our very confused world, just how much.
We can accomplish this by living out our miscarriage and infant losses in a manner that puts a spotlight on the true humanity of the tiniest and most vulnerable among us. What do we do for the faithfully departed? We bury them and in accordance with our Catholic faith, we celebrate Mass with the Funeral liturgy.
Our miscarried and stillborn infants are babies who have died before baptism. The Roman Missal gives us multiple rites for them. It is therefore just that we avail ourselves of these rites, whether for a Funeral or Memorial Mass, to properly commend our precious children to the Lord, and to assist the bereaved in the healing process. We know that it is better to give than to receive. When we give, by living out the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, we receive far more as the giver, through the graces poured out on us from Heaven. Once again, the enemy wants to keep us from receiving those graces, but we cannot give him that satisfaction.
In the case of a recent loss, you may ask your pastor to celebrate this Mass for your family, but as we have expressed earlier in this series, a lapse in time of months or years, even decades, does not exclude you from seeking out healing in the Mass. It is never too late! With that in mind, the Diocese of Colorado Springs along with our neighbors in the Archdiocese of Denver offer many Memorial Mass opportunities that we’d like you to know about.
On Sept. 15 of this year, the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, St. Benedict Parish in Falcon celebrated its first Miscarriage and Infant Loss Mass. With a beautiful image of the Seven Sorrows of Mary for a backdrop, those in attendance were also given the opportunity to light a candle for their departed children.
Mount Olivet Cemetery in Wheat Ridge celebrates a monthly memorial Mass for families who have lost their child to any kind of infant loss, as part of their Precious Lives Burial ministry. Upcoming Memorial Masses will be celebrated on Dec. 15, 2021, and Jan.19 and Feb. 16, 2022. Holy Apostles Parish in Colorado Springs honors the National Day of Remembrance of Pregnancy and Infant Loss with a “Wave of Light” candle lighting, in union with many others across the country.
The Diocese of Colorado Springs celebrates the Mass of the Holy Innocents, also with a candle lighting for anyone who has experienced infant loss whether from abortion, miscarriage, stillbirth or SIDS. There are hundreds of attendees each year, a testament to the desire and the need of the faithful to honor and celebrate their tiny Saints in Heaven. If you wish to attend, this year the Mass of the Holy Innocents will be celebrated at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 28 at St. Peter Parish in Monument.
It is the hope of the Respect Life Apostolate to help expand the availability of these memorial masses, to offer them more frequently through the year and across the region to ensure greater access to families who desire to seek healing in the Mass.
The Funeral Mass we celebrated for our daughter was private, with just one friend able to be in attendance. Our son spent the mass climbing up my husband’s back, a neon-orange-colored peanut butter cracker threatening to stain the white altar linens. Our youngest, whined for her nap, piercing the otherwise quiet sanctuary. Our eldest tried to help Mommy with her baby sister, and I couldn’t quite hear all of the parts of the liturgy in my distraction. It was imperfection made perfect though, because our Lord fulfilled His promises of healing and communion in the Blessed Sacrament.
The Mass has never been the same for me since that day, especially when I hear the words during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, “And so, with the Angels and all the Saints we declare your glory . . . ” Heaven and earth quite literally come together during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The Mass is Heaven on Earth. And Jesus Christ really is there in the Holy Eucharist, with all the angels and saints, including His Blessed Mother Mary.
We are convinced that our daughter Bernadette Marie is a Saint in Heaven now, and that means she is there with us in the Mass. I cannot see her beautiful ice blue eyes. I cannot see her brown ringlets bounce as she cuddles next to me in the pew. I cannot see Jesus in the tiny consecrated Host either. And yet He is there.
If we dare to listen to the lies of the enemy regarding our miscarried, stillborn or even aborted children, what graces are we denying ourselves? What healing and reconciliation are we missing out on? What part of the sanctification process are we lacking? It is in this way, that the enemy threatens to use our pain to pull us away from our Lord and our God. We mustn’t let him do this! We mustn’t let him keep us from coming to Christ, not for a moment.
Please, come to Our Lord in the Mass as you grieve and heal from the loss of your child. The Great Physician is ready and waiting to heal you in time, through the Sacraments.
For additional help and support during or after a miscarriage or infant loss please visit the new Diocesan Miscarriage and Infant Loss Support Ministry website at https://www.diocs.org/Pastoral-Services/Respect-Life/Miscarriage-Support-Ministry. For post-abortive help and healing please visit https://www.diocs.org/Respect-Life/Post-Abortion-Healing.
(Ashley and Bill Slack are members of St. Benedict Parish in Falcon.)