Standing Up to the Bullies
By Father Jason Keas
On Sept. 9, our diocese celebrated The National Day of Remembrance for Aborted Children. It was a beautiful day as the faithful came to pray and stand with those who are healing from an abortion. Together we remembered their children and prayed for an end to abortion and the violence abortion creates against both child and parent.
I am a priest who ministers to women and men seeking healing and forgiveness from abortion through the Project Rachael healing ministry. As a member of the Project Rachel team, I have listened to countless, heart-wrenching abortion stories. Each story is unique, but over the years I have noticed a common thread in most. The majority of women feel they were bullied or coerced into making their decision to have an abortion, and then they felt they had to endure the violence, pain, loss and shame because “they deserved it.” They tell me no one was there to stand up for them or with them.
I remembered this as I was preparing my homily for Mass on Sept. 9. The gospel reading was Luke 6:1-5. In this Gospel, Jesus watches as the disciples are bullied and harassed by the Pharisees for not following the rules of the Sabbath by plucking heads of grain and eating them. What did Jesus do? Did he ignore the situation, and perhaps think, “Well, I’m not the one who sinned”? No! Jesus stood up to the bullies and defended his disciples! Who is standing up to the abortion bullies of today? The bullies are telling women that abortion is needed in order to be personally and financially responsible, for complete health care, and for their right to reproductive choice. When a woman believes this rhetoric and subjects herself to the violence of abortion, all of the loud bullies are silent. When a woman is hurting emotionally and spiritually after the abortion, the bullies dismiss her for making a big deal out of nothing. We need to be the people standing up to the abortion bullies.
First, we need to stand up and protect women from abortion. Our diocese has a new program called “Walking with Moms in Need.” Training is provided by our Respect Life Apostolate and now is the perfect time to get involved to start a program in your parish.
Second, we need to be the healing community that journeys with women and men who are suffering from an abortion, often feeling that they were trapped into choosing something they did not want. During the eight-week Project Rachel program, participants are allowed to finally grieve the loss of their child and learn to forgive themselves. Jesus is with us as we weep together, listening to the story that they have never told anyone. Through prayer and reflection participants meet the love of Jesus and meet their children. I have seen Jesus heal souls once burdened and wounded, who now can authentically smile with joy for the first time in 20, 30, or 40 years! They can now believe that they are forgiven and experience the deep contentment they truly deserve.
So many souls are still suffering today in invisible prisons because there is no one to stand up for them. Our silence is bullying them into suffering alone. Statistics show that one in four women will have had an abortion by the age of 40. Statistically, that means that the people who are suffering likely sit next to you at church or talk with you at a Bible study. We are the people who need to welcome women and men who have been hurt by abortion to seek healing. The Catholic Church clearly states that abortion is wrong, but it also says that the sin of abortion can be forgiven and that penitents deserve to be lead to the healing arms of Jesus. I am honored to be trusted with their stories of suffering and to see the many miracles of healing.
It is very difficult for people to reach out for healing. Often, they have been bullied into believing they don’t deserve to heal and their guilt and shame prevent them from sharing their darkest secret. They need our prayers and encouragement to know that non-judgmental Christians are here to defend and love them. Begin praying today for our brothers and sisters that they have the courage to start talking to others about what they are suffering. Be prepared and know what to do if someone shares with you that they have had an abortion. Stop everything and be fully present to them and listen to their story. Keep in mind that it probably took years for them to gather up the courage to talk to you. After listening to them, encourage them to call or text Project Rachel at 719-203-8112 and continue to love and support them. Jesus is here to defend and love all who are suffering. May they have the courage to listen for his voice and come to him.
(Father Jason Keas is pastor of Divine Redeemer Parish and a member of the Project Rachel Healing Ministry Team. He can be reached at 719-633-5559, ext. 333.)