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Death is a difficult topic. Yet seeing it through the eyes of faith opens our hearts to the hope that it marks the entrance into the fullness of eternal life. The Church celebrates All Souls’ Day each November 2 to remind us of the reality of heaven and to remember the dead. We pray for our departed loved ones throughout the month, that we might assist in their purification and help facilitate their passage into the fullness of eternal life.
For those who have been involved in an abortion, November can be particularly heartbreaking. Mothers and fathers may be reminded of their children’s deaths and find it difficult to forgive themselves. Some parents grieve their losses and wonder if their unbaptized children are in heaven.
The Church teaches us to hope in salvation for unbaptized children, whether they died through miscarriage, abortion, or another reason. She offers comfort for grieving parents and provides the support they need to entrust their children to God’s loving care and to deepen their relationship with the Father of Mercies.
The Catechism says “As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: ‘Let the little children come to me, do not hinder them,’ allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism” (CCC 1261).
For those who may have been involved in some way in the loss of their child, a diocesan-based Project Rachel Ministry can assist. Those feeling guilt, shame and regret due to an abortion can turn to the confidential guidance and support of ministry team members, who are priests, laypeople, or mental health professionals. The ministry helps grieving mothers and fathers to reconcile with the Lord and establish relationships with their children through prayer. Some parents experience a sense of having been forgiven by their child. And, as we are reminded each November, our prayers help those who have died, and they can also pray for us.
Through prayer and the sacraments, we connect not only to our Father, who is boundless in mercy, but also to those for whom we have hope of salvation. Remember St. John Paul II’s words to women who’ve had an abortion: “The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To the same Father and his mercy you can with sure hope entrust your child” (Evangelium Vitae, #99).
As members of the body of Christ, the Church, we are an Easter people, living with the hope given to us by Christ’s Resurrection, His victory over sin and death. We are called to bear witness to the gift of every life, no matter how brief or small. This November, remember that every unbaptized child who has died can be entrusted to God’s loving mercy. Let us pray especially that parents of aborted children are blessed with the hope of being reunited with them in heaven one day.
Mary McClusky is Assistant Director for Project Rachel Ministry Development at the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. For confidential help after abortion, visit www.hopeafterabortion.org or www.esperanzaposaborto.org.
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