By Mary McClusky
many others, I have been looking forward to the Papal Mass in St. Peter's
Square as part of the Year of Faith's "Celebration of Evangelium Vitae: Faithful
to Life," a two-day celebration of Pope Blessed John Paul II's encyclical
on the Gospel of Life. As I began to
wonder what message Pope Francis might deliver on June 16 at his first papal
Mass dedicated to the cause of life, my mind drifted back to a muggy day in St.
Louis, MO fourteen years ago.
I was part of a
pro-life prayer and witness walk across the country during my summer college
break.While we were out for dinner at a
pub one night, I went to the bar to refill my drink and accidentally bumped into
a woman.When I apologized, she asked me
about our group. At my reply, her indignation was apparent: "What do a bunch of
Catholic college kids know about abortion? Have you ever had one?" I admitted that I hadn't and didn't know anyone
who had. She said, "Well, it's easy to preach about something you don't know
anything about. But until you've walked in a woman's shoes, you won't
I admitted that it probably did seem like I thought I had all the answers, and
that I had no first-hand knowledge of what an abortion is like, "Louise" opened
up to me and told me she'd had three abortions over the course of two long and
never forget the despondency in her voice as she gripped her half-empty beer
glass and asked, "Who's going to marry me now?" It broke my heart to hear her say
that despite having a good career, many friends, and an apartment in the city, she
still felt unlovable and unworthy because of her past. Shame and guilt kept her
from having any hope of finding love and getting married.
listened and told "Louise" that God loved her, and that he could forgive
anything. Although we never spoke again, she opened my eyes to the wound that
abortion inflicts on a woman's heart and soul.
John Paul II recognized this wound by including a "special word to women
who have had an abortion" in Evangelium
Vitae (no. 99). He encouraged them
to trust in God's mercy, promising them hope, peace and healing, especially through
the sacrament of reconciliation.
Year of Faith event in Rome will celebrate, affirm, and encourage all those who
sacrifice time and energy tending to the needs of those who are elderly,
disabled, sick, unborn, or dying, or to those who suffer in any way. Evangelium Vitae's special words to
post-abortive women remind us that it is also vital for advocates of the Gospel
of Life to reach out in love and support to post-abortive women and all those
affected by abortion.
pilgrims from across the world gather with Pope Francis for what he called "a
special moment especially for those who care about the defense of the sanctity
of human life," may we unite with them in prayer and remember the special needs
of women who have experienced an abortion. Let us pray that we might see Christ
in them, lovingly offer them hope for relief of their pain and suffering, and
bring to them God's special message of mercy, hope and healing.
someone you know has been affected by abortion, she (or he) can find help and a
referral to a listening ear and compassionate heart at a local Project Rachel
ministry by visiting www.hopeafterabortion.com.
Mary McClusky is Special Projects Coordinator at the
Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. To
learn more about the bishops' pro-life activities, go to www.usccb.org/prolife.