by Friar Jim Van Vurst, O.F.M.
Last month, my column was on abortion and why it is so wrong. But to
talk only about the moral evil and then neglect the care of those who have experienced
abortion would be a terrible mistake—one that goes contrary to the compassionate
Jesus we read about in the gospels.
In my work on AmericanCatholic.org, I have heard more than a few
times from a woman who had an abortion and has written in deep anguish with reflections
such as: “Father, do you think I can ever be forgiven? How can I face God with what
I did? I try to push out of my mind any thought of the fetus which was in me. I’m
afraid even to think of it or what it must think of me.” If there is guilt in this
world, surely this post-abortion pain must be one of the most difficult kinds to bear.
But let’s begin with a very important truth. What do you think
happens, eternally speaking, to all the millions of aborted fetuses? And we should include
here all unintended miscarriages also. We must be careful not to quote Scripture and say, “But
Jesus said you have to be baptized to be saved” (Mk 16:16). A scriptural statement
like that is never an absolute. It is one thing for a person to knowingly reject baptism;
he is responsible for his decision. But aborted and miscarried infants are incapable of
making such a choice. They are totally and completely guiltless. The Catechism of the
Catholic Church 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 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).
There is a basic moral truth here: No one can be deprived of the heavenly
vision of God because of the sin or act of another. Ask mothers who have had a miscarriage.
They will tell you very strongly that their child is in heaven. There is no reason for
it not to be. The same applies to any aborted fetus. God made each human for eternal life
with him. An infant, baptized or not, a fetus, aborted or miscarried, is taken to eternal
life with the Lord.
But what about the relationship between a woman and her aborted fetus?
One woman, who had had multiple abortions in her late teens and early adult life, wrote
me years later. She wondered without much hope what she could possibly do. She did not
think she was worthy of such a relationship. What she learned in our correspondence changed
her whole life.
Regardless of how an aborted fetus’ life ended, the fetus and mother
still keep that relationship—mother and child. The fetus in heaven sees all, knows
all and understands all. That is part of a person’s union with God. The fetus loves
its mother because it knows God’s love and forgiveness, and in heaven there is nothing
but love and forgiveness. So, I urged her to begin talking to her little ones who look
upon the face of God. I assured her they could hear her, they loved her and they wanted
her not to be afraid to love them. In God’s plan, how could it be any other way?
I told her that there was total forgiveness and that, in fact, she should pray to the little
ones for their help and their intercession. It was something she never thought could happen
or that she would even dare to hope for because of what she had done. But then, what is
forgiveness all about if not that?
And I went further. I suggested that she name the little ones so that
they who were in perfect union with God could be part of her life again (she was now married
with children). She wrote back saying she had named her little ones and told them how much
she loved them. She experienced a tremendous sense of forgiveness, and, as healing began,
realized a whole new relationship of love with her four children. She no longer ran from
the thought of them; rather she ran to them each day in prayer. I think the angels in heaven
rejoiced that day she first told them that she loved them.
Fortunately today, there are many groups that help women struggling with
the aftermath of abortion, and in their work they are expressing the mercy and love of
God for them. They are involved in a most gospel-like healing work of Jesus. We are grateful
for their ministry.
(Next month: A special word for those mothers who gave birth to their
child and made the very difficult decision to place their infant for adoption.)
respond to Friar Jacks musings on St.
Francis Comes to San Francisco.
Dear Friar Jack: St. Francis in San Francisco is a most
wonderful story! I have ordered a copy for my daughter, who is wholly beautiful to behold
and bright as an evening star. My misgivings? I am an author who has written several beautiful
biblical stories for children, yet cannot find a publisher for these most worthy stories
(and for children to read them). Joseph
Dear Joseph: Thank you for your kind words. I hope your daughter
likes the book. It is very difficult to give directions to someone seeking to publish a
children’s book, especially in a small space such as this. Try doing a Google search
on “How to publish a children’s story.” Or maybe some kind soul, in response
to your e-mail, will direct you to a book or resource that could help you. I am certainly
keeping you and all the readers of Friar Jack’s E-spirations in my prayers. Friar
Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.