Editor’s note: We bring you this reflection in honor of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (September 14), which celebrates the triumph of the Cross as the instrument of our redemption, and the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows (September 15), which commemorates Mary’s compassion as she shared spiritually in her divine Son’s redemptive suffering. “As Mary stood at the foot of the Cross on which Jesus hung, the sword of sorrow Simeon had foretold [Luke 2:35] pierced her soul” (“Ordinary Time: September 15th,” CatholicCulture.org).
We are commanded by God to love one another: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (John 13:34). And He tells us, “If anyone says, ‘I love God’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God Whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20).
I set out for a nearby abortion business, to pray to end the tragedy of abortion—to pray against the darkness and evil that has been preying, for a generation, upon the nations and their people. But what began as simply an outing to pray became a test of my own heart.
Preparing for battle
With my crucifix in hand, I asked God to ready me to accept His grace and empty me so that I could receive His love, for I know I am a rebellious woman. My rebellion has taken many forms in my life, ranging from anger to pride to control. How could I stand outside this place of death and destruction, and receive from God the prayers I was meant to pray unless He would rid me of the weaknesses that constantly threatened to consume me?
Here, at this abortion facility and in others that dot our country’s landscape, a great evil has taken millions of lives, and has scarred the bodies and hearts of countless women. And I prayed from memory, “O send out Your light and Your truth” (Psalm 43:3).
Then I read from my Bible, “Lord, avenging God, avenging God, shine forth! Rise up, O Judge of the earth; give the proud what they deserve! … Can unjust judges be Your allies, those who create burdens by decree, those who conspire against the just and condemn the innocent to death?” (Psalm 94:1, 20’21).
The enemy’s bold move
My hand tightened around my Bible and my jaw became set. What began with Scripture made a dangerous turn—for the enemy knows Scripture too. And he entered into that space, and he tempted me. And the hatred I had kept hidden away in some secret corner of my heart was unleashed.
I stood face to face with the darkness that had taken up residence in my heart all these years. I saw the abortionist who took my baby’s life standing before me. He was a faceless creature—for I had never seen his face. I had been asleep when he applied his cruel instruments. We were all lined up together—many women, many beds. My blood, their blood, and the blood of our children spilled in that room as our babies were ripped from our bodies.
And my hatred for this man rose to such a level that I was beginning to enjoy the feeling, enticing it to keep filling me. “God, do you see this man?” I cried. “Such a coward, he could not show his face to me! For he took my baby and then took my money, and called it a day’s work.” I got up close to the abortionist’s empty face. “Look at me,” I demanded, “you with no face!” I was so angry and I screamed at him, “You are filthy! I despise you!”
Trembling, with crucifix in hand, I glanced down and saw my Lord. He was crying. He told me that He cried for me. And I suspected what He was asking of me. I defiantly told Him, “Do not cry for me! I have admitted my own guilt; I have confessed. Is this not enough? Do NOT ask me to do this also—to forgive!” Christ reached out to offer the gift of His healing, but I refused it, for hatred had anesthetized me and I wanted only to be consumed by it. I was slipping away into the great darkness that swallows men up.
God’s great gift, unleashed
My crucifix had been given to me by a brother in Christ who had been the first to pray for the healing of my abortion. And now I see that God had preserved this great gift for this moment. The power of the Crucifixion, the power of the prayers prayed over me, the richness of Christ’s grace—which is the doorway to the Father—all spoke for me at that moment. I could not speak to God myself, for I no longer recognized Him.
This brother had taught me about God’s love, and it was his prayers still living within me that preserved me. I started to understand and accept what would be required of me to live out the commandment “You shall love one another.” But to love with the heart of Christ would require great obedience.
I had a daughter whom I loved very much, but I gave her up to the enemy and the cruelty of this world [see our May-June 2009 issue]. In my own sinful heart, I sacrificed her. How many times, in my mind, had I tried to piece back together her tiny body—to make her whole in my eyes, to know her as God knows her! Oh, how many layers of wounds still lingered within my fragile heart! And here I was, once again filled with intense anger. I feared what that hatred would do to my heart. I cried out to God, “Why is this happening to me?”
And He said, “Trust in Me. I want to heal you; I want to make you whole.” And so, by the power of those prayers that had been prayed years ago, I cried out, asking Christ to help me. I prayed as He taught me: “Help me; have mercy on me, a sinner.” And He reminded me that the help would come through His strength alone. Still desperate for answers, I pleaded, “Where is the peace I’m seeking?”
Mary at my side
The fulfillment of the commandment to love can be found at the foot of the Cross. It was there I stood while I prayed at the abortion facility that day. And it was then and there that the desire to love finally entered my heart.
I know another mother who lost her Child to the cruelty of this world. She stood valiantly at the foot of the Cross as He died, and she was with me outside the abortion facility that day. Somehow she must have known how much I needed a mother. I asked dearest Mother Mary about those who killed her Son, and I asked her how she could bear it and how she could accept it. I asked her many questions.
Unrighteous anger seeks to destroy life, and it set out to destroy my heart. But by God’s grace and His alone, the pain in my heart was transformed. Christ filled me with compassion for this man—this faceless abortionist whose heart had been deceived and turned to stone. And I pitied him. Christ tells us to love our enemies and to pray for them (Luke 6:27’28). So, while standing next to Mary at the foot of the Cross—with a mother who knows and understands my pain—I prayed as Christ did: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).