By Cindy Robertson
Come to the waters
It’s January — the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. It’s October — Respect Life month. A woman privately asks her pastor if he would please remove the posters depicting the stages of development of an unborn baby. A man discretely covers the pamphlets with similar photos on the pro-life table in the back of church when no one is looking.
At the same time, the business cards for A Haven for Healing, the newly diocesan-approved Bible study tailor designed for women and men suffering from an abortion, are gradually being picked up, one by one.
With hope, the post-abortive woman or man may ponder, “Dare I break my silence, reveal my suffering heart and soul, hope for someone who will listen, understand and walk with me through this quagmire? Dare I fathom that someone could patiently help lead me to forgiveness, freedom and peace?”
As Jesus’ heart has been opened and revealed for mercy, A Haven for Healing invites those who feel trapped in the painful past to open their hearts with the carefully trained team and others who have experienced abortion in their lives. It may be time for many to respond to Jesus’ offer of love, understanding and mercy, especially as the Church prepares to enter a year of Divine Mercy, as called for by Pope Francis. Jesus invites and offers comfort to all when He says, “Let not your hearts be troubled.”
A Haven for Healing is a Catholic outreach of hospitality and healing. Through a community of love and acceptance, a warm welcome is extended to all post-abortive women and men to participate in this confidential support group. Together, team members and participants share prayer, Scripture, exercises from an experiential manual and fellowship embracing the journey of healing.
St. John Paul II, in his encyclical, “Gospel of Life,” has encouraging words for those harmed by abortion: “The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give into discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you His forgiveness and His peace in the sacrament of Reconciliation. You will come to understand that nothing is definitively lost and you will be able to ask forgiveness from your child, who is now living in the Lord. With the friendly … help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life.”
As the pontiff saint emphasizes, the sacrament of Reconciliation offers grace, counsel, forgiveness and peace; therefore, the Haven team includes a priest with a heart for this ministry who will provide opportunities for Confession. It is further comprised of a professional counselor, as well as post-abortive and non-abortive women. All team members offer a listening ear and confidentiality with a non-judgmental heart. The team works together with participants to uncover and understand choices and their consequences, pain and its manifestation and needs and their fulfillment, all leading to forgiveness of self and others. The invitation of Jesus to ask and seek is accepted with trust so that the Holy Spirit may be sent to heal the whole person — body, soul, heart and mind — of the many negative side effects of abortion. The Holy Spirit is invoked so that participants may find true relief in the acknowledgement of the natural need to address profound loss — to grieve an irreplaceable child, to mourn the intrinsic loss of identity and self-worth that often accompanies this choice, to lament the change in relationships, to regret various levels of physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual decline.
May the Church and all members throw open the doors of mercy and forgiveness to those who regret their abortions. May the prayers of the faithful resound as a welcoming appeal to many whose silent suffering has been too frequently ignored. As the crippled man in the Gospel needed someone to carry him to the healing waters, may the Church and its members encourage its daughters and sons to accept the available support and friendship.
All in need are invited to A Haven for Healing, which meets at a confidential location in downtown South Bend, Monday nights from 6:30-8:30 p.m. starting again on Aug. 24. Contact A Haven for Healing at this confidential phone number: 574-514-7471. Other opportunities for healing include one-on-one meetings or a weekend retreat.
Jesus asks, “Do you want to get well?” (Jn 5:1-15)
Cindy Robertson is a companion of A Haven for Healing.
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