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Generation Life St. Louis Pilgrimage

We Were Created By Love, From Love, For Love

This post originally appeared at www.ibelieveinlove.com

I believe in love because we were created by love, from love, for love.

We were married in August, conceived our first child in September, miscarried him in October, and buried him in November. They always said the first year of marriage would be the hardest, but no one could have imagined we’d face all that in just the first three months.

When I found out I was pregnant, I remember being flooded with two strong emotions: fear and commitment. We’d only been married for six weeks, and while we are well aware of where babies come from, to be perfectly honest, the odds of conceiving on the day we did were miniscule. We were surprised that we’d succeeded, and I was overwhelmed because it had happened so soon.

I’ve never felt more empathy for women who wrestle with having an abortion. We had everything we needed to do this, and do this well: we’re in a loving and committed marriage, we both have good, full-time jobs, we bought a house, we have insurance – and I was still terrified by the enormity of what it means to be pregnant.

But equally strong to my feelings of fear was my commitment. Every cell in my body screamed at me to protect this pregnancy. No more alcohol, cut back that caffeine, eat well, sleep well, drink plenty of water… Protect this little person, so wholly dependent on me. Immediately, I was changed – I was no longer just me. I was me, with him growing within me. I was pregnant. I’d become a mom.

After our initial (and, I’ll add, short-lived) panic, we started to dream. We were parents, now, and so we started planning. Names were easy, we’d picked those out before we were even engaged. When will this baby arrive? How does this affect our plans for next summer? How will we decorate the nursery? How will we tell our family and friends?

It turns out that those dreams would be short-lived. Two weeks later, I started bleeding, and my commitment to protecting this pregnancy was covered in fear again. An initial ultrasound, inconclusive – there was no heartbeat, but that might not mean anything, because it might just be too soon. Progesterone to stop the bleeding. Hope. Prayer.

Another ultrasound, four days later – and no change. No growth, no heartbeat. They were positive this was a miscarriage. My body just didn’t know it yet.

And so then grief, and tears, and medication to help my body catch on, to try and aid the natural passing. More bleeding, cramping, and pain. Another agonizing ultrasound three days later to reveal that the medicine hadn’t worked and he was still in there, still not growing, still no heartbeat. A surgery scheduled for three days after that. And then, suddenly, the night before the procedure, intense cramping and a natural end.

I was pregnant, and then I wasn’t.

No one knows what to say to you after a miscarriage, which was fine, because I was in no mood to talk to anyone. I only wanted my husband, and crappy reruns on TV, and to be pregnant again.

I didn’t really want to be pregnant again. I wanted to be pregnant still.

But I was still – and will now forever be – a mom.

Even though our marriage is so young, our miscarriage was an undeniable affirmation that I married the right man.

He was with me at every visit to the doctor. He held me while I cried, and cried with me. He sat with me as the medicine went to work, was by my side when it failed, held my hand as things progressed on their own. He collected what passed every time I used the bathroom, and gathered our baby’s remains for burial.

It was too soon to know for sure that our child was a boy, but we had both felt strongly that he was. Our first son’s name is Pier Giorgio Leininger, and we call him Georgie. He’s named after an Italian businessman and social activist, Pier Giorgio Frassati – a truly great man, the kind we’d hope for our son to be.

My husband built a small wooden box in our basement, with great care, so we would have something dignified to carry our son to the funeral home. When he brought that small box up the stairs, disheartened because the corners weren’t perfectly straight for our son, I hugged him tight. I was glad it wasn’t perfectly done. I hope it’s something he never has to do again.

I believe in love because I have been loved well in my life. By love’s providence, my husband and I found and committed to one another. From our love for one another, we became parents. And as we have grieved, and processed, and prayed, and dreamed again, we have received more love from one another, and from those who love us well, than we’d ever known before.

In my love for this child, I will miss him every day, and grieve, over and over again, with every reminder that he’s no longer here. But for love’s sake, I will do whatever it takes to get myself, my husband, and however many children we might have to heaven – because that’s the only way our family will be whole again.

I believe in love because we were all created by love, from love, and for love. I believe in love because I know that I will see my son again, one day.


Rachel Leininger is the Chastity Educator for the REAP Team, a retreat ministry of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. She is also the author of a LifeTeen book titled “The Next Step: A Catholic Teen’s Guide to Surviving High School” and she’s is recently married to a handsome, faith-filled man named David.

Hope And Mercy Beyond A Single Year

By Stephanie To | Respect Life Apostolate

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Matt. 5:6

Tuesday, September 1, brought us the ninth video from Center for Medical Progress, this time revealing a decade-long relationship between some Planned Parenthood affiliates with tissue procurement companies and more revelations about how Planned Parenthood received financial benefits from these arrangements. Most of us are probably sickened every time new revelations are made, and rightly so, when we consider the callousness with which people are discussing pregnant women and babies in the womb.

Lisa Johnston | lisajohnston@archstl.org | Twitter: @aeternusphoto  130 archdiocesan teens participated in the Office of Youth Ministry’s annual weeklong Project Life service trip.  The teens traveled to Perryville and helped the St. Vincent de Paul ParFor some individuals, however, these videos may bring forth even greater angst because they touch on something very personal – a poignant reminder of their abortion. Imagine having to wonder if your baby ended up being dissected and sold or was discarded in a dumpster. It can be easy to be consumed by feelings of regret, shame, anger, and sadness.

Hope exists, however. It comes in the merciful forgiveness of God. There is no sin so great that God cannot forgive if we but ask. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the priest, acting with the authority of Christ and the Church, is able to forgive sins, washing us clean. The Sacrament allows us to be reconciled with God and with the Church, offering peace and consolation.

On September 1, Pope Francis issued a letter granting all priests the faculties to absolve the sin of abortion for all who seek forgiveness for it during the Jubilee Year of Mercy. By doing so, Pope Francis has made it easier for men and women to be reconciled with the Church. The Archdiocese of St. Louis clarified the matter in a statement on Wednesday:

The priests of the Archdiocese of St. Louis have had the faculty not only to absolve the sin of abortion, but also to remove any other obstacles such as an ecclesiastical censure so that an individual may be fully reconciled to God and to the Church…Women who have received valid absolution for the grave sin of abortion in the archdiocese should be assured of the mercy previously extended to them in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Mercy, in a Christian understanding, should not be merely a passive reception; rather, we are called to be merciful to others. Think of the parable of the unmerciful debtor who, after having his debt forgiven in full, treated his own servant in the opposite manner. (cf. Matt. 18:21-35) As we have been shown great mercy by God who forgives us our sins, whatever they may be, so too should we treat others.

Statistics indicate that one in three women will have an abortion by age 45. For every child lost to abortion, there is also a father involved. Chances are that you will at some point encounter someone who has been directly impacted by an abortion. We should always be mindful of speaking about abortion and those involved in the abortion industry with charity as Christ would. Our ultimate goal should always be the salvation of souls. Our actions and words should reflect that. While we should not condone or participate in sinful action, we must always be compassionate to the people involved.

This is particularly true when we consider the issue of abortion. Statements like “I would never have an abortion” said in a moment of haste can do much to keep someone from seeking forgiveness and healing. Instead of talking about ourselves, we should focus what others need; particularly, compassion, love, and forgiveness. We don’t need to deny the truth of what abortion is, but we should be sensitive and charitable. We should offer resources to men and women who may have been affected by abortion.

Besides the Sacrament of Reconciliation, there are so many free resources available in our Archdiocese for those who have been impacted by an abortion. Project Rachel (for women) and Project Joseph (for men) both offer free, confidential, and professional counseling sessions. Monthly support groups provide a safe place to share your struggles with others who are in a similar situation. Day-long and weekend retreats are offered for a deeper, prayerful healing experience. These resources are available to anyone, regardless of their faith tradition or how long it has been since the abortion occurred. Hope, healing, and forgiveness are available. Simply call 314-792-7565 or email projectrachel@archstl.org.

As we approach the Jubilee Year of Mercy beginning on December 8, let us pray that all men and women who have been affected by an abortion may have the courage to confidently turn to the Lord for mercy and healing now, and for many years in the future.


Click the logos below for more information about Project Rachel and Project Joseph


 

Witness to the Truth

By Stephanie To | Respect Life Apostolate, Archdiocese of St. Louis

She has one of her instruments and she just taps the heart and it starts beating. I’m sitting here and I’m looking at this fetus and its heart is beating and I don’t know what to think.”

Holly O’Donnell, a former procurement technician for StemExpress, LLCIn these words, Holly O’Donnell, a former procurement technician for StemExpress, LLC, describes the sheer horror of what happened in the back rooms of Planned Parenthood. This seventh video, released today, describes fetuses born alive and cut open so that their organs and tissues could be harvested. By far, it is the most graphic and disturbing revelation uncovered. We are seeing an industry that is focused on making money, not on caring for the woman or child.

“Human beings too are creatures of this world, enjoying a right to life and happiness, and endowed with unique dignity,” wrote Pope Francis in his recent encyclical Laudato Si’. Our Holy Father goes on to say:

“On the other hand, it is troubling that, when some ecological movements defend the integrity of the environment, rightly demanding that certain limits be imposed on scientific research, they sometimes fail to apply those same principles to human life. There is a tendency to justify transgressing all boundaries when experimentation is carried out on living human embryos. We forget that the inalienable worth of a human being transcends his or her degree of development.”

The depravity towards human life shown in these videos is offensive in the most profound way. The act of selling the tissue further denigrates the respect that ought to be accorded to human life as well as to the human body after death. As the Missouri Catholic bishops recently stated, “Even the ‘donating’ of fetal body parts from aborted babies is wrong. It compounds the evil of abortion…The unborn child is killed, dismembered and then his or her remains are treated not as sacred, but as if they were a commodity.”

Knowledge of Church teaching on this matter is not enough. Our baptismal call to holiness includes a call to evangelization, to speak the truth in charity. We have an obligation to do what we can to reawaken our culture to the dignity each and every person has from the moment of conception.

Take the time to watch these videos.  Do not turn away simply because it makes you feel uncomfortable; rather, use the sadness and anger you may feel to take constructive steps to end these practices. There are a number of things you can do:

  • Pray and fast for the conversion of hearts and minds. We need to storm heaven with prayers for the conversion of so many in our society who, whether through ignorance or choice, fail to understand the gravity of what happens in an abortion. Ultimately, it is through the God’s grace that women will choose life for their child. It is God’s grace that will convince our elected officials will establish policies that protect the dignity of human life from conception to natural death. It is God’s grace that will convert that those affiliated with the abortion industry.
  • Share this with everyone. The secular media has done a good job trying to keep these videos out of the public eye, but with social media and email, we don’t need to wait for them to do their job. Share these videos on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
  • Be courageous and talk about what these videos show. These videos have armed us with a powerful tool to begin conversations about our cultural values. Are we truly a society that is okay with cutting the face of a 20 week old fetus, a human being that feels pain and has a heartbeat? Should we be funding companies who willfully go against the wishes of the mother by taking her deceased child’s tissue? Is it okay to think of body parts like car parts, simply to be bought and sold?
  • Stand up and show that you are not okay with what is happening. Public rallies and demonstrations are happening in our archdiocese. Attend and voice your support for the truth with your presence. Write letters and op-eds to local news outlets to raise public awareness.
  • Contact your elected representatives. In Missouri, the Senate Interim Committee on the Sanctity of Life has been established to investigate Planned Parenthood’s activities in our state. Contact the senators and thank them for their work. Write to your elected representatives at the state and federal level to encourage them to support other legislation that holds Planned Parenthood accountable for their actions.

Now is the time to be courageous in our witness to the Truth. As Archbishop Robert J. Carlson exhorted in his pastoral letter on evangelization, “The time has come to challenge our culture and ourselves…It is time for us to stop conforming to the world and accommodating the culture, and time for us to start transforming them.” Working together, we can transform our culture so that what is shown in these videos will never happen again.