Tag Archives: pro-life

Lessons learned from St. Gianna (Molla)

gianna_sainthoodApril 28th Feast Day of St. Gianna Molla
Our Gianna’s first hospitalization, even though it was her healthiest, was by far the hardest for me.  During later ones we would have the slim hope of transplant to focus on, but during this one, as they tested the heck out of our little girl, we were coming to grips with the truth. Inside what looked like a normal baby was a liver full of cells that couldn’t make enough energy to keep her alive.  Our baby was going to die. Again.

St. Gianna Molla kept me company during those few days, as I had just received a biography of her for Mother’s Day, a week or two before.  There were two things that stood out to me in this particular account of her life. 

The first was of the very real pain her martyrdom caused her family.  It is easy to gloss over this in saints from eras long past, or for priests or religious even.  But here was Pietro Molla, Gianna’s beloved husband, sharing about how hard it was for him to raise their four children alone.  How hard he tried to protect his kids from the limelight surrounding Gianna’s growing popularity and her cause for canonization.  How awkward it was for him to allow his personal love letters to be published all over the world.  It was hard for him to share his Gianna with the Church, when he would much rather her have just been his unspectacular, non-miracle-working, grocery-shopping, diaper- changing wife!  Yet, he knew she was not his to keep to himself, and so he allowed the process to continue.  In 2004, He and their three surviving children (their daughter Mariolina died a few years after Gianna did) were at her canonization ceremony. Wow.

Our Gianna is also a saint, and I can share some of Pietro’s sentiments: saint-making is tough!  Especially at that moment in time, I did not want to share my Gianna with the Church.  I did not want her to intercede for people or inspire them.  I just wanted her to keep making diapers, and spitting up and wearing cute baby clothes, just like any other normal baby who lives to see their first birthday.   I love St. Gianna Molla, and I am grateful for what she did and who she now is.  But dang, she reminds me how real saints are, and that even when God is doing great and wonderful things, it still sometimes hurts!!

The second thing that struck me from that read of Gianna’s life was her unfailing trust in Providence.  Can you imagine having to decide between giving your baby life and giving her a mother? St. Gianna didn’t want to die. She loved life, and especially her family.  But she trusted God: that He was good as He claimed to be, and that He would take care of her family in her absence.  Pietro talks in that book about the times that were darkest for him and the kids and how he could feel Gianna’s tangible presence.  God did come through… through Gianna. 

And this is where we are left today.  Especially as we navigate the waters of a job search, and ponder the future of our family, we need to hold fast to what St. Gianna taught us: to trust in God’s Providence.  How grateful I am today for both of my St. Gianna’s!

St. Gianna Molla, pray for us!
St. Gianna Marie, pray for us!

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PGD: P.S.

When I shared the previous post with Brad he asked a good question (the kind you can tell the asker already has an answer ready for):

“What are people who use PGD really after?”

(The correct answer to such a question is always): “What?”

“Perfection.”

His point was not to condemn those seeking such perfection, but to affirm it.  One of the principles of the Theology of the Body, at least in the way that Brad learned it from the TOB Institute, is that most of the motivations of those actively promoting the culture of death are good.  Jesus said, “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”  So, the desire for a baby who is perfect is good.  The motivation for a gay couple wanting to get married? To love and be loved. The motivation for an infertile couple to use a donor egg and sperm and invitro? To be parents. The motivation of a couple who aborts their baby with Downs? To spare the child suffering.  These are good desires!

The trick is, that when we don’t channel our desires properly, they end up getting distorted and ultimately, enslaving us.  It is essential that we keep connected to the Source, so that we can keep our number one desire as God’s will.  It is good for us to remember this principle, though.  When we are dealing with people who are ensnared by the culture of death, we need recognize and affirm the desire of their hearts which is in play.  To scold a man for eating out of a dumpster is not nearly as effective as recognizing his hunger and offering him something more nutritious.  We have the Truth, and He is a living person!  And this Truth, of course, is Jesus Christ, who “reveals man to himself”.  In Him, all our purest and deepest desires will be met.  Let us not settle for cheap imitations, and let’s fast and pray that others may come to know Him, too.

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A Double Grief

Natural Family Planning has done what was promised.  It has been effective in preventing pregnancy, but also for attaining it.  It helps communication, balances out certain aspects of masculinity and feminity, has led to self control and a deeper sense of how our marriage reflects God’s love for the world.  It’s not always easy.  But one thing that was an unexpected blessing of NFP is how it has helped us in our grief.

The outward practice of NFP creates an inner recognition of children as a gift from God.  Christopher West has used the analogy of NFP being like having an understanding that God is always welcome to show up.  Of course, there are times when you specifically invite Him to give a baby, and He can accept or decline.  But when a baby shows up unexpectedly, there is an understanding of welcome there as well. (Contraception, in contrast, is like sending a non-invitation, or a note to God that says specifically, “You are NOT welcome here right now.”)

Okay, so what does this have to do with grief?  I was listening to a discussion on the radio this morning about PGD, the process of identifying characteristics of invitro embryos before implantation, being used more widely for selecting gender and even traits such as eye color or height.  This is symptomatic of a view of “parenthood as a right” that is pandemic in our society.  I couldn’t help but think of the possible tragic situation of a family who, carefully selecting all the traits they desire in a child, perhaps even selectively “reducing” a fetus to optimize results, would end up with a baby in the PICU with unexpected liver failure at 3 months old.  The mitochondrial condition that took our kids was difficult to pinpoint even once we knew they had it.  Both babies were born as healthy as can be, and a doctor who didn’t know Gianna even commented on how healthy she looked just two days before her death.

So PGD can’t predict every disease.  Even if it could, how do you genetically engineer a child not to get hit by a car? Obviously you can’t.  We know there are no guarantees in life.  I think the problem is that someone who approaches parenthood from an illusion of control has a double grief to contend with if a child is lost.  We were by no means flippant at the loss of Peter and Gianna.  We continue to grieve them deeply.  But underlying the process is an understanding that they were gifts from God, and as hard as it is to accept, He has the right to take them back.  I would imagine that for someone who expected that they had covered all their bases, the death of a child comes with underlying anger, bitterness and blame.  Worst of all, I would imagine, would be a resentment toward God.  If I have a right to live my life however I have planned it, then God is the enemy for getting in the way of that plan.  I know from experience that that the grief of losing a child is enough on its own.  The times I have given in to bitterness and anger toward God have made that burden crushingly heavy, since I was cutting myself off from the only source that could heal me.

This is the kind of profound personal trauma that comes from choosing one’s own way apart from God.  Opponents often think pro-lifers like to go around wagging their fingers at heathens because it makes them feel better about themselves.  Perhaps that is true for some, and if so, I hope they repent.  The truth is, an authentically pro-life Christian seeks to help others avoid the same heartache and loss that comes from repeating the sin of the Garden.

For a related post, see “Hunger”.

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Abortion’s Image Problem

I am learning of an unexpected blogging hazard: tag surfing.  This highly addictive form of web surfing connects you to other recent postings that match your own blog’s tags.  One of my tags is “abortion”, so you can imagine the spectrum of ideas presented in various blogs on this topic.  One thread seemed to come up several times in the pro-choice arena is the fact that abortion still gets a bad rap.  Despite the tremendous judicial strides that abortion rights advocates have achieved in the last 36 years, they haven’t been able to shake the stigma.  One article talked about abortionists who keep their profession secret from friends for fear of scorn, who shudder when cars drive slowly past their houses for fear that protesters have followed them home.  Another woman, who had just watched Juno, lamented that the pro-choicers’ lack of such a cool, confident hero likes Juno.  The author of the blog suggested that the author of another blog called “What to Expect When You’re Aborting” might be such a hero for the cause.  I followed the link and read the referenced blog for over an hour.  My conclusion about the abortion image problem? They can’t find a cool, fun poster girl to endorse abortion because there isn’t one.  Abortion isn’t cool, isn’t fun, and people don’t generally like to advertise that they’ve had one.

Except, of course, the author of “What to Expect…”.  She speaks  flippantly and humorously about her experience in hopes of encouraging other women who have had or are considering abortions.  With her experience, she seeks to disprove the pro-lifers’ assertion that abortion is harmful to women.  Her abortion hasn’t left her wounded, but relieved.  She’s happy to get rid of the “womb squid”.  And yet, I would argue, that her story itself proves my point.  She may have been a happy patient at her local Planned Parenthood, but she describes all the other women there are uncomfortable, distant, angry, even weepy.  She described the men there as “small”, pacing around as if in a kind of reverse maternity room.  In the waiting room, no one spoke, except a few mothers yelling at their daughters’ boyfriends.  The staff she encountered was more interested in paperwork and her sedation preferences, than in her as a person.  Even as nonchalant as the author was, even she, when placed on the table, broke down in tears.  I have never been inside a Planned Parenthood clinic before, but this story sounds just like the ones I have heard from women and men who have been clients there. They seem like cold, desperate places.

This is the “right” they have been celebrating for the last 36 years.  Abortion has an image problem because it is against the natural law for a mother to pay someone to vacuum her child out of her womb.  It’s an ugly choice.  Some women are forced into it, some driven to it by desperation, and others, like “What to Expect”, just simply don’t care- even if the Tumor could read poetry or play piano, it was in her body and if she doesn’t want it, it’s gone.  And yet, there is a strong sense in the pro-choicers’ minds that you should be sensitive and compassionate to women having abortions, because even though abortion is a “fundamental right”, they recognize that it is different than getting a tooth out.  And they are right.  It is a horrible decision to have to make.  Maybe I’m wrong, but impression I get from people like “What to Expect” is that they are trying to justify that decision to themselves.

The difference, then, between pro-lifers and our opponents is that while the Planned Parenthood types try to cheerlead their way into believing that this heartbreaking “choice” is somehow helping women, we are calling a spade a spade.  It isn’t the religious wackos outside clinics that bring down judgment on abortionists: it is the act itself.  It is wrong. It devestates women and families at a fundamental level.  And the truly compassionate thing to do is to insist that it stop.

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