This January 22 marks the anniversary of the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in the “Roe v. Wade” case, a decision which legalized abortion throughout the United States. This is thus an occasion to strengthen our efforts to try to stop abortion. At the same time, this anniversary gives occasion for us to do something else also very important, namely, honor the tens of millions (over 60 million!) of precious unborn in our land who have already lost their lives through abortion since our Supreme Court, in effect, issued their death sentences on January 22, 1973, that day that will forever live in utter infamy.
While all pro-lifers have a love for the unborn who have lost their lives through abortion, nobody has as much of a heart for these precious treasures from God as a woman, a mother, who has had an abortion, and of which she now deeply repents. (Similar things can be said of a repentant and/or grieving post-abortive father, but for various reasons, I will focus on the post-abortive mother in this article ).
This truth never hit home for me more than when I attended a “Rachel’s Vineyard” retreat this last year, a retreat which helps repentant post-abortive mothers experience healing from the indescribably painful wound that they in their maternal hearts suffered from their abortions. For the post-abortive mother, the issue of abortion is no longer a merely political, legal, or moral issue. Rather, it is a personal, a deeply personal issue, and an issue that actually carries with it a name, the name of a person, a real person: the name of her own beloved child. For, part of the healing process for many a post-abortive mother includes giving a name to her baby lost by abortion.
Thus, for the post-abortive mother who now deeply regrets her past decision, the issue of abortion is no longer consigned to the sphere of the abstract and impersonal. Rather, the issue of abortion now hits her, deeply in her loving and repentant mother’s heart, with a name—the name of a person, of her child—a name such as Michael ‘Mikey’ Joseph, or Angelica ‘Angie’ Mary, or Isaiah, or Cody, or Aaron, or Norbert, or Alan, or any other name that a post-abortive mother might give to her child who died by abortion. (In fact, the names just given are names of real babies who died by abortion, and whose mothers have given me permission to give these names for the sake of honoring their beloved children.)
In other words, a repentant post-abortive mother has a heart—a real, loving, mother’s heart—for her beloved unborn child whose life was taken by the abortion for which she now would do anything, even die a million painful deaths, to undo in order to bring her beloved child back to life and to show him or her the love, the indescribably deep love, which she now has for him or her.
While many lessons can be learned from this (including recognizing the indescribable pain and harm that abortion inflicts upon women!), one very important lesson that each person can learn from the repentant post-abortive mother is the following: The unborn who have lost their lives through abortion ought never to be forgotten, but rather they ought in various ways to be loved and honored by us. For while it is true that nobody can love these unborn like their own mothers—for no love is like a mother’s love, and the repentant post-abortive mother truly does have a renewed mother’s love for her child whose life was taken by abortion, but which child she has now re-claimed as her very own—the rest of us can still have a sincere, heart-felt, and tender love for the unborn whose lives have been lost, who have been taken from us, by abortion.
These little ones truly belong also to us, to all of us. They are our brothers and sisters; they are the sons and daughters of those who were seduced by the world into believing that abortion was a good thing for them; and for us priests, in particular, these precious little ones are the children of our spiritual sons and daughters, for post-abortive men and women are truly, to us priests, dear spiritual sons and daughters whom we love with the merciful affection of Christ Jesus. For these reasons, all of us ought to have, like the post-abortive mother, a heart, a real heart for the beloved unborn who have lost their lives, who have been taken from us, by abortion.
How Should We Show Love To The Unborn?
Now, how should we show this love for the unborn who have died, been killed, by abortion?
The first thing we can do to show a heartfelt love for these unborn is simply to remember them. The post-abortive woman cannot help but frequently remember her aborted child, and to remember this child by name and with love, even if with some continued sorrow and sadness. While the rest of us may not have exactly that sort of deep and loving connection with the unborn as the post-abortive mother does, nevertheless the rest of us can and should every now and then, such as on the occasion of the Roe v. Wade anniversary, remember these children who became sadly victims of the “War Against the Unborn” which is being waged upon them by our “culture of death.”
Besides simply remembering these unborn, there is due to them what is due to every person on the occasion of death, namely, mourning. The poor unborn, whose lives are taken from them in such a grievously unjust (not to mention painful and barbaric) manner are all too often not properly mourned. Most of these most innocent and defenseless of victims, whose lives were taken from them by abortion, do not have fitting gestures given by us to them in death. The unborn often are not honored with proper memorials or funerals, and we usually do not do such things as hang our flags at half-staff in their honor (even though, given the fact that in our nation 4000 unborn are killed each day by abortion, we would be justified in hanging our flags at half-staff for them every day!). While yes, life does go on for us, the fact is that every now and then we owe these beloved unborn our grief, our mourning, and even our tears. We owe it to them to honor them and to make reparation for the sins committed against them and for our part in these sins against them, for by our sins we all have played a part in promoting the “culture of death” which has not only allowed but even encouraged men and women to take the lives of their precious unborn through abortion. Our pain, our grief, our mourning, our tears honor, they truly honor, our beloved unborn. They, just as human as we are, deserve this from us.
Lastly, I say that we can and should love these unborn by praying for them, by entrusting them to the mercy of God and, recognizing that they died without Baptism, by praying for their salvation. We trust that God in His goodness will at the very least grant these beloved creations of His a perfect natural happiness beyond any happiness they would ever have experienced in this world. But, we also can, and I believe should, pray that God by a special dispensation of His power and mercy may grant to them the perfect supernatural happiness of the Beatific Vision. We can, for example, even at this point in time, entrust to the Blessed Mother those children who have already been killed by abortion. And, as God is outside of time, He can if He wills hear our and the Blessed Mother’s prayers for them. Applying these prayers in past time to the children while they were still alive in the womb, He can grant them, if He wills, sanctification in the womb, even as He utilized the Virgin’s voice to sanctify St. John the Baptist in the womb. This sanctification would enable them to experience the supernatural happiness of the Beatific Vision after their deaths. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation…The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude…[But] God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.
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. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children from coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.
With respect to children who have died without Baptism, the liturgy of the Church invites us to trust in God’s mercy and to pray for their salvation.
(Catechism of the Catholic Church; nos. 1257, 1261, 1283; emphases in original)
Thus may this anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision be a time in which we not only strengthen our efforts to stop abortion, but also just as vigorously take time to love the innocent little ones who have already been killed by abortion by remembering them, by mourning over them, and by prayerfully hoping and hopefully praying that they by a special dispensation of God’s love and mercy may experience the Beatific Vision. In this way, we can show to these beloved treasures the love that is due to them from us.
By Fr. Alan Benander, O. Praem