“I was clutching onto the steering wheel with both hands. I was holding onto a 29-year-old sin that was strangling me. I didn’t know where to begin.”Carey
After two abortions Carey* was filled with shame and sorrow. She felt like she was living in a fog, and fell into unhealthy relationships and away from the Church. She later married her husband Mark*, but the abortions haunted her and she decided she would take her secret to the grave, for fear that his response would confirm her belief that she was unforgivable.
Years later, Mark began a journey of conversion back to the Catholic faith. After his devout mother’s death, he started going to Mass on his day off, and Carey noticed a miraculous change – he stopped drinking and smoking – battles he had fought for years. He finally approached Carey and asked if she would be willing to have their marriage blessed by the Church. Terrified of going to Confession, she thought she would have to divorce him rather than be the obstacle to his return.
*Name changed for anonimity
When your husband Mark approached you about getting your marriage blessed by the Church, what did he say?
Mark outlined the steps necessary to have our marriage blessed by the Church. You know, just the usual, “Confession, go to church every Sunday, etc… “ All I heard was CONFESSION. I was thinking, “Are you kidding me!?” But he was so excited, like some- thing finally had meaning to him. In my heart, I felt the Lord was saying, “Now you can do it right.” My husband then handed me a pamphlet on “How to Make a Good Confession” and told me we should pray the rosary too. I had never prayed the rosary in my life! He was so immersed in the whole thing; I had never seen him like that before.
He took me to see the church he had been attending, where he wanted our marriage to be blessed. Before we knew it, people started coming in for the Saturday Vigil Mass. Instead of leaving, we decided to stay. When the gospel was being read, I distinctly heard, “Pay attention; this is important.” I had never listened to the Gospel with such intent. “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.” I had no idea what was happening, but those words lit my heart on fire and pierced me. Suddenly, I wanted that gate…I just didn’t know how I could enter it.
What led you finally to tell Mark about what was holding you back from the Church?
After praying the rosary every day for a week using my new iPod app, I felt it was time to tell Mark everything. There we were in the kitchen before dinner, and overcome by tears, I confessed, “I did something that will prevent you from being able to get back into the Church. The unforgivable — something horrible — when I was 18 years old.” I cried and gasped for air, telling the whole story in 30 seconds. “Can I ever be forgiven?”
His merciful response stunned me. He held me and told me with great conviction that everyone is forgiven when they come to Jesus and ask Him, “even abortion, even you.” He said, “So that’s what you’ve been holding in for all of these years? No one should go through something like that all alone.” It all made sense to him then — my previous relationships to men who didn’t fit my persona, my moodiness, everything I did in the past was now making sense. He told me we needed to get to a priest so I could go to Confession and all would be well.
When did you receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation?
The very next morning! I woke up and called the rectory as soon as it opened. “Father is available right now; can you be here 10 minutes?” Yes, yes, yes!
I was clutching onto the steering wheel with both hands and praying through tears the “Hail Mary” all the way down. “Hail Mary, full of grace,” over and over. I started hearing whispers
in my mind, “You don’t have to do this. What about the second abortion? Are you going to tell him about that one? You don’t have to, you know. Why make this so difficult for yourself?” I was fighting so hard through this, crying and praying the “Hail Mary.” I felt like the woman with the hemorrhage in scripture who reached out to just touch Jesus’ cloak; if I just touch it I will be healed. I was feeling so much conflict and terror because I could not get over the second abortion. Where is this coming from? I lashed back, “No! I want to heal! Hail Mary, full of grace!”
I finally arrived at the rectory. I hadn’t made a Confession in 20 years and I had never made a good one. I was holding onto a 29-year-old sin that was strangling me. I didn’t know where to begin. Father gently walked me through the Com- mandments, one by one, as I made my Confession through tears. When I was finished, he made a motion with his hands, as if picking up a lamb and carrying it on his shoul- ders. He told me that all of heaven rejoices when the one lost sheep is found. I knew I was that lost sheep, who was no longer lost. He then said, “Now you need to heal.” He told me about the Sisters of Life and what they did. When
I walked out of the rectory, the sun came out of the clouds for the first time in four days.
How did you feel after you went to Confession?
For the first time I can remember, I felt alive, on fire and in love. I praised Jesus and threw my arms up in the air. My heart sang! I drove as fast as I legally could to my husband’s work place to tell him. I ran up to him and said, “I did it! I made my Confession!” We hugged each other and praised God. It was so amazing!
When was your next step toward healing?
I knew the healing would come and I wanted it to. I asked Jesus to help me heal, and to be gentle with me. But after a few months, I started to feel unforgiveness creep into my heart. A light went on and I was given the grace to realize I was harboring grudges and guilt. This helped me begin to forgive.
I wanted to “bear fruit.” That phrase kept coming up in scripture, on TV programming, within my own heart. I needed help knowing how. I wanted to give what I had experienced to others, so that women who were thinking about an abortion wouldn’t go through with it, and those who had experienced abortion would come to recon- ciliation and healing, putting an end to their silence and shame. I wanted to show my thanks to Jesus for His mercy.
I wanted to be able to say “yes” to God when He asked, to be what God had intended for me before that day when my first abortion changed my life.
When did you meet the Sisters of Life?
For two months I had been carrying around a crumpled Hope and Healing pamphlet I found at the back of the church and was finally ready to reach out. Of course, I didn’t have the nerve to call, so I sent an e-mail. I mentioned that I had two abortions and the second one was re- ally hard to get over because I was older and working. I was received with such compassion, such mercy that, I knew I had come to the right place.
Can you describe your experience at the Day of Prayer and Healing?
It was on a freezing-cold January morning, after a blizzard. I kept asking the Blessed Mother to help me the whole way, and almost turned around three times. I walked up to the door and rang the bell, “Here goes nothing.” The door opened and I was greeted by Sr. Marija Joseph. She was warm, welcoming, and without an ounce of judgment or ridicule.
As I walked into that chapel with the sun streaming in through the stained glass, I knelt down and let out a sigh of relief. I felt a warm blanket of love wrap around me as if I were home. I could have knelt there all day. For the first time in a very long time, I knew I was safe, and I knew this is where I belonged to be healed.
My first Day of Prayer and Healing was emotional and intense. It forced me to look deep inside myself, which I had avoided for all those years. I wanted to break those barriers that I had built over my shame and pain. I was also beginning to learn how to put my trust in Jesus. The biggest grace I received during that time was the realization that I made such a mess of things when I tried to control everything in my life. I decided to give what life I had left to God, putting my path in His hands, whether it was another year or another 20 years, my life would belong to Him.
Being in the presence of other women who had shared the sin of abortion helped me so much. I wasn’t alone anymore! All of us had different backgrounds, stories, ages, and marital statuses, but we were all there because we’d had an abortion … or 2 or 3 or 5 or more. I finally let myself remember my pregnancies. Each one was so different. Each one was such a blessing. All those years of refusing to acknowledge their existence only added to my pain and regret. The Sisters helped me to think about my children, to ask them to pray for me, and to offer my prayers for them.
When you consider your journey, what stands out to you?
It took me 29 years of silence, fear, regret, and pain to get here, but as scripture reminds us in Joel, God re- stores the years “eaten by the locust.” I never look at it as lost time. Jesus continues to heal me with His mercy and love; it’s so amazing. He is so gentle. I’ve also realized that if I held on to my pain, or did not forgive, or didn’t allow Him to love me and show me where He wanted me to go… I would miss the opportunity I have now to show Him how much I love Him and my gratitude for what He did for me!
Originally published in our Spring 2015 issue of Imprint.