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Reflections on the 2013 March for Life
By Tara K. E. Brelinsky
January 27th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
There is a battle to be fought and WON, a battle for the unborn, a battle for Christ. The armor is heavy and uncomfortable, the journey is long and treacherous. Our efforts will be ignored, mocked and falsified. None of that matters, the battle continues and it must be WON. We will WIN, Christ is the Victor of that there is no doubt, but in the meanwhile we have to "soldier-up."ZEBULLON, NC (Catholic Online) - A cradle Catholic, I chose the topic of abortion as one of my high school English class assignments. Feeling bold and confident, I still remember standing at the front of the class, facing my peers, and passionately imploring them to understand the horrible realities of abortion. It was clear in my head and concise in my words, abortion was not a beneficial choice for unborn babies, nor their mothers. How could anyone see it differently?
Unfortunately, youthful passions often lack deep convictions.
A child born into the world just as the fateful decision of Roe vs. Wade was penned into history, my mother courageously chose life and would soon find herself raising me as a single parent. My Catholic grammar school base instilled in me the general sense of right and wrong, but missing were some core truths. And my experiences would present me with a very distorted picture of "reality." The annual March for Life, in protest of Roe/Wade didn't even exist to my knowledge at this time.
Blessed was I to be surrounded by my mother's parents and five siblings, so I always felt like a cherished member of a big family, but juxtaposed with this life was the one I witnessed with my father. Not that I want to discredit my father because in his defense he stuck around the periphery of my life. He loved me, but it has to be said that I was effected by the seeming glamor of a life lived for self. I watched the pursuit of love, time and time again with different partners. I understood myself as part of that pursuit, wanted when convenient.
So, when the hormones of my teenaged years revved into full gear, self destruction lie ahead.
The truths that I had espoused in that high school English class were too easily abandoned by the "thoughtful" opinions of the opposition. Surely, I knew good people, honest friends, friend's parents even, who testified to the necessity for choice, personal choice in all things. In fact, they presented choice as the mature stance to take. Since I was busy exercising my own personal, self destructive choice in various arenas of my personal life, that message felt empowering and it certainly fit in with the pursuit of self-satisfying love.
A good friend's mother even shared her own story of abortion when she, as a single mother to two already, became pregnant by a boyfriend. And how could I condemn friends, whom I loved, who felt pressured into aborting their firstborn children to satisfy parents, to hide their sin or just to save themselves from their worst fears? Standing against abortion became equated to condemnation and how could a good, mature Catholic condemn others whom they proclaimed to love?
As God has done time and time again throughout my life, He offered me glimpses of reality, not the personal "reality" of my ego, but the REALity of His creation. Young friends of mine chose life for their son in spite of the substantial obstacles before them. Brian, their baby, came into the world bearing so many crosses. Only a portion of his brain developed in utero and he routinely suffered seizures, he was the picture of innocence and beauty wrapped up in suffering, a new reality for me. Brian came home to the embrace of a family who loved him dearly. He spent his eleven months on earth swaddled in the arms of many. Bitter tears were shed at his funeral, as I lacked the understanding of the deep meaning of the Cross in my faith. Couple this experience with the "thoughtful" messages of the pro-life opposition and it is no wonder that I temporarily established myself in the pro-abort camp.
The world sells us the commercial image of perfect, pretty people satisfying their wants with stuff. Suffering and sacrifice don't sell. Happiness and its pursuit are the avenue to the endgame of self-satisfaction, honor and fortune. Of course, Christ lived, suffered and died to free us from this distortion, but the constant drone of the world seems to have all but drowned out His still, gentle voice.
By the grace of God, as my early twenties waned, my errors were corrected and my suppressed pro-life heart was fortified by truth. I will never forget the night, sitting alone in front of my computer screen, I stumbled upon the images of abortion. The Priests for Life website confronted me with the first graphic depictions of abortion. Weeping, I forced myself to look at those tiny babies and their brutally dismembered parts. Painful pictures, but somehow necessary, like the crucifix hanging in the forefront of every Catholic Church. Never again could my brain justify murder as a personal choice. Never again could I be duped into believing the pro-abort stance was an expression of love. I cried until my head ached and I sent an email thanking the website for opening my eyes, literally.
Consider the difference between the bare cross and the crucifix. How often do we prefer the innocuous image of Christ's sacrifice, free of the marks of torture and agony? But in doing so, we alter the truth, we shield ourselves from the deeper meaning.
Now that we know of its existence, in the last few years, accompanied by our big brood, my husband and I have attended the annual March of Life in Washington, D.C. Each year of participation has been a little different. Now pregnant and with the knowledge that my husband's work schedule prevented his attendance, apprehension set in at the thought of braving this year's march. My children, in contrast, were fully engaged for battle and had their sights set on Constitution Avenue.
President Obama's 2nd term inauguration was scheduled for the same locale less than a week before the marchers would traverse our country's Capitol to mark the 40th anniversary of the legalization of fetal murder. I literally prayed that God would make evident through His creation the stark truth of that week. Not wishing harm on our President, I simply asked for a stormy inaugural Monday, complete with thunder and torrents of rain, contrasted with a sunny, mild marchers' Friday. Obviously, my preference for personal comfort was steering my prayers.
Against some loving advice from family and friends, against my own internal struggle, before the rising of the sun, I boarded the bus for D.C flanked by my children and a couple of extra teens on Friday morning. The forecast ahead predicted a dismal picture.
Our priest, a rider on one of the other three buses leaving from our parish, boarded ours long enough to offer prayer and inspiration. He reminded us that it was the feast of the conversion of St. Paul and challenged us to be acutely aware throughout the day of God's Presence.
Not one of my preferences manifested, except perhaps that I was able to plant my pregnant bladder near the bus rest room. Entertaining a four year old on a bus for four hours requires lots of patience which is in shorter supply in my before-referenced state. Bus seats are only comfortable for about two hours at best.
Because we were traveling with a group, we had to keep up with a less than family-friendly pace throughout the day. While the sun shone on inaugural Monday, snow fell amid freezing temperatures on Life Friday. Our hand warmers numbed our palms, but failed to stave off the sting biting at our fingertips. Navigating a stroller along with three young ones and four teens through a sea of shoulder to shoulder strangers is a nerve-wracking feat. Sorry I am to all my fellow marchers who suffered clipped heels and rolled over toes during my defensive stroller driving.
Plans to stop and warm up with hot chocolate got canceled along the route, so by the day's end I was trying to comfort a teary, shivering 6yo while straining to hold my crying 4yo, not to mention the whining 8yo. More frustrating was the fact I couldn't answer the question as to when the day would end and the bus would open its welcoming doors. Every mother knows the feeling of watching her suffering child without having the ability to end the sorry, it is perhaps the worst feeling in the world.
The ride home was equivalent, in my opinion, to torture. Overtired kids fighting sleep, bus seats as comfortable as concrete slabs, temperatures in the rear of the bus now equal to a sauna, pregnancy hormones over-riding all sense of inner peace... Add to that the fact that our journey ended in a church parking lot hidden under an inch of solid ice and one might consider it understandable that I fell into bed promising that I would never, ever do that again.
A new day dawned this morning, finding me refreshed and inspiring me to take a second look.
Like that empty, decorative cross, I thought a day of ease would represent the same meaning. But just as the crucifix is the honest representation of sacrificial love, so too a day of redemptive suffering bore out a deeper understanding of the reality of the battle we are engaged in. Abortion is a horror, an abominable act of violence waged against the most innocent among us. There is nothing sanitary nor incorruptible about it.
Christ gave His life; He offered up His flesh to torturers; He silently endured false accusations and mocking; He carried His Cross even though at times the very weight of it crushed Him. He gave us the true symbol of love, agape. That symbol is the Cross. His Apostles understood, they embraced their crosses and thereby spread His Truth throughout the world and through history.
I guess old distortions remain for me, I still struggle with the REALity of my faith at times. Self and its attraction to comfort still get in my way. Of course, the March for Life shouldn't be an easy offering, especially this year. Of course, 40 years and 50 million lives shouldn't be marked by a sunny day filled with smiles, cookies and hot chocolate. I wept when first confronted by the images of aborted babies, why shouldn't I have been surrounded by weeping as I marched in their defense?
Friday was the feast of the conversion of St. Paul, but before that bright light struck him, he was an enemy of Christians. Known for his readiness to torture and persecute the followers of Jesus Christ. However, when Saul, Paul's former name, felt the light of God upon him, when he heard the voice of God call his evil deeds out, he changed forever. Christ's life, suffering, death and resurrection took on their deeper meaning, Paul was transformed. And his conversion, the conversion of so great and so prominent a sinner, had wide spread and long lasting effects (even 2000+ years later). Keep in mind, Paul did not simply have a conversion of heart and than go back to a life of comfort and ease. He followed his Love, Jesus, he suffered, was imprisoned, and died for the Truth.
Reflecting today, I realize there was greater power to be born out and witnessed by Friday's suffering. There is the redemptive suffering which only Christ fully understands. There is the witness to our fellow brothers and sisters that shows our deep-seated commitment to the pro-life cause, unlike my shallow-rooted high school testimony. To this end, it is no wonder that the media has spent year after year hiding this march from American citizens. They dupe non-participants into continuing to buy the lies of commercial reality.
Taking Father's advice to be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, I came to the realization that President Obama is every bit the man that Saul once was, but he has the potential to become a Paul. He needs our prayers for his conversion of heart, not prayers for rainy days.
Like Christ, my suffering gives witness to my convictions, it calls me to focus less on self and more on the battle for others. It allows me to teach my children, through actions, that love is sacrificial, that it is not self-serving, that it isn't simply given when convenient.
There is a battle to be fought and WON, a battle for the unborn, a battle for Christ. The armor is heavy and uncomfortable, the journey is long and treacherous. Our efforts will be ignored, mocked and falsified. None of that matters, the battle continues and it must be WON. We will WIN, Christ is the Victor of that there is no doubt, but in the meanwhile we have to "soldier-up."
Will I attend future Marches for Life? I pray that they will be celebrations of victory instead, but until then, yes, I will. Will I go with all of my kids in tow? Yes, I will because I want their pro-life hearts to be deeply rooted in REALity. Will I see you there? I hope so, and if I happen to run over your toes with a stroller, I'm sorry, think of it as your offering of self.
Tara K. E. Brelinsky is a home schooling mother of seven living children, with six more heavenly ones who intercede. Married to her childhood sweetheart, they make their home in North Carolina where they teach Natural Family Planning, grow a garden, raise two dogs, a cat and a bunch
of chickens. Tara studied journalism a lifetime ago in college, but now she writes for the the glory of God.
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