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My Journey into the Catholic Church by Norma McCorvey the 'Jane Roe' of Roe vs. Wade with Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director, Priests for Life
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"You are soon to be with me."
The sad story of my days as a pro-choice activist, days that I am happy are long gone, is recounted in the book I am Roe. The marvelous story of my journey to a new life in Christ and the pro-life movement is recounted in the book Won by Love. Now it is time to add a new chapter to the story of my life, because God had more in store for me even after He made me 100% pro-life and washed me in the waters of baptism.
Norma McCorvey with Fr. Frank Pavone.
He wanted me to "come home," a message that scared me at first, because I did not know what it meant. I kept having this feeling, this vision that someone was taking to me. I finally got to the point to where I was afraid to go to sleep because this kept coming to me in dreams. The message I heard God telling me was, "My child, you're soon to be with me." I though I was going to die! Then one day in my car it became crystal clear what I should do -- become Catholic! I told our Heavenly Father, "Oh, I can do that! Not a problem!" And this is the story of how that came to pass.
My Mom was a Roman Catholic, and she would often take me to Catholic Churches and leave me at Mass alone. There aren't many good memories from my childhood, but this is one of them. I liked it so much and was often moved to tears. I felt the presence of God. There was something very moving about the Catholic ritual and symbolism -- the procession with the priest and altar boys, the incense, cross, and candles, the statues and the music. I knew God was everywhere, but in Catholic Churches I always felt especially close to Him. When I asked my Mom why she would take me there, she said, "Remember, the Catholic Church was the first Church." I knew I couldn't take communion, but I was content.
The thing that I found out about church is that no one bothers you -- you're just praying and being with God, His Son, and the Blessed Virgin Mary. There's nothing else on your mind. I find peace in that. Mass is a time for cleansing your soul. You're in His house and everything is quiet except for the priest saying the Mass. It's a time to spend only with God.
The practice of going to Mass occasionally continued into my adult life. After my baptism, my friend Connie Gonzales and I would worship regularly at Hillcrest Bible Church on three Sundays out of the month. There was one Sunday each month, though, that we called "God's Sunday," on which we would go to Catholic Mass.
So the Catholic Church, and the idea of formally joining it, was never that far from my mind. Several events and the answers to a few key questions brought me to the definite decision to do so.
After I was baptized by Rev. Flip Benham, his friend Fr. Frank Pavone, director of Priests for Life, visited me to bring me the best wishes of the Catholic Community. Fr. Frank, who was based in New York, came to Dallas regularly as part of his nationwide travels, and on one of those visits I told him I was interested in joining the Catholic Church. He invited me to attend one of the Masses he offered at a Dallas parish, and answered some of the many questions I had about the Mass.
I then told Fr. Frank I would like to have my house blessed, and he readily agreed. "Do you happen to have any holy water?" he asked me. "No, how do we get some?" I responded. He asked me to fill a large container with water, and he blessed it. Then, after he sprinkled it around the house, he told me that I could use the large quantity of water to bless myself each day. This was wonderful, I thought. About a month later, I was on the phone with Fr. Frank and he asked me how my supply of holy water was holding up. "I need more," I told him, "but don't laugh at the reason why. My friend and I forgot it was holy water, and we drank it!" We've both laughed about that for years.
On another occasion, I asked him, "Father, is there such a thing as a Born-again Catholic?" "Yes, Miss Norma, there is!" he told me. I knew then what I really wanted to do.
I knew not only in my mind, but in my experience. I was at a Human Life International Conference, for example, in the presence of a mainly Catholic crowd, and felt so loved and welcomed that it was incredible. It was on that occasion that I told Fr. Frank of the word I was hearing from the Lord, that I would soon come home to Him. "What does that mean, Father?" I asked. "Norma, I don't know. But simply ask the Lord to reveal the meaning to you. And don't worry about it. If it is really a message from God, He will be sure to give you the answer."
I did as Fr. Frank asked, and it shortly became clear that it meant I should come home to the Catholic Church.
I began taking my Catechism instructions from my dear friend, Fr. Ed Robinson, O.P., who resides at the Dominican Priory on the campus of the University of Dallas. Fr. Robinson is well known in the Diocese of Dallas for his leadership in the pro-life movement. Fr. Robinson explains how I first got to know him:
"It was because of her association with Operation Rescue that I first had occasion to speak with Miss Norma. The group had been meeting at the Priory, weekly, ever since their beginning in the Dallas area. Now, three or four years later, Miss Norma was meeting with them. Since prayer and Bible reading, conducted by "Flip," was a feature of those meetings, my presence as a priest was always warmly welcomed. During this time, she learned much about prayer and Bible teaching, under "Flip's" direction and from Pastor Sheats, minister at the church she was attending."
These Monday night meetings were wonderful, and I began conversing with the Catholic members of the group about various Catholic teachings -- teachings about which Fr. Robinson would then teach me in more detail. One of those nights I asked Fr. Robinson if he could bless a crucifix that a friend had given me. I fully expected that we would go over to Church to do so. Was I sure surprised when he told me he could bless it right there -- in the kitchen!
I had so many questions -- for instance I didn't know why St. Peter was crucified upside down and I was totally fascinated by this. So I had over a hundred questions when I started my first class. And questions would pop into my mind all the time. In fact, there were times when I would be giving a public talk, and in the middle of speaking, would write down a question that came to mind! Fr. Robinson was always so gracious and eager to answer all my questions.
The Day Itself
The day finally arrived when I would be received into the Catholic Church. I did not have to be baptized again, because the Catholic Church recognizes the validity of baptism by flowing water in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. So the ceremony, scheduled for August 17, 1998 at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Dallas, was a Mass during which I would profess my adherence to all that the Catholic Church officially teaches, and would receive the Sacraments of Confirmation and of First Holy Communion.
I did not want this day to be a media event. No part of my journey of conversion was for the media; it was for God. I did not want distractions, or a distortion of the day's true meaning. So it was a small and intimate gathering, with about 60 people who have been close to me. My sponsor was Lynn Mills, a pro-life activist from Detroit. Five priests concelebrated the Mass, including Fr. Ed Robinson, Fr. Frank Pavone, and Fr. Jonathan Austin, who was assigned to St. Monica's parish.
I made my profession of faith standing before these five priests, and Fr. Frank placed the oil upon my forehead, signifying the strength of the Holy Spirit and imparting the Spirit's gifts that come in Confirmation. Then the Eucharistic Sacrifice was offered.
I had been taught what this meant. Jesus was not dying again. Rather, He was drawing us all into His sacrifice, making it present to us, allowing us to join our lives, our sufferings, to His. This was and is the sacrifice that saves the world, that conquers the power of death and destroys the power of abortion. There and then I could place in the chalice all the tears I had ever shed over the aborted babies, all the shame I ever felt from having worked in an abortion clinic and having been a poster-girl for the pro-death movement. There and then, just as the bread and wine were being transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, the former Jane Roe could once again rejoice in her own transformation into a new creature in Christ.
I started getting cold chills right before I went up for my first Holy Communion. I knew somehow that it was Holy Spirit. Then when I received the flesh of Christ's body and his blood, I felt a real sense of inner peace. After Communion, Fr. Frank shared the following words that spoke directly to my heart:
"Norma, reflect carefully on what has happened now that you have received Jesus for the first time in Holy Communion.
"Our Faith teaches that by His Incarnation, the Son of God joined all humanity to Himself. In some fashion, every human being of all time is united to Him. This, of course, includes every human being in the womb, and includes those who were aborted.
"Today, you have received the very same flesh of the Son of God, to which all humanity has been joined. That means, Norma, that today, in giving you His Body, Jesus has also given you back all the babies that were aborted because of what you did. He has reunited to you all the children who never got to play in the playgrounds. He has restored them to you, closing the distance between you and them. He has reconciled them to you and given you peace.
"The first time I ever interviewed you, I started by saying, "So, you are the Jane Roe of Roe vs. Wade." You responded, "No, Father, I was the Jane Roe of Roe vs. Wade." Norma, those words were never more true than they are today. Amen."
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During these remarks, I was sitting there crying. I knew I had been forgiven -- and to think I was reunited with those children...it was sorrow and joy at the same time. It was like having my own children come back to me all at one time. It was like seeing all their faces, even though I've never known them.
What a beautiful day, and what a beautiful ceremony. I think I was calmer that day than everyone else. I had peace, because I knew I had made the right decision.
But there were those who did not share that conviction.
"O My God!"
A friend of mine from Hillcrest Church called me on the day before my Confirmation. "Is it true?", she asked. When I told her it was, she exclaimed, "O My God!" But I corrected her, "No, it's our God," and explained that I was still worshiping the same God whom I had worshiped together with her. Sadly, I was ostracized by many of my evangelical brothers and sisters. Some don't even speak to me anymore. Some cancelled my speaking engagements. Some say I have "fallen;" others called it "a big mistake." But I know the big mistakes I have made in my life, and becoming Catholic was not one of them. I have no quarrels with anyone. Their view of me does not upset my peace of mind, although I am sad if they fail to realize that we do not have a "Methodist God" or a "Baptist God" or a "Catholic God." We have one God, who has revealed Himself in Christ and the Church, and who calls us all to the fullness of truth.
The pro-life movement is perhaps the clearest and strongest arena for practical ecumenism in our day. People whose differences in doctrinal matters are real and important nevertheless join hands to preserve and defend the most fundamental gift of God, that of life itself. Imagine for a moment that you have a child who has a life-threatening emergency. Do you ask the emergency medical technicians what their religious affiliation is before you let them try to save your child's life? If you don't let religious differences stand in the way of saving your child, why should you let them stand in the way of saving someone else's child? It's a joy for me to meet, communicate and work with Christians from so many denominations who share a love for life and a hatred for abortion.
In fact, when I attended the Human Life International Conference in 1997, I realized that I was meant to be a liaison between Catholics and Protestants. Despite the difficulties that can sometimes arise from religious differences, I know I'm a daughter of Jesus and that my Father is not going to let any harm come to me. He takes care of all His children. That's why He's our God.
Mother and Child
The pro-life cause is very much about keeping mother and child together. Though I came to know the Son of God, I stayed away from His mother for a while. But now it is clear that I want to be more like her.
I know God loves the world, but the bond between a mother and child is much more emotional. Mary knew that Jesus would be the only child she would ever have. The love between them had to be special.
I don't think the women who go through abortions understand this bond. Their child is condemned to die like Jesus was. In Scripture we read that some people took their children to be sacrificed to the pagan god Baal. This is the false god of the pro-choice movement.
But the Blessed Virgin leads me, and all of us, to the true God. I have great dreams about the Mother of God, and have set up a prayer garden at my home. The Blessed Virgin is there, and I bring her my love every morning and evening. Through the storms of this life, she will come to lead us to Jesus and make a way for everyone who will enter heaven.
Roe No More
The first time Fr. Frank Pavone interviewed me for his radio program, he started by saying, "So you are the Jane Roe of Roe vs. Wade." "No Father," I responded, "I was the Jane Roe of Roe vs. Wade, but now I am a new creation in Christ. I am Roe no more!"
The joy and new life I have in Christ overflows into my daily work, which is devoted full-time to my ministry called Roe No More. Each day, working from my humble office at home, and with the devoted help of Connie Gonzales, I am privileged to talk on the phone with women tempted to abort their children, with those who need healing from the pain of abortion, and with pro-life people across the country who want encouragement and information. At times I am privileged to speak to various groups and share my testimony. My website, www.roenomore.org, provides and easy way for me to communicate with the world. My ministry has received the blessing of many people, from Catholic bishops and cardinals, from Protestant pastors, and from pro-life friends in the wider society.
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One of my most important activities is that I am involved, together with Sandra Cano of Doe vs. Bolton, in the efforts of the Texas Justice Foundation (and other groups) to work for the reversal of the Roe vs. Wade and Doe vs. Bolton decisions. The approach we are taking is to show that the lives and rights of women have not been advanced or enhanced, but rather destroyed, by abortion-on-demand. We are collecting affidavits from women who have been harmed by abortion, from women who are convinced that authentic feminism is pro-life, and from professionals who know that Roe has weakened the moral fabric of the legal and medical professions.
I am confident that we are moving toward the day when legal abortion will be no more than a painful memory, just as I have come to the day in my life when the evils I was once enmeshed in are no more than a painful memory. There is not a day that I do not thank God for the men and women who, by their personal contact with me or simply by their prayers, have helped me on my journey. His mercy is limitless, His power is infinite, and His promise of Life will not disappoint.
May He be praised!
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