The value of accepting suffering

Alison Davis and Colin Harte
Alison Davis and Colin Harte

 

One of the most inspirational people I have ever met came in the form of a very fragile woman, Alison Davis.

What a grace and wonderful moment to meet her and her devoted caregiver of more than twenty years, Colin Harte.   Motivational speakers and leaders of all manner and kind can speak eloquent words and bring societal change about through their social and verbal skills.  They can take thousands and even millions of people on a journey in their life that brings a perceived hope and bring change to the world in which they live.  BUT this lady, reached to the very soul of my being.   The only other person in my life having this profound effect was Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

The very moment I first met Alison, I knew deep within my soul that I was in the presence of a very holy and very grace-filled woman.  Alison suffered with many illnesses in her life including Spina Bifida and being confined to a wheel chair all her life. She required a caregiver – a companion – twenty four hours, seven days a week to assist her with her personal cares.

Alison’s story is a testament to the real value of accepting suffering in our lives.  Alison was always a very joyful and thoughtful woman, full of love and compassion for all those she met. Despite being in constant pain and discomfort a lot of the time and despite not having any physical independence in her life, Alison championed the rights of the disabled and handicapped to be respected and assisted where needed.  Above all she fought for the rights of her fellow disabled community to have the right to life.  She founded the UK Disability Rights group, No less Human and travelled internationally (including New Zealand), to speak on disability rights and against voluntary euthanasia.

Alison grew up as an atheist.  She wanted to die on several occasions and almost succeeded. It was the care and determination of a true lady friend who helped her break the cycle of wanting to die. She would sit with Alison, removing all instruments within reach that she could use to harm herself.  It was this friend who persisted and who remained a faithful and true advocate for Alison’s life, that eventually gave her the hope and trust and a desire to live her life in a happy and meaningful way.

Then Alison was blessed with a new caregiver, who was destined for the priesthood.  He was to take care of Alison for just a few weeks, but continued on, staying at Alison’s home and providing her with the most loving an devoted care imaginable until Alison died in 2013.  She was 58 years old.

In the midst of intense suffering, Alison discovered the existence of God and His great love for her. She became a Catholic.  She accepted completely the Catholic Church as the repository of truth and the giver of life.  With the integrity of much experience she spoke of suffering with Christ as “the greatest privilege possible in the world.”

We had become good friends from the start, and the absolute love and joy given out from Alison to our own three special needs children surpassed any eloquent inspiring preacher or speaker I have ever heard.

From a wretched, unhappy, pain ridden young woman, who had despaired and had so much wanted to die… to a woman of hope, joy, and expectation and simplicity of heart.  Alison had a very intelligent and great mind, and spent her life writing and  speaking to advocate for the most vulnerable, in particular those in danger of euthanasia or assisted suicide.

I will always remember Alison for her amazing capacity to love – always with a gentle smile, regardless of the suffering she was enduring internally.  In her weakness she was very strong.

Whom do they serve?

It appears to be generally understood by the public that aborted foetal cells are absolutely necessary for research. There is a benefit to taking the life of a child – all for the greater good we are told. “Similar to organ donation” would be a comparable explanation to justify and placate the curious. But is this really the case; that using the cells, tissue and body parts of an unborn child is advantageous to medical research? After all, who wants to see somebody suffer with a debilitating illness such as Parkinsons when there’s a potential cure just waiting to be found? It could even sound cruel to deny an expert the opportunity to investigate a pathway that is “life-saving”.

Underpinning though unspoken is that in order for a life to be saved or a cure for an unbearable illness found, a life must be taken. A life for a life; somebody gives their life in order to theoretically save the life of another. Generally, we refer to a person who makes the decision to sacrifice their life for another, as heroic. But with an unborn child, they do not make this decision. This brutal decision is made for them; the sacrificial lambs.

Apart from taking these claims at face-value, does this assertion hold up to scrutiny? Based on the strength and regularity of these claims, there should be overwhelming evidence to validate the advantage of utilising aborted tissue. According to Deb Vinnedge, Exec. Director of Children of God for Life, research on foetal tissue has not produced any great advances in medicine. She adds that utilising moral sources accomplishes the same result as using harvested foetal tissue to the extent that there is not one single use of aborted foetal tissue or cells that has not been accomplished using moral sources as well. The question that arises is why do these research organisations persist in utilising these “sources of promise”?

Research on aborted foetal tissue generally falls into 3 areas: Transplantation to treat diseases and injuries; Development of vaccines and Basic biology research. Foetal research is not new, having being conducted from as early as the 1930’s. What is chilling is that this research was conducted on foetuses at gestational ages at which science now proves, feel pain. Furthermore, conditions that were treated unsuccessfully by aborted tissue, are now routinely treated by adult stem cells.

However, most widely-known is the usage of aborted cells in the manufacture of vaccines. Popular claims are that this area has been the main benefit to society as a result of foetal tissue research. Again Deb Vinnedge states that with the exception of chickenpox, moral alternatives are available for every other vaccine – derived from animal cell lines. Even with the recent Ebola virus scare, statements were made that foetal tissue was “absolutely critical” for the development of a vaccine. Firstly, we note again the use of emotive language by an ‘expert’.  Secondly and most important, this claim proved to be incorrect in that Merck developed a vaccine derived from an animal cell line which reports state, showed promise in clinical trials. In fact, the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) has ruled out the usage of foetal cells to make vaccines “now or in the future”. So why do these scientist persist? Not hard to fathom the reason why – money.

A recent NZ Herald article states that prior to research, a mother must give consent for the aborted tissue to be used. Further; that the matter can’t be raised until after she has decided to have an abortion. One wonders if the abortion-facility staff ever let mothers know that some of their children will be deliberately born alive and then killed so as to harvest their organs; this claim made by a lab technician in the recent video a first-hand witness to these barbaric acts. This claim is not isolated with research documenting these horrific acts since the 1930’s – including development of the polio vaccine.

I am reminded of how children especially, were killed in certain parts of the world and their organs harvested for the diabolic activity of ‘black magic’. The organs were removed many a time with the child still alive and used to make potions or even to bewitch another person. Sounds far-fetched? This diabolical targetting of one person over another has recently publicly surfaced in the USA.

It is said that the potency of these diabolic concoctions are directly linked to whether a child is alive or not. In other words, the screams of a child as their organs are removed increases the effectiveness of these diabolic ‘medicines’. As if to reinforce the diabolical aspect of abortion, a former satanist states that he had participated in ritual abortions, diabolic sacrifices – including those inside abortion facilities. Our Lords words “Some demons can only be driven out through prayer and fasting” remind us of the urgent need to pray outside abortion facilities.

As the late and holy Fr John Hardon says, abortion is a pagan sacrifice. Recall that when pagan societies were Christianised; when the Light of Christ entered their land, sacrifices of children to false gods was eradicated. Fast-forward to the 21st century, paganism is back in vogue. And darkness descends; child sacrifice, again to insatiable blood-thirsty ‘gods’. When Christ is dethroned from society, He is replaced by idol worship. Pope emeritus Benedict XVI pointed to the modern idols of individualism and materialistic consumerism as holding sway. He affirms that within this ‘mindset’, a person is devalued and if devalued, one could add, ready to be exploited or treated as less than human. Vulnerable elements of society then become as the title of David Daleiden’s project is known, “Human Capital”.

 

 

The dignity of the human person, abortion… and us

Life Rocks!The ongoing scandal in the United States over Planned Parenthood selling aborted baby organs has caused many to sit up and take notice to the tragedy of abortion.  Five US States have defunded Planned Parenthood in the wake of this scandal.  People are now questioning whether they can really say they are “pro-choice” after seeing the reality of the abortion industry, and the harsh truth that abortion kills a human being – a child.

The videos which have been made public are powerful witnesses to the humanity and the dignity of the human person, from the very first moment of existence.   A dignity that many today wish to cast aside in the name of convenience, autonomy, choice…

The rhetoric has become old.

When people wish to seek the truth, they will find it.

I believe that people need to actually see what abortion does to an unborn child to shake us out of our complacency.   Obviously there is a time and a place, and a way to do this that shows sensitivity.

Abortion is horrific.  It is heinous.  Arms and legs are torn off, tiny fingers and toes are visible among the crushed and mangled bodies.  It is a sight that no one wants to see, or even read about, because it is something so gruesome that it cannot be forgotten.  But they are images that give us fire in our belly to speak up in the face of this grave injustice.  It is a reality that cannot be ignored.

So what does this mean for us?

It means that every individual, every family, every Church, every person of good will must seek to make a stand for what is right and true in the face of this grave injustice.  As St John Paul II exhorted us: we must never tire, we must never give up, we must never be discouraged and we must not be afraid.

We have an obligation to speak up for our pre-born brothers and sisters – the most vulnerable among us – simply because they have dignity.

We must recognize the dignity of every human person from the very first moment of existence to the very natural end.  Every life is worthwhile.  Every life is precious.

A final word of encouragement from St John Paul II:

“Life will triumph: this is a sure hope for us. Yes, life will triumph because truth, goodness, joy and true progress are on the side of life. God, who loves life and gives it generously, is on the side of life.”

Let us pray with hope and work with a great sense of urgency for the sake of our brothers and sisters!

Planned Parenthood expose must call us to act

The recent expose of Planned Parenthood, America’s largest abortion provider selling baby parts reinforces what many in the pro-life field have been saying for a long time.  Abortion has nothing to do with “rights”; it is driven by profit.  Unimaginable to think that human beings would handsomely benefit off a fellow human especially in this so-called age of an ‘enlightened’ society.  To consider that the most defenseless of all is violently torn apart and their body parts sold off, signifies the level of depravity that humanity has descended to.  One could argue that the (outlawed) slave trade epitomized the profiteering off a fellow human though it is undeniable that slaves were not dismembered and their parts sold off for profit.  Abortion is worse.  Much worse.

Whilst many are outraged and rightly so, an obvious question needs to be asked; should we be shocked at the recent expose?  If then people are shocked now, what did anybody think the abortion procedure entailed?  Is it more likely that the human mind finds it difficult to process certain thoughts/images until confronted by the undeniable reality – such as these gruesome videos; or do we wish to be deceived under the guise of “choice”?  What “choice” does the unborn child have?  Lambs to the slaughter indeed.

Although these highlighted atrocities occurred in America, many questions have to be asked about Family Planning NZ who have been working closely with Planned Parenthood of America.  Both organisations are affiliates of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).  Showing the oneness of mind between the two organisations, Cecile Richards, the President of Planned Parenthood was invited to New Zealand as recently as 2013 to speak at the Family Planning conference.

Among all the graphic evidence of profiteering off the wholesale slaughter of the innocents, the New Zealand media remains largely silent. To be fair though, much of the press within the USA refuses to report on these atrocities as well.  Need one ask why?

The Centre for Medical Progress has released a number of videos in which senior staff of Planned Parenthood nonchalantly chat about the sale of body parts.  In one of the admissions, the director of research at a facility says that abortionists can modify their [abortion] procedure to obtain “intact” fetuses.  Within the same gruesome video, we see a box containing body parts such as arms and legs of a human being – clear enough proof that it is not a “clump of cells” that is being ‘aborted’ but a human, a child of God.

What is striking about these videos is that the employees are ‘normal-looking’ women. In fact, the Director of Planned Parenthood could be described as attractive.  Today, when image has been elevated to an unprecedented level, one wonders whether ‘believ-ability’ or even levels of evil a person is implicated in, is perhaps mitigated by that person’s appearance.  After all, some of the Nazis ‘looked scary’ so it probably is not too difficult to look back and identify evil. On the other hand, many looked like the person next door; a good family man.

Fast forward to contemporary society; a society that is largely media-driven.  Attractive-looking, smart, sophisticated people are probably more ‘believable’ than others who may be less so.  But that is part of the deception; to present an attractive ‘front’, an everyday sort of person; a professional such as a doctor whose profession we still regard (and rightly so) as noble.  In one of the videos released by the undercover investigators, a doctor over lunch in a restaurant, calmly speaks of how she takes the lives of unborn children for profit – harvesting their body parts to order. Underpinning the deliberateness of her actions, she explains how they decide from which mum they will harvest the organs to fulfil customers’ orders for the required body parts.  Mind-numbing indeed.

While calls are underway to defund Planned Parenthood in the USA, it is difficult to imagine that this will happen.  Why might this be so?  Simply because large sums of money are being made from the death of unborn children.  Will the release of these videos turn the tide against abortion; probably on an individual level but not en-masse simply because large parts of society have been de-sensitised and would consider it their ‘right’ to do what they will; so effective has been this ‘rights campaign’, a neat fit within a selfish society.  However, hope is always to be found especially among the youth.  In addition, many women are publicly speaking up about the damaging effects of abortion; they refuse to be silent anymore.

Many of us know that abortion takes the life of an innocent child.  Many choose not to know; to turn a blind eye.  The womb of a mother, a sanctuary; the safest place for any child, has become a place of desecration.  This has not happened overnight.  Rather, it’s been a well-managed campaign of diabolical sophistication to reach the level it’s reached today.  The most natural relationship; that between a mother and her unborn child has been under sustained attack, to the point that too many mothers (and fathers) view their child as the enemy; one who should be destroyed.

We were privileged to have Abby Johnson, a former director of a Planned Parenthood facility in Texas, visit us here in New Zealand.  Abby shared her story of being involved in this industry for many years somewhat oblivious to the evil in which she was submerged.  When constantly asked the obvious question as to how she could not see that what she was doing was plain evil, her answer is simply “I don’t know”.  But through the grace of God, and the commitment of people praying outside the abortion facility, Abby quit the industry and now shares her amazing conversion story to countless people.  Perhaps Abby’s story reminds us of the direction we should be taking to convince mums to keep their unborn children; to convince the abortion workers that they do not have to be working in these death camps.

The answer is education, prayer, fasting, and action.  However, all these ‘activities’ must be underpinned by the virtue of courage.  It takes courage to stand against the tide; against a society that has become somewhat immune to the death of innocent children.  “Every child a wanted child” rings hollow when you consider the horrific alternative to this empty, meaningless slogan.

Building a culture of life with love

Imagine a culture where every human life was respected from his or her natural conception until their natural end.  Imagine how it would be if the natural family was upheld as the essential element of a stable society and the best protector of children.  Imagine the day when every person works in unity for the common good.

Today, in the name of freedom, so many are working against life, faith and family, and the culture of life that we work for seems so difficult to attain.

Just this week NZ Doctor revealed the results of their survey on euthanasia and assisted suicide.  Out of 110 respondents, 13 doctors admitted to having helped a patient to die.

Family Planning have been very busy promoting their sex education programmes at a Physical Education conference for teachers.  Sex education (otherwise known as sexuality education) is taught under the Health and Physical Education curriculum in New Zealand schools.  Teaching young people about how to obtain pleasure is now a fundamental aspect of their programmes.  This is taught alongside the concept of consent (which outside of marriage, is consent to use one another, and is the opposite of real love).

All around the world traditional marriage and the natural family is under attack as governments continue to redefine marriage and children are denied their fundamental right to a mum and a dad.

What must our response to the chaos be?

We have to respond with love and humility.  As we are taught in 1 Corinthians 13, that means with patience and kindness and it means always seeking the truth, even if that truth seems harsh.  Truth gives us real freedom to be the people that we were created to be.

We must pray for those who work to build a culture of death.  Many are misguided.  They really do believe that it is right to promote and participate in abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, sex education, the distribution of contraceptives and abortifacients.  We must pray for their conversion.

Bernard Nathanson, who performed over 60,000 abortions and was very much involved in the push for legalised abortion in the United States, had a change of heart, and ultimately a conversion to Catholicism, because people of faith prayed for him and treated him with dignity and respect.

All things are possible for those who have faith.

We can work tirelessly on our own steam, but those efforts, while producing some results, will never provide lasting fruitful change.  The only real lasting solution is a turning of hearts and minds to God – including our own.  As each of us conforms our own will to that of God’s perfect plan, then we will experience lasting peace and a culture that embraces life as a most precious gift to be respected and cherished from its beginning, and where the natural family is recognised as the fundamental cell of society.

There is hope.  All throughout New Zealand and the world, there are people faithfully living the Gospel of Life and witnessing to the hope that is within them.  From their continued faithfulness the culture of life will be realised.

 

Father Shenan Boquet: Building a culture of life

Father Shenan Boquet, President of Human Life International, recently addressed participants of the Auckland Eucharistic Convention on Building a Culture of Life.

In his presentation, Father Boquet speaks of the need to transform the culture.  Drawing on Scripture, he explains how God has given us building blocks to do this, saying:  “The building blocks that help us understand the language we speak begins in the family.”

“‘If you love me, you keep my commands’ (John 14:15).  And where does a child learn that?  Learns it from mum and dad.  Learns it when mum and dad are living that love.  Not only just for eachother, but the love for God.  The love of God’s teaching.  The dogmas and the doctrines and all the teachings that have been revealed to us through the Church, through revelation and how God is teaching us his commands.  And are we responding to them?”

Watch Father Boquet’s presentation to learn how and why we must work to build a culture of life, beginning in the family.

Claire Culwell: My very personal story of life

Claire Culwell’s powerful story is a reminder that every human life from the moment of conception is precious and how abortion has a devastating effect on not just the child, not just the mother, but on so many people, including future generations.

Claire gave this talk at the Auckland Eucharistic Convention in April 2015.