40 Days for Life

40 days of hopeImage

I remember during my early years at university becoming friends with an exchange student from West Germany. When she left her home country, a wall divided it from the communist country of East Germany, and people had been killed for trying to cross that wall. By the time her year in New Zealand was over, Germans could freely travel across the border between the two Germanys, and official German reunification had taken place within a year.

When she came to New Zealand, the fall of the Berlin wall was a distant hope, with few people expecting it to happen within their lifetime. It seemed beyond reasonable for the wall to fall.

But it did.

The flame of resistance within the eastern bloc countries had been lit a decade before when Pope John Paul II visited his home country of Poland. His battle cry, “Be not afraid”, gave the people of Poland hope. A hope that spread throughout Eastern Europe, and contributed greatly to the eventual collapse of communism in Europe.

That same battle cry was also for the pro-life movement which was always so close to his heart. We have the Lord himself on our side. No matter how strong the opponents of the ‘Culture of Life” might be, they cannot endure. No matter how strong they seem, or how much they influence government policy, they are running on borrowed time. In fact, the war against them has already been won. It was won on the cross.

And victories are happening.

In the US, there have been a record number of pro-life laws being passed1,2, and it’s bringing abortion rates down. Spain is considering ending abortion on demard3.

So how might an end of abortion look? Especially here in New Zealand?

We have seen the numbers and rates of abortions drop here and New Zealand and in the US as well. And the greatest declines in abortion rates are in the youngest age groups. We can expect this to continue.

There are already shortages of staff willing to participate in abortion4. And this has affected abortion services5. The 40 days for life program includes prayer for medical staff involved in abortion, and has seen 88 workers leave abortion providers. This is something that could easily happen in New Zealand, and we know there are abortion staff in New Zealand who have doubts about their jobs6. They need our prayer.

I have noticed a change in public perception of the pro-life movement. We are now seen as the ones who are helping women. The opposition is still there, and they can still dominate the political process and the media. But the general public are more open to the pro-life message than ever before. I’m constantly surprised by the people who are genuinely enthusiastic about our work helping expectant mums. As in Eastern Europe during the last years of communism, hope is rising. And I can feel the change.

There is still more work to do. More prayer and pro-life work is needed. But slowly the public is seeing that abortion isn’t the solution that they thought it was. One day they will see that it isn’t a solution at all.

We need to hope. We need to pray. And we need to “Be not afraid”.

 

 

Get involved: 40 days for life

 

1.            Johnson, J. Pro-life laws and clinic closures lowered abortion rate: CDC | LifeSiteNews.com. LifeSiteNews (2013). at <http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/abortion-laws-and-clinic-closures-lowered-abortion-rate-cdc>

2.            Johnson, J. ‘Record number’ of pro-abortion laws being introduced dwarfed by pro-life gains, legal expert says | LifeSiteNews.com. LifeSiteNews (2014). at <http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/record-number-of-pro-abortion-laws-being-introduced-dwarfed-by-pro-life-gai>

3.            Metaxas, E. Restricting abortion, Spanish style | LifeSiteNews.com. LifeSiteNews at <http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/restricting-abortion-spanish-style>

4.            Board forced to bring outsiders to staff abortion facility -. CathNews N. Z. (2012). at <http://cathnews.co.nz/2012/10/16/board-forced-to-bring-outsiders-to-staff-invercargill-abortion-facility/>

5.            Hill, M. Abortion clinic opens in secrecy to protect staff. Stuff.co.nz (2012). at <http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/7813405/Abortion-clinic-opens-in-secrecy-to-protect-staff>

6.            Whelan, M. A day at the clinic. The Wireless at <http://thewireless.co.nz/themes/free/a-day-at-the-clinic>

With forty years of pro-life service in New Zealand, nineteen as the director of Family life International NZ, I have gained a little experience and, please God, just a little wisdom over the years as to the means the ‘dark one’ employs to cause disharmony and dissention amongst well meaning, good intentioned people who truly all want to serve God through working for a Culture of Life in this nation and beyond.

This year we have seen at least three priests from USA who have been or are deeply involved in the pro-life movement attacked and maligned . Some people think it their duty to join the frey, blogging and speaking about these priests and others whom they judge to have perceived weaknesses, often with little facts to base their accusations on. It is grossly unfair to all parties to spread gossip etc over the internet and further the grief already caused. Nobody knows the true facts and these matters are between the priests, their bishops and their Maker.

It is most unfortunate to read blogs from here in NZ showing photographs of the priests and writing as judge and jury. This causes more distress and concerns to an already hurting church.

It is timely I believe to reflect on the words of St Josemaria Escriva. (Christ is Passing By 72)

“And let us resolve never to become sad if our upright conduct is misunderstood by others. If the good which, with the continuous help of Our Lord, we try to accomplish is misinterpreted by others, who delight in unjustly guessing at our motives and accuse us of wicked designs and deceitful behaviour. Let us forgive always, with a smile on our lips. Let us speak clearly, without hard feelings, when in conscience we think we ought to speak. And let us leave everything in the hands of our Father God, with a divine silence- “Jesus was silent”- if we are confronted with personal attacks, no matter how brutal and shameful they might be. Let us concern ourselves only with doing good deeds. God will see to it that they “ shine before men”.”

Therefore my friends I implore each and everyone of us who aspire to promote the Culture of Life in this country to be firstly concerned with our own souls and then to try as best we can with the grace of God to serve our brothers and sisters. Do not waste precious time in being diverted by the unfortunate circumstances of others.

The daily post on this site throughout this pro-life month of October of pro-life quotes and encouragements are meant precisely for this purpose.

The Welcome Gift of New Life

To be truly pro-life and truly pro traditional family in this culture, takes a lot of courage and stickabilty. Most of all it takes a profound and deep faith in our Creator and a great love and respect for the Church.

This week our family has had the joy of welcoming the birth of our latest grandchild, Nathaniel Benedict. His parents, Michelle and Brendan, knew that this seventh caesarean birth with added complications was not going to be an easy ride. In fact, Michelle had been in hospital for a week or so prior, as a catastrophic haemorrhage was expected. Now four days later I am only just grasping how close our daughter came to losing her life giving birth to their precious little child of God. With mother and baby finally together in a ward and both out of intensive care, we can reflect on the tremendous skill of the surgeons involved and the fact that generous people in the community donate their blood. With faith and the knowledge of the saints close by at all times we can truly rejoice that God in His goodness has allowed this precious family to come through this life-threatening ordeal.

Of course we know only too well of the critics and judgments made on this humble family. How could they possibly have so many children, how could he make her pregnant again? don’t they know what causes babies yet? they live in another world and so on and on … when he is going to get the big snip?

I want to tell the whole world that my husband Terry and myself, Colleen, are so proud of Michelle and Brendan. In the face of adversity, and at times even scorn, they have embraced the natural law and have willingly accepted the precious gift of life of each of their children. It is no joke when well meaning Christians make remarks about the size of one’s family.

For us, it is so refreshing to see our little grandchildren grow up in a family that does not hold to have the newest and best of everything. Who make their own cards and games and play together and pray together as a family and well … the absolute joy and excitement of a new baby arriving. The joy and love of each of these children is infectious and is truly what life and family is all about.

By the grace of God we have to find a way to show young families today not to be afraid to have children. They are our future. The natural family, mum, dad and children praying, learning, loving and giving is the only viable and natural future for this world.

Eight Reasons to Consider Having One More Child

“Behold, children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward.” Psalm 126 (127)

Many years ago, Fr Paul Marx, OSB, founder of Human Life International (and Family Life International NZ) wrote a booklet entitled “Eight Reasons to Consider Having One More Child.”  These wonderful reasons to consider if God is calling you to welcoming another child into your family are no less out of date today.

So I share today with you the eight reasons Fr Marx gave us with his own words:  “Is God calling you to have another child?  Please read this short message with an open and prayerful heart, then decide.”

  1. Love of God.
  2. Each child is an everlasting expression of the unselfish love you have for each other in the commitment of marriage.
  3. The Western world is dying out.  We are no longer replacing ourselves.  New Zealand’s fertility rate in 1999 was 2.0.  (2.2 children per couple is required, practically that means three children per couple).
  4. Your trust and faith in God and your true generosity can be seen in the size of your family.  (That is not to say that those who have small families do not trust in God or are not generous – they may show this in other ways).
  5. The Western world is “rich”, we have high standards of living.  Do we really need all that we think we need?  If you cannot afford to have more children, who can?
  6. Children raised in a truly Christian home are your real insurance against loneliness in old age.
  7. You are more likely to have Religious Vocations from your family.
  8. Children from large (or larger) families usually are more considerate, thoughtful and caring.  Great preparation for adult life.

“…the Church encourages couples to be generous and hopeful, to realize that parenthood is a privilege and that each child bears witness to the couple’s own love for each other, to their generosity and to their openess to God. They must be encouraged to see the child as an enrichment of their marriage and a gift of God to themselves and to their other children.” (John Paul II to US Bishops, September 1983). 

Will you consider having one more child?

The Therese Programme

Today more than ever, we live in a world of fear of the unknown. We have a need for security and peace in our lives, a deep need to know that everything will be all right. We pray for guidance and strive to be the best we can, only to see on a daily basis that we never quite meet up to other’s expectations of us, or so it seems. You see, we are constantly being judged in a matter of a second of communicating and meeting with even those people who we regard as being close to us.

We can imagine, then, how it might feel to a couple who have just learned that their much wanted and awaited for baby may well be defective.  The flood of emotions for the hurt deep inside for their little one who they dreamed of as being perfect and achieving great things in this life, to their own personal fears of the unknown. Of what it would be like caring for a wee baby that might live only a short time, and then having to lose that child. They might also feel very fearful that if they go ahead with the pregnancy the little baby might suffer, and that is something they just cannot bear to face.  There is the added fear of what a sick or handicapped child might do to the marriage.

Over the past several years I have witnessed an ever growing number of diagnosis of so-called lethal anomalies, from anything that could be deafness to the most severe of holoprosencephaly (where in fact the child was born normal and healthy and is now six years old). Once detected, the pressure is usually on the mother to have an early birth.

I remember a little fifteen year old girl who came into the care of our crisis pregnancy centre. Her tiny baby’s heart was growing outside of her little body and it was thought that there were possibly other organs protruding as well.

Suffice to say that FLI pulled out all the stops to get as much top-of-the-line medical assistance and support, even in Australia, for this young mum, but she was coerced into having an early birth (abortion). The mother carried around the tiny little baby with a little black blob on her tummy for six days, grieving while the family fought as to how to bury the child.

While many would say that the destruction of this tiny child would have been the best outcome, I strongly disagree and would always err on the side of the natural law, allowing mum time, and dad if he is around, to love and protect their little one.  The baby who is sick in utero and may not survive needs to be loved and nurtured just like any other child.  God knows when it is His time to take the child to heaven.

The deep sadness and the aftermath of this sorry story was horrendous and will remain etched in our hearts forever.

From this and the many other very sad situations we find ourselves faced with at our centre, I felt it was time to launch the Therese program.

With the expert research of a volunteer, we have produced an easy guide manual on the most common lethal anomalies. The guide is for busy doctors, nurses, mums and dads, pro-life centres and  all those interested in learning about a diagnosis at a glance. Through this we give we hope, assurance and love and support to those in need.

FLI recognizes the sacrifices parents make to bring their special children into the world. We understand the heartache … and the tremendous joy and pride associated with the reality of parenthood of special children. They can never be branded as being a drain on society but a huge blessing, bringing unconditional love, joy and a peace that nothing else can provide. I know, we have four adopted special needs children and the youngest is only five years old and has the greatest needs. She teaches us patience, understanding of the frailty of humanity, she teaches us joy and fun, and yes, exhaustion at times.  We know, though, beyond a shadow of doubt that she has already earned her crown and is so very close to the very heart of Jesus. We love this little one dearly and have named the Therese program after her.

For resources and information on the Therese program please contact Colleen through the FLI website – www.fli.org.nz.

Heroic love

In times of great crisis and change in society God has always sent great and humble leaders to guide us and be here to help each one of us, to show us the way to salvation. Blessed John Paul 11, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, St Padre Pio, what real gems of hope and intercession.

There is another less known saint,  St Gianna Berretta Molla.  St Gianna comes as a mother who, in 1962, gave her own life so that her wee baby, Gianna, might have life. As a wife, mother and physician and, above all, a deep and ardent lover of Christ and Mother church, her exemplary life can now show us the way. She comes to show us that it is acceptable to be heroic. She shows us that it is acceptable to lay down our lives, if necessary, for the ones we love the most, in order to show greater love for the ONE who gave HIS very life for each one of us.

Fr Linus Clovis, along with Clare who has served FLI in Wellington for more than fifteen years, Maria our faithful volunteer from Dunedin and I had the wonderful privilege of celebrating St Gianna’s feast day in her own chapel in Mescura, a little village outside of Milan. Her daughter Gianna, now forty nine, hosted us and showed us all the relevant sites, churches, homes and places of work of her saint mother. The deep humility of Gianna and of all her family was the most precious thing I could encounter. The deep love for her saint mother, who she never knew, and the loving care she gave her own father for many years as a geriatrician is outstanding. The family bears witness to authentic Catholic Life.

We pray daily for the intercession of St Gianna for all Catholic mothers and all those of good will who suffer in pregnancy. St Gianna knows the pain and sorrow that each of you encounter on a daily basis, now more than ever with so much pressure on families to abort their children for the most minor reasons. It becomes urgent that we make St Gianna known throughout New Zealand. We must make her known and promote devotion to her. Already Gianna Mollas’ saint mother has interceded to God the most High for many, many mothers and parents.  We have great faith that she, along with St Gerard Majella and Blessed John Paul11, are protecting our daughter Michelle who is preparing for her seventh ‘C’ Section birth in just nine years.

We know of so many heroic Catholic women in this country who are giving birth under very difficult circumstances and we encourage prayers through St Gianna for their and their baby’s protection.

For this reason we are starting the St Gianna Beretta Molla Society in NZ and Gianna has agreed to come down here to NZ to visit us all. Her visit will be in conjunction with John and Beth Porteous who are an integral part of the desire to bring this wonderful and timely saint’s daughter to NZ. Maria Fischer in Dunedin is co-coordinator for devotion to St Gianna here down under.

St Gianna will also be the patron saint of the Therese programme, which we started, to assist all parents who are being faced with the decision to abort a so-called defective child.  We have an amazing resource available for these parents and offer whatever personal help is required so that they will choose to give life to their very special little one.

To read more about St Gianna’s life click here