“Theresa, you need to accept the possibility that your father may never repent of forcing you to have an abortion.” I will never forget these words that my spiritual director said to me. I had been praying a novena to Our Lady of Czestochowa for years In fact, she is the patroness of the “Entering Canaan” post abortion ministry I developed with The Sisters of Life.
Coerced into abortion as a teen by my dad, I had made it a daily practice to ask her to change his heart and to bring him to the mercy of her Son. The thought that my dad may never open himself up to the grace of being forgiven was something I did not want to accept. I said that prayer everyday for over twenty years.
Forgiving my dad was not easy. I wish I could say that he thought he was doing what was best for me when he forced me to abort, but my dad was concerned about appearances and I later learned that he had been involved in other abortions.
The death of my unborn child altered my entire life, and the struggles with abandonment and forgiveness were not easily overcome. Only through my own healing and the grace of God was I able to begin to show my father the mercy and forgiveness that God showed me.
It is difficult to embrace the unrepentant heart. It can fill us with anger, resentment and even hatred if we allow it. The choice to forgive must be made over and over again, because that is the choice that God wants us to make. This does not, of course, mean that we have to open ourselves to be hurt again, but it does mean we need to free ourselves of the hold those feelings can have on our lives.
My abortion impacted my entire family. The devastation it brought was never far from us even if it was unspoken or denied. Countless other families experience this estrangement, especially when coercion has been present. Yet many refuse to acknowledge the sinfulness of their involvement in abortion. Women may seek to become pregnant again to “replace” the child they lost or, simply looking for love and affirmation, they find themselves pregnant again, unmarried, and with the same pressures to abort. The pregnant woman’s parents or boyfriend may still be unwilling to support her in a life-affirming decision. So the act is repeated, despite knowing the damage it does. Their fears are greater than their trust in God.
It is very difficult to continue to show unconditional love for such people. We can become blinded to anything but the destruction of the unborn child and the hurt their coercion has caused, but still we must offer the mercy of God whether it is wanted or not. Not an easy task and impossible without God’s grace.
We must always remember that these people are lost. We must try to light the way to Christ.
At the end of his life, thankfully, my dad did repent. He went to confession and told me he was sorry. My last words to him were asking him to hug my unborn son when he saw him in heaven.
Christ came to call sinners. We need to learn the lesson of Advent and be patient and wait, because we never know how God is working in people’s hearts. There are those who will continue to refuse the mercy of God, but it is our job to keep offering it, never knowing if in that last second they will repent.
Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!
May our voices join with the angel chorus, praying for the reconciliation of all the unrepentant, as we approach the birth of Mercy Himself.