Recently I attended a Catechist formation training day at a local diocesan training center and one of the keynote presenters was musician Steve Angrisano (www.steveangrisano.com). If you’ve never had the pleasure of attending one of his events or listening to him speak and perform, you don’t know what you’re missing.
Over the course of the evening, Mr. Angrisano very aptly reminded all of us of Pope Francis’s term “field hospital,” which the Holy Father has rightly dubbed our Church. Mr. Angrisano reminded those in the congregation that who we are throughout the week should make people want to attend our churches on Sundays.
But do we live up to that calling as Catholic Christians? Do we reach out to the lost and hurting, or do we stay in our closed communities, refusing to venture out of our comfort zones and help others come to know Christ? Especially during this anniversary of the passing of Roe v. Wade and even more significantly, during our country’s recent overturning of that landmark decision, the pro-life community has seen a need to regroup, reevaluate, and renew its purpose to defend the cause of life: and to ask the all-important question, “How are we doing?” Are we making much progress in building a culture of life?
The pro-life movement has been a driving force for me, since I was born to an unmarried teenager in the 1970s and adopted as an infant. I was quite literally spared from abortion. In order to save my life, my biological grandparents arranged for my birth mother to spend the last part of her pregnancy at a residential facility until the time of my birth. The experience was something that impacted her for life, and a disruption of normalcy for her entire family.
On the other end of things, my adoptive parents were in another part of the state undergoing a rigorous vetting process to become parents, which is just as financially and emotionally draining. They had to accept the painful reality of infertility, adjust their expectations of parenthood, and be completely vulnerable to God’s plan for their calling to be parents.
It would have been far easier to abort me.
My husband and I are the adoptive parents of four children, and we know from personal experience that the adoption process is far from simple. Most people have no idea how very difficult it is to save the life of an “unplanned” infant. The entire process is expensive, heart-rending, unpredictable, and emotional. And it doesn’t end there; many adoptees carry deep emotional and psychological wounds with them for life, and daily life for adoptive families is challenging.
A New Era
Now that we live in a post-Roe world (although just barely), the pro-life community must shift its focus from ad campaigns, political demonstrations, and admirable sentiments, to taking action.
Too often, I have witnessed in my local Catholic community that pro-life groups are quick to attend rallies and marches (nothing wrong with that), but fail to reach out to those in real-life situations that demand a listening ear and a helping hand. In the name of protecting the privacy of those I know in vulnerable situations, I cannot mention specifics, but I have witnessed many times when tangible help could have been given to someone facing a crisis pregnancy and was not. This is where so many fall through the cracks.
Why? Because it’s uncomfortable. It’s risky. And it takes financial support, time, and sometimes great personal inconvenience. In short, what we must do if we truly want to save those innocent lives and empower their mothers to make life-giving choices is to be present.
During the aforementioned training event, Mr. Angrisano mentioned a book entitled “If You Want to Walk on Water, You Have to Get out of the Boat.” He went on to say that Peter failed when he took his eyes off Christ and sunk into the sea, but that in the author’s mind, the other eleven apostles were the real failures because they never got out of the boat. Peter was the only one. He walked on water, if only briefly! But the others never even tried.
How very powerful!
We must get out of the boat as Peter did, leave our timid brethren behind, and venture out into the unknown to work in the Church’s field hospital. We are called to seek out the lost and broken, to leave our comfort zones, to meet people where they are, and to call them home — as Jesus has done for each and every one of us.
Getting out of the boat looks different for everyone.
For some, it means including a teen girl at school so she doesn’t seek out the wrong activities to relieve loneliness. For others, it means offering respite care to foster parents who are exhausted from meeting the emotional and physical needs of their chosen children. For others, it means sitting with a drug-addicted woman who has been abandoned by her husband and helping her find a tangible means of assistance for her and her children.
In a 2015 homily at Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis said, “Sometimes I speak of the Church as if it were a field hospital: it’s true. There are many, many wounded! So many people need their wounds healed! This is the mission of the Church: to heal the wounds of the heart, to open doors, to free people, to say that God is good, that God forgives all.”
The mantra used against the pro-life movement for so long has had a kernel of truth to it: that the pro-life movement is merely “pro-birth,” and that the very real socioeconomic needs of an “unplanned” child are unmet, resulting in a lifetime of hardship.
We must change this, and it will take sacrifice. Like Peter, we must get out of the boat, keeping our eyes on Jesus and knowing that He will never lead us to places where His grace cannot sustain us. This is how we live out the truth that each life created by our loving God is wanted. I can attest to this as someone who has lived her whole life feeling in some ways rejected or “unplanned” that nothing stings more than pondering whether your life has meaning.
I tell my children every day that I love them and I’m glad to be their mom. I pray for their birthmothers, for healing and comfort. I try to do whatever I can to help anyone who comes to me in these situations — whether that is taking a pregnant woman to buy food and prenatal vitamins, babysitting a pair of newborn twin girls while an adoptive family is found, attending fundraising events for Safe Haven Baby Boxes, or babysitting a friend’s foster son when she needs help. I have been blessed to be called upon to do all these things, and it fills my heart with joy!
That’s how I show my gratitude for the gift of life. I believe that I wasn’t unplanned, and that God has always had a purpose for my life. One of our current pontiff’s gifts to the Church is his constant reminders to “see” others and reach out to those on the fringes, as Christ did; and this is where the pro-life movement must go.
Being pro-life — especially in the post-Roe era — means getting out of the boat. It means looking around for those in need and making yourself available. It means teaching your children to love and include others, to welcome the lonely, and to see value in every human life. Being truly pro-life is to learn to live for others.
That is how we begin to build a culture of life.
Image: Adobe Stock. By vukkostic.
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Kristi McCabe is an award-winning freelance writer, Catechist, a former teacher and editor who lives with her family in Owensboro, Kentucky. As an adoptive mother of four and an adoptee herself, Kristi is an avid supporter of pro-life ministries. She is active in her local parish and has served as Eucharistic minister and in various children's ministries.