“God will never forgive me for what I’ve done.” This is often the desolate, hopeless cry of a woman who made a decision to abort her child.
The people and circumstances that led to that decision years earlier matter little to her when she thinks about the event now. Even if she was coerced into having the abortion, as many are, it is of no account to her. She lays the full blame on herself. And she lives with the reality of being alone with the terrible consequences of that one fateful decision.
Such is the dreadful aftermath of abortion on women.
But a Catholic nun has made it her life’s work to let post-abortive women know that our Church offers them healing, mercy, and hope.
A Shepherdess of Hearts
Sister Patricia Marie Barnette, RGS, is a member of the religious order known worldwide as the Good Shepherd Sisters. The congregation was founded in the early 19th century by the intrepid St. Mary Euphrasia Pelletier.
St. Mary Euphrasia Pelletier was born on an island off the coast of France. She was born when Napoleon was busy ravaging the world and the Church. Her family had been banished to the island by the satanic force of the French Revolution. She grew up knowing what it was like to hold fast to the Catholic Faith in times of testing.
What set St. Mary Euphrasia apart from so many others is that she did not sit idly by and do nothing. She responded to the successive waves of destruction of her society in a big way. She opened up a channel of grace for women and girls who were driven into prostitution just to survive. The sisters of her congregation dedicated themselves to rescuing women from the streets. Then they rehabilitated them so that they could have normal lives again.
In the course of just a few decades, the Good Shepherd Sisters had spread their ministry of light and life throughout the entire world. Today there are 4,000 Good Shepherd Sisters working in 70 countries.
A New Grace Is Needed
Sister Patricia Marie is cut from the same cloth as her venerable foundress. I met her, years ago, in front of an abortion center praying for the women going in. Back then she had not yet received the habit. But she already had a clear religious vocation and a heart for pro-life work.
Once she made her final vows, a few years later, she went for a degree in counseling. After receiving her degree she launched headlong into the work of healing the women (and men) wounded by abortion.
It‘s easy to see how rescuing women from abortion is an extension of the charism of her congregation. St. Mary Euphrasia faced the immense social breakdown that followed the French Revolution and Napoleon. Her spiritual daughter, Sister Patricia, is now giving hope to the disconsolate after our own sexual revolution, whose terrible fruit is abortion. Thankfully, Sister Patricia is not alone in this endeavor. She stands alongside many others in the post-abortion healing movement.
Sister Patricia’s recent book, God’s Mercy Awaits You: Find Healing After Abortion (Pauline Books), is a marvelous contribution to the pro-life effort. Sister Patricia’s years of experience on the front lines of the movement taught her about the destruction and blatant evil of abortion. For many years now she has been offering a positive response to the fallout. (See an enlightening interview with Sister Patricia here.)
Why Is This Needed?
It came as a real surprise to me when Sister told me that women sometimes have repeat abortions because they haven’t been healed of their first abortion. I never would have imagined that the seduction of abortion could be so powerful.
In an era when pre-born human life has been deprived of all legal protection, the abortion industry acts like a magnet. It victimizes and re-victimizes innocent children and their mothers.
The key to breaking the cycle of victimization is often the work of healing the hidden, inner wounds of abortion. These hidden inner wounds act like a vortex. They drag women down and destroy their lives until they deal with the root cause.
Sister wrote her short and easily-readable book primarily for the post-abortive woman who is the second victim of abortion. Every abortion breaks the real but fragile bond between the unborn child and the mother. It not only kills the child, it also creates emotional/spiritual wounds in the very depths of the mother’s soul. In many cases there is also physical harm from abortion.
Only an honest addressing of the original abortion decision can bring a woman to some reconciliation with God, with her baby, and ultimately, with herself.
A Spiritual Work of Mercy
God’s Mercy Awaits You is a remarkable gem of clear thinking and compassion all rolled into one comprehensive treatment of the post-abortive women’s inner life. Sister Patricia Marie addresses every aspect of the emotional/spiritual healing process. And she does this with insight from cases of women she has personally counseled.
“Anger and Forgiveness” is a powerful chapter because it deals with the predominant blockage keeping a woman from healing. This blockage is a deep resentment at herself, God, and others who participated in the original decision. Once that blockage is removed, many healing graces can flow into the woman’s soul.
Sister then touches on every aspect of the woman’s life that needs reconciliation –
- the spiritual relationship with her child,
- her need to re-connect with God,
- the destruction that abortion has wrought on her life and relationships,
- and, above all, her need to forgive herself.
Sister is clear that her book doesn’t replace the need for one-on-one counseling. It is, however, a good catalyst to help post-abortive women remove the blinders of pain and begin to address their need for comprehensive healing.
A Book for Everyone
This short book is packed with immense wisdom. Even those of us who have not experienced abortion directly will find many insights for living in a society that is now full of post-abortive women.
Abortion is a complex reality that touches all aspects of our world. Most of us though, are not aware of the implications of so much pain and sorrow. This book should be recommended reading for everyone who has a heart for the pro-life cause.
At the end of each chapter Sister includes three or four scripture passages for meditation on the topic of the chapter. She follows these with a series of reflection questions. Then she provides “Tips for Family Members and Friends” who accompany the woman going through the healing journey. It is an immensely practical manual that has something to offer everyone at quite a reasonable cost. The Daughters of St. Paul publish and distribute it.
The Peace of Christ
Every religious sister lives for others. Every consecrated healer like Sister Patricia wants others to feel the love of Christ and experience His peace which the world cannot give (John 14:27). As St Paul tells us, this is a peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7).
Thus Sister’s book ends with a chapter entitled, “Live Your Life in Peace,” the healing journey’s penultimate goal. Her ultimate goal, of course, is getting souls to Heaven. Appropriately, her order’s charism is “zeal for souls.” But Sister knows that salvation is much more likely when wounded lives are healed and reconciled.
In response to the anguished cry of the abortion-affected woman – How can God possibly forgive me? – Sister Patricia Marie provides an answer: Christ’s healing and mercy.
May all who have been affected by abortion be at peace through the power of this prayerful and truly wonderful little book!
This article was originally published at Catholic Stand.