You see, I was born into a Catholic family, but not much was done to keep me clinging to my Catholic faith. I would stray from the narrow path slowly but surely. By the time I entered college, God was a distant thought; I still believed in His existence, but prayer and Mass attendance just didn't seem to fit into my life at this point. The ways of the world seemed so much more exciting, a whole lot more fun, and they seemed to make a lot more sense.
During my Senior year in high school, I met the young man I would end up marrying 10 years later in 1991. It was during this ten year period in 1988 at the age of 24, that I would sever my ties with God completely for quite some time. May 10, 1988, the day before Mother's Day, I made the horrible decision to end my child's life through abortion. This fateful day, my baby died and in some ways so did I.
My life would continue in what I now refer to as a foggy, numbed state; I continued working as a teacher in our local public schools, and my boyfriend and I planned our wedding and married in October 1991. I remember during our engagement period going through the required Pre~Cana sessions and at times feeling that something wasn't right; maybe this marriage was a mistake, but I shrugged that off as pre~wedding jitters. Things seemed to move along somewhat smoothly. In the area of religion, I fell into everything New Age; everything from crystals to Shirley MacLaine! The New Age philosophy got me off the hook for everything. It was all about me and nothing really about God, at least not as He really is.
In hindsight I also realize that I was searching for something, or rather Someone; I just didn't know who or what it was at the time. My vision was very clouded, or as I have heard said before, "Sin makes you stupid!" That's definitely true in my case.
As far as children were concerned, well in our worldly thinking, it never seemed like the right time. Life continued along what seemed like the road to nowhere special until I got a letter...
The Roadmap Disguised As A Letter
One day in March 2002, I received a letter from a friend. I had not heard from this young man in quite some time. He had been suffering from drug addiction for a good part of his young life. As the envelope was stamped with the name of a Pennsylvania County Jail, I knew his addiction had gotten him into some trouble.
When I opened the letter, the first line read, "Karin do yourself a favor and get a copy of a Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church." My immediate reaction to that one line was to put the letter down. All I could think was, Oh no you don't! I'm not going back to all that antiquated stuff; I have finally managed to "deprogram" myself from all of that. Well my curiousity got the better of me and I continued to read the rest of his letter. My friend's proposal was that we read from these two books about an hour each day and discuss what we read in our letters. Well, I figured for the sake of our friendship, what the heck; if nothing else it will make for interesting letter writing.
And so it began, I began to read Scripture and the Catechism and my friend began to re-catechize me. It would go on like this for about a month and a half.
Then in one of my letters I told my friend that he asked good questions; he wrote back, "You don't give very good answers!" From there he proceeded to tell me that it was time for me to make a decision~either I was going to accept Christ into my life as my Lord and Savior or go back to the way I had been living.
It would be two very long weeks before I would make that decision. I was at a crossroads and I didn't know what to do next.
So I continued to read Scripture as well as the Catechism and then it happened...
Over the course of this two week period, I couldn't seem to get off this fence and I didn't know why until it hit me square between the eyes; the abortion I had back in 1988 suddenly came to the forefront of my mind. Until this point, I had buried it some place very deep within me.
I remember sitting on my bed reading the chapter in the Catechism on the Fifth Commandment;
"Thou shalt not kill." Well thou did! The reality of what I had done came rushing to the surface in a flood of tears; I cried for an hour!
But what could I do now. All I could think was "God could never, would never forgive me for this!" I finally wrote back to my friend and told him that yes, I did want to take Christ back into my life, I did want to come back to his Church, but you see I did this awful thing and while I want Jesus, how or why would He want me?
My friend responded and his letters spoke of God's awesome mercy; how His love and mercy were bigger than any sin I could ever commit.
The Journey Begins
OK, so if what my friend was saying about God's love and mercy were true, then there had to be a way back to Him. I figured there is a website for everything, there had to be one for this. So I typed something about returning to the Catholic Church in my browser and got a site called OnceCatholic.com. I clicked on it and immediately saw a link for abortion. So I figured, OK let's get the lecture overwith, but I didn't get a lecture...
The Opened Window and the Burst of Fresh Air
What I found was exactly what my friend's letters had been talking about~the love and mercy of God! I found a link for Rachel's Vineyard. I clicked on this and read every single testimonial on there. This ministry brought healing to men and women who had had abortions and get this, the healing was to be found in the last place I thought to look~the Catholic Church!
In reading through everything on this site, I also began to see how Christ and His Church are one. This was something I never really understood~even with 12 years of Catholic school.
I began to see that making this retreat was the safe haven I needed to receive the healing I needed.
You have to understand, I knew that sacramental confession was in order if I wanted to return to the Church fully, but for me, walking into the nearest confessional and saying, "Bless me Father, it's been 20 years since I've been here, I killed my own child..." was not something I could bring myself to do. Fear absolutely paralyzed me in that area.
This all happened in May 2002. It would be August before I would muster up the courage to call and inquire about making the weekend. During those 3 months I continued to pray and to explain to God in every way I knew how that I was sorry for what I had done and the way I had been living.
I also told my husband that I had made the decision to return to the Church. All he said to me was that he didn't realize the abortion bothered me so much. I didn't either until this point. I told him that I was thinking about making this retreat to help me with these issues. He told me to do whatever I felt I needed to do, but showed no interest in joining me on this road. The abortion didn't seem to bother him, and as far as Church, he wanted no part of it.
The Call To The Vineyard
In early August, I found the contact information for the Rachel's Vineyard in my area. I made the call, the woman on the phone explained the retreat in great detail, and when she was done talking, I told her to sign me up for the next retreat. She expalined that the September weekend was full, but she could put me on for November. I told her that would be fine. However she did not want to leave me hanging for 3 months; she gave me the name of Dr. Theresa Burke's book, Forbidden Grief, and also said she could give me the names and numbers of several priests to talk to in the mean time. I told her that I would read the book, but I wasn't quite ready for priests yet. She said that was OK and that I could call her anytime between now and the retreat if I had any questions or concerns.
I ordered the book and I read it cover to cover. I learned a lot about what the abortion did to me physically, emotionally and spiritually. And I knew that only God Himself could get me through this.
During those 3 months, I continued to pray. Prayer was all I seemed to have. My friend sent me a copy of the Salvation Prayer; I knew it wasn't a substitute for confession, but I said this prayer on almost a daily basis during those days. I went back to saying the Rosary. I also noticed I had an immediate devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus; I still do. I found every prayer I could get my hands on relating to this devotion and prayed them constantly. God was at work in big and small ways during this time. There were days I wanted Jesus so badly I could taste it! But my pride, fear and shame kept me frozen. Logically I knew all I had to do was go to confession, but I just couldn't. I needed to wait for the retreat.
Meeting Jesus Face To Face
November finally arrived and the weekend for the retreat was upon me. To say I was scared to death would be an understatement. On the short drive from my house to the retreat site, all I could think was "What am I doing; what am I getting myself into?" In that instant the song "I'll Stand By You" by the Pretenders came on the radio. As I listened to the words of this song, I knew that while the artist did not most likely have Jesus in mind when writing the song, I heard Jesus tell me in the words of this song that everything would be OK and that I was doing the right thing.
The first thing you are asked on Friday night is, "What do you want Jesus to do for you?" I knew the answer to that immediately; I wanted Him to break through the state of complete numbness I had been in for 14 years! He heard that prayer and answered it on Saturday night.
Saturday evening of the retreat I would come face to face with Christ and meet Him as I never had before. In a meditation that leads the retreatants into a field, Jesus is there with our children. During this beautiful meditation, I didn't so much actually see Christ, but felt His amazing presence, and He was there with my baby girl waiting to reunite me with her for a time.
Jesus was now real to me and so was my child!
Later that same evening, I would make my first confession in 20 years. God and His priest were very patient with me. Over the course of those 20 years, I probably broke almost every one of the 10 Commandments, but I knew the most immediate ones to be confessed were not only the abortion, but the contraception and pre~marital sex that led to it. Beyond that I couldn't come up with much more. The Holy Spirit would work with me on that in the weeks and months following this retreat.
Home At Last
On Sunday of the retreat I would finally get to do what I had been waiting months to do~receive Jesus worthily in Holy Communion. To backtrack just for a minute and to give you an idea of the guilt and shame I had experienced, on Saturday morning there was Mass. I remember taking one of the team members aside and telling her that there was no way I could go in that chapel. She told me to sit with her and not to worry; during Communion I could either go up for a blessing or remain in my seat. I cried all through the Mass.
After that Mass on Sunday though, I knew I was home at last and that I never wanted to leave again.
The Blinders Come Off
After making Rachel's Vineyard, I began to live my faith in earnest. Not only was I attending Mass on Sunday, but I was going on a daily basis. This was not just something I simply felt like doing; I was being compelled to do this~I simply could not stay away.
In 2003 on Divine Mercy Sunday, I began making a Holy Hour every Sunday at midnight in my parish's Perpetual Adoration chapel. That was an hour they were in most in need of an adorer, so I took it. As Divine Providence would have it that Sunday midnight hour was the same hour I had on my retreat. I guess Jesus just likes having me around at midnight on a Sunday.
The more I began to live my faith, the farther apart my husband and I seemed to become. I would invite him to come to Mass with me on Sunday, but he never came. Our lives were going in two different directions. His was going from bad to worse.
In 2005, I found evidence of his infidelity along with a worsening pornography addiction. When I confronted him, he showed no sign of remorse. He said he was sorry things ended up this way, but made no offer of changing his habits. We separated that summer and a year later he filed for divorce.
My faith helped me to see things as they truly were; the blinders came off. God put good people, both lay and clergy, in my path to help me through this difficult time.
The Here and Now
Living my faith and following Christ is not always easy; He never said it would be. But He did say that He makes all things new and that with Him all things are possible. These words have become a reality in my life.
It is truly in Christ that I move and have my being. As the Song of Songs states, "I have found him whom my heart loves, and I will not let him go."
I continue to work in Rachel's Vineyard as a team member on retreats as well as a speaker for our speaker's bureau. I have been invited to give my witness to high school students, seminarians, as well as those sitting in the pews at Sunday Mass.
John Paul II said in his encyclical, The Gospel of Life, that post abortive men and women who have received God's healing would become the greatest defenders of human life. (that is a paraphrase of Paragraph 99 of that encyclical) He was right. I see my service in this ministry as a way of "paying it forward" and also giving my daughter back some of the dignity that I took from her when I ended her life.
As for my ex-husband, I pray that he finds and accepts the healing he needs desperately; I would ask your prayers for him as well.
A Few Odds and Ends
These are a few questions I am often asked:
1. What happened to your friend who wrote you that letter?
As of right now that relationship has ended. While God used him to bring me back to Him, the relationship was a co-dependent one and therefore not healthy. I wish him well and will be forever grateful to him for all he did for me. Please pray for him.
2. Does my family know about my abortion?
My sister knows, but my parents do not. This is one reason I blog under Karinann. As much as I would like to tell them, it just doesn't seem to be the right time. I continue to pray that if God wants me to tell them, He will open the door for me to do that.
3. What is the status of my marriage?
I am in the process of petitioning for annulment. God has blessed me with an excellent priest to work with through this difficult and long process.
The Great Romance
No, it's not what you may be thinking. Remember, the annulment hasn't been granted yet. No~the great love of my life is God Himself! Saint Augustine once wrote that , "To fall in love with God is the greatest of all romances; to seek Him, the greatest adventure; to find Him, the greatest human achievement." It is only because of His love, grace and mercy that I have been able to endure all that has happened. This journey of faith and healing has been one of the wildest and most beautiful adventures I have ever been on, and I continue to seek Him in everything.
A Word of Thanks
I thank God daily for all He has done and continues to do in my life; it is nothing short of miraculous. His constant love, mercy and grace never cease to amaze me.
I also thank you, my kind and patient readers for taking the time and effort to read this story which is not always easy to read. There is so much more I could add to this, but I think this will give those who read this a good idea of who I am and where I came from.
My sole purpose in writing this is that perhaps somewhere along the way it can help someone in some way.
I would ask for your prayers for my continued healing for while I have come far, I have farther yet to go.
Jesus has prepared a place for me and I long for the day when I can truly see Him face to face.