Tuesday, May 1, 2012

ABORTION, STRAIGHT-UP: THE SISTERS OF LIFE


Several weeks ago, I posted about my new e-book, Poor Baby, a 10,000-word essay about my sad and deeply wounding experience with abortion.

1. Last week, blogger and friend extraordinaire Elizabeth Scalia, aka The Anchoress, posted a really lovely and thoughtful piece about Poor Baby. It begins:

"You have to be a pretty interesting person to be able to write three short, funny and spiritually wise biographies before you’re terribly old. Heather King is onesuch. She describes herself as “an ex-lawyer, ex-drunk Catholic convert” and upon reading her book Redeemed, I promptly fell in love with her work.
Then I actually began to correspond with Heather, (and corralled her into sharing some great stuff with Patheos) and came to love her person.
Barbara Nicolosi has called her a “Catholic Annie LaMott” and I can see that comparison, but I think Heather is even more searingly honest than LaMott. She is simply a very fine writer, and a fierce Christian who has really worked her faith through the wringer of her own damaged places and emerged as something of a mystic with a bit of a mouth. It’s a powerful combination."

Love that Liz! You can read the rest here.

2. Last Wednesday, whoops, Monday, whoops, today, whoops (Fr. Grunow is on the road and hasn't given the final okay yet), as part of their non-legislative look at abortion, my pals at Word on Fire also plan on posting SOON on Poor Baby.

3. Finallly, the current issue of Traces features a piece on the Sisters of Life, the NYC-based order (Sisters at Visitation Mission to Pregnant Women) that to me exemplifies Christ in our midst when it comes to this very difficult and often very polarizing issue.

Author Lisa Galalis notes: "The Sisters of Life surprised New York City 20 years ago when they appeared on the scene of a city not known for nurturing new life, with a desire not just to provide pregnancy services and counseling but to share their very lives with women "in the midst of an unexpected reality."


The article goes on: "These expectant mothers, who are not practicing Catholics, describe their experience of the Sisters [like this]: 'It's so peaceful here--not like where I live,' Teresa says. 'You can relax with them,' Nyala agrees. 'They weren't what I expected. They don't judge you'...

'[O]ur apostolic approach is based upon entering into a relationship with the one God calls us to serve,' Mother Agnes explains. 'The first effort is to come to recognize in the other an icon of the living God, and to experience within myself the gift that the other is to me. Only then can I become for her a mirror in which she can see and identify with the truth of the goodness, strength and beauty within.' She clarifies further: 'When we train our coworkers and Sisters, we say: 'We must do whatever we do in response to the delight that God allows us in the other, because if we do not do that, then the other perceives that whatever we are doing is because we're good, not because they're good--and that's just pride.' "


Three years ago, in NYC for a couple of weeks, I attended Sunday Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. Before dismissing us, the priest announced that the Sisters of Life had set up a little booth there that day. In the twenty-plus years that I had carried my secret and my shame, it was the first I'd heard of any group that actually addressed the wound of the mother; that treated the woman who'd aborted neither as a pariah, nor as a potential poster child for the pro-life movement. I hung around the fringes for awhile and I can't describe the light these nuns threw off: anything but hokey, anything but contrived, anything but patronizing, anything but with an ulterior motive, anything but weird.

Finally I worked up the courage to approach one of them, a beautiful woman in her late twenties with a solid, welcoming face that seemed to invite in the whole world. "Thank you for the work you do," I said. "I've had three"...and started weeping. "I'm sure there's help for you there," the sister said when I explained that I lived in L.A.

I didn't seek help for many more months. But it was the face of that young nun--healthy, wholesome, sane, compassionate, joyful--I really have to thank here. Love is how you treat those who have nothing to give. I had nothing to give her. And she gave me back my life.

photo found at the black cordelias: more about the SOL there

Sister Maria Kateri (L) and Sister Catherine Marie from Sisters of Life ride their bikes in Toronto, February 2010.photo: Holy Post, from an article by Charles Lewis, April 10, 2011

13 comments:

  1. Trying hard not to cry at my computer at this, Heather. What a blessing to have met those nuns. You are so brave and honest.

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  2. About the Sisters: they are to be commended, and commended emphatically! It's always refreshing to encounter those who practice Christianity 101, as expressed in the opening verses of the seventh chapter of the Gospel according to St Matthew.

    As for Ms Scalia's assessment of the "mystic with a bit of a mouth" -- one cannot help but smile broadly at this charitable veracity!

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  3. Heather, is there a way to get Poor Baby without having to buy a Kindle? I can get the app on my iPhone, but I'm not eager to read on that tiny screen.

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  4. Here in Hartford, CT we have St. Gerard's Center for Life. It's across the street from the abortion clinic. We pray in front of the clinic on Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. when the place is filling up with women for "procedures." Almost every Saturday, a woman opts out of aborting her child, and we are there to help her. We even saw a young couple get half-way up the sidewalk, turn and look at us, turn to each other (sobbing), and, still clinging to one another, turn around to leave the clinic.

    Sadly, we have seen women dragged in there, crying and screaming. They are pulled in by their mothers, their boyfriends and one sobbing girl was propelled in by her elbows by (presumably) both parents. It sure doesn't look like a choice. We saw one of the really upset ones come back out, but I guess most of them are calmed down by the clinic staff.

    In addition, we are there for the women who come out, post-"procedure". When I used to go later in the morning to another Hartford clinic, on one occasion we drove the woman home (she was about to take a bus after her abortion ...), and we bought her a meal on the way. She had had nothing to eat since the night before and she was hungry.

    Most women give us the finger, glare at us, shout obscenities and tell us to "get a life." But that's okay. We are there for them. We even asked the "escorts" from the UConn Women's Studies dept. to come out to breakfast with us. They declined. Actually, three of them considered it, but the head escort was emphatic in her "no" and they followed suit.

    Speaking of the escorts, the true horror is when the woman comes out, drained, violated, no longer pregnant and she and her partner head for the car, the escorts smile and tell her to "Have a good day" or "Take care."

    Oh, just so you know, I am post-abortive - mine was in 1976. I got sober in 1985 and became a Catholic in 1990. And I love your blog and just got my hands on "Redeemed" ... I can't wait to read it. And, yes, the Sisters of Life are an amazing gift to this jaggedly wounded age of ours.

    Rosemary F.

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  5. Heather:

    I bought a Kindle primarily to read your essay and that of Joseph Bottum. The Amazon company is pretty shrewd. You ought to ask for a commission. The essay was worth the investment. Any more on the way?

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  6. Per that final photo: Canada (and my old home town to boot), sisters and bicycles - Golly, what's not to like!

    Regarding this sentence, "Love is how you treat those who have nothing to give." -- Amen.

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  7. Oh people...Jason, the way I understand it, you don't have to have a kindle. Can buy from amazon and it will open a "cloud reader" on your computer if that's the way you want to go, so you can read it on a normal-sized instead of teeny screen. Thanks Peter--my agent has a book-length ms. right now, am writing for Magnificat, The Fix, and of course my blog so no immed. plans for another e-book.

    Rosemary, that's the real stuff--thank you, sister. Lizzie, glad you're back, as always thanks, Dylan, and Owen, you are a dear!

    My friend Ben tells me there were some unfriendly comments over at E. Scalia's blog but I am just going to not look. Am in NH, helping tend to, figure out finances/care for my pore aged mother. Got to sit with her for an hour this afternoon. That was nice...thanks, friends. Your kind voices mean a special lot to me right now.

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  8. David DeAtkine, Jr., MDMay 2, 2012 at 8:23 PM

    God Bless the Anchoress and God Bless Heather for their holy work. The world would beso much emptier without your voices.

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  9. Thanks, Heather! I'll check it out! :)

    Will pray for you before mass this morning.

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  10. Heather I was intrigued by your comment that there were some unkind words written of you on Ms. Scalia's blog. I says to myself, "take me to Heather's unhealthy blog comments." So I did. What I found was an elaborate joke. The commentary is actually outstanding, in my view, and precisely the sort of thoughtful conversation that Poor Baby was inevitably going to stimulate.

    I think you should take a look at it.

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  11. Heather, thanks so much for posting that bit from Traces. I just love how Mother Agnes describes how they try to treat people. It's amazing how paradoxical it is. They try to open their eyes to the goodness of those they serve, and in doing so, they spontaneously treat them as they DESERVE to be treated, as beautiful children of God, not as a "objects" of charity. That's where their light comes from.

    Thanks for passing this along, and for everything else. I agree with all the praise! :)

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  12. Regarding your writing for Magnificat, GOD BLESS YOU for writing your Blessed Mary essay. I read it every day, over and over...so beautifully expressed.

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  13. Heather, Do you KNOW what a gift you are to others? This blog posting is rich with information and links to others that open doors for me, not to mention your courageous "Mystic with a Mouth" style of writing. Thank you again and again!

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I WELCOME your comments!!!