I had the chance to listen to a good chunk of the USSCB Conference this past week. I am quite the Catholic nerd, I know, to be interested in all of the nitty-gritty behind the scenes details of our faith. It especially surprises me that I enjoyed listening in because whenever I attend a nutrition or breastfeeding conference for my work as a WIC Nutritionist and Lactation Counselor, I'm usually quite restless and bored throughout and my mind frequently wanders, and so I couldn't help but wonder how many of those bishops in attendance were like me at my nutrition conferences, stifling yawns through the speakers, fidgeting in their seats and wishing they could be anywhere but sitting through yet another long day of speakers.
But no, the bishops cannot be like me, because the fire for the faith that burns within their hearts surely keeps them in rapt attention to the details of their work, and how blessed we ordinary Catholics are that these holy men devote their time and energies to assuring that our faith is upheld with dignity and love in this world which is sadly secular and often times blatantly anti-Catholic.
I loved these quotes from Archbishop Dolan's opening presidential statement:
"That truth — that He, Christ, and she, His Church, are one — moistens our eyes and puts a lump in our throat as we whisper with De Lubac, “For what would I ever know of Him, without her?”
"The Church is a communio, a supernatural family. Most of us, praise God, are born into it, as we are into our human families. So the Church is in our spiritual DNA. The Church is our home, our family."
And this one, in regards to how our faith in ingrained in us like a birthmark, made me laugh. Archbishop Dolan is always good for a laugh, isn't he? Although when I shared it with my family they just rolled their eyes and groaned-it must have lost something in my translation:
"To use a Catholic word, "Bingo!"
To read his wonderful presidential address in its entirety click here.
But by far, in my opinion, the highlight of the Bishop's Conference was the riveting press conference about Project Rachel. The statements offered were deeply moving and as I listened to the speakers I was picturing so many of the clients I see at work, the ones who tell me that they've had one or more abortions and those who are still pregnant and considering aborting their babies, most recently the tearful young mother of four children whose boyfriend left her when she told him that she was pregnant again and as he left he told her that she should have the baby "sucked out of her." I thought that perhaps listening to this portion of the conference was more helpful to me in my work than all of the nutrition conferences that I have ever attended in the past, for by listening to these speakers I learned about the importance of compassion for the suffering of the many poor young women I see who deal with the after-effects of abortion on a daily basis.
I was especially touched by the words of Fr. James Stack who said he is just an ordinary parish priest, just a normal guy who suffered his own trauma in the past and was compelled to do something more with his life in regards to offering healing love and compassion to those who suffer the effects of trauma and stress from post-abortion fallout.
He spoke eloquently about the lines of people who wait outside his office in need of healing from their post-abortive suffering. He shared his belief that their pain is a spiritual battle waged by the devil inside of their heads. The devil tells these post-abortive men and women that there is no hope for them, that they are forsaken, cursed, outcast, damaged goods, broken beyond repair and unforgivable for their actions. They are unable to forgive themselves and cannot establish healthy relationships. Fr. Stack shows them that Jesus is the only one who has the ability to connect them with their unborn baby. He encourages them to name and to know their child. He walks them back through the experience of abortion and offers them inner healing and takes the pain out of the memory and gives them the hope of the future. He mentioned that the hardest thing is getting these men and women to understand and accept the fact that they are deeply loved by God, that they are forgiven and that one day they will be re-united with their child.
And what moved me was the emotion in his voice. I could feel his love for the people he helped through the words he spoke, and my heart quaked tears.
Fr. Stack's talk was followed by Dr. Vince Rue who shared the fact that post-abortive women and men are drowning in despair and self-loathing, suffering from anxiety disorders, depression and suicidal ideation. His words about the mental health suffering from the trauma of abortion were a strong follow-up to the words of Fr. Stack. I strongly encourage you to listen to the entire powerful Tuesday morning Project Rachel media briefing here. Fr. Stack's portion begins at 20 minutes.
How grateful I am for all of those involved with Project Rachel and for all of these holy men, our Catholic bishops, who fearlessly lead us in our faith and safeguard our rights as Catholics in an American society fraught with disregard and disdain for the things that matter-love of God, love for the Church and respect and dignity for the human race. God bless the Catholic Church and God bless those holy men who are united in a spiritual marriage to her, our bishops and our priests, our spiritual fathers.