*Some names and details have been changed to protect privacy.
She sat in a chair facing us and smiled nervously. We asked each person at youth group that night to share about something in particular, though I cannot for the life of me recall what they were supposed to share. Mikaela chose to speak about something different when it was her turn. I’m not even sure she knew things were going to come out the way they did.
She smiled and talked about her experiences as a new college student based on the prompt we gave, when suddenly, her face became solemn. “And then I had an abortion,” she said. And words began to pour out. Her voice became rushed and she spoke through tears.
She told the whole story. How she hadn’t told anyone she was pregnant except her boyfriend, how he was abusive and threatening, how she was terrified and didn’t know where to go, and how she ultimately decided on an abortion. She was so sorry for her choice, and she explained that she was grieving the loss of her child.
All of a sudden, this ordinary night at youth group felt the full weight of the confessional, but the more Mikaela talked, the more you could see this sense of relief wash over her tiny figure.
She had finally told someone her secret. She had an abortion. And this public sharing, however unscripted and surprising, ended up being the first step on her journey toward healing and peace.
But what struck me the most, was that up until this moment, she had kept her pregnancy and subsequent abortion a complete secret from almost everyone in her life. At that time, we were pretty close. I knew Mikaela and her mother well and had spent a lot of time with their family. And my heart just broke for her.
I had been one of the people speaking into Mikaela’s life about social justice, charity, chastity, and forgiveness. These words were not enough. We can talk all we want, guys, but if our youth do not see the Church as a safe place to run when things don’t turn out how they expect, they’ll find somewhere else to go. And they do. They do all the time.
All children need to know about chastity, but they also need to know that if they choose differently, we will still love them. We will not excommunicate them from the Church or force them to wear a scarlet letter. Instead, we will be there to catch them, to love them, and to show them Christ’s mercy through it all. No one should ever feel they need to turn to an abortion out of fear or shame.
And guys, that’s partly on us as the Church. If people perceive that we don’t care and that we’re just here to cast judgment, then honestly, we’re not doing a very good job at being Christ in this world.
This also means that we need to respect the difficulty of an unexpected pregnancy. How can we sit here and say, “Oh, just choose adoption,” without acknowledging that in this, we are asking women to do something heart wrenching and difficult? How can we sit here and say, “Oh, just have your baby,” without acknowledging that we may be asking her to bring a child into an abusive relationship? And by the way, shouldn’t we help her out of that abuse? Isn’t a desire for abortion at least sometimes an indicator of something seriously unhealthy in a person’s environment?
So, it’s not enough to just talk about chastity and charity. Our youth need to visibly see that we will treat everyone with compassion and respect. Perhaps if Mikaela had the privilege of seeing the Church reaching out to young women in crisis pregnancies, or if she had attended a baby shower at her parish for a friend facing an unexpected pregnancy, she might have known a little more about Christ’s compassion for everyone. And maybe – just maybe – she could have trusted that same compassion would be there for her as well.
Our chastity talks are not enough – they are all talk. Our youth deserve the opportunity to see charity in action. Will you help them see?
*If you’d like more information about starting a chapter of Mary Garden Showers at your parish, please reach out to us at marygardenshowers.org, and we will send you our Manual. Mary Garden Showers is an apostolate serving women and families in crisis pregnancies through baby showers for women choosing to directly parent, and blessing showers for women choosing to place a child for adoption.
*And if you haven’t requested your free copy of 5 Keys to Moving from Fear to Freedom, you can do so here! I created this resource for you based on my own experiences battling anxiety. And I’d love to share it with you (or your friend or loved one) to help you move from fear to freedom in your life!