This past summer, my daughter felt called to start a pro-life student group at her high school. We’d attended the Pro-Life Women’s Conference last June and it was the fuel to a flame already burning in her heart. We talk frankly to our kids about the evil of abortion, and this one was listening. After hearing testimonies of women who have had abortions and worked in abortion centers, she was ready to fight.
Her intent was to build a group that focused on respecting all life — the unborn, elderly, disabled, and immigrants. She liked the Pro-Life conference message of love. She secured permission and got a teacher to help her out. Since she attends a Catholic school, this was the easy part. Getting other kids to assist was the challenge, as well as dealing with pushback on social media.
There was a decent amount of frustration felt by both of us. She approached kids she knew were solid Catholics and was told by a few that they would attend meetings but didn’t want to take a leadership role because they didn’t want to offend their pro-choice friends. That response caused not a little anger on my part, but after I simmered down I began to realize how hard it is for teens to live their faith.
As an adult, I am comfortable with holding unpopular beliefs. It saddens me that being an advocate for life is so counter-cultural but I can handle that. I have already made friends and found my way.
Teens are still working on it. To stand up for the truth, even Christ’s Truth, when it is mocked and criticized by secular society at a time in life when one so badly wants to be accepted is a tall order. It can mean having fewer friends and getting nasty Instagram direct messages.
When I got the opportunity to go to SEEK2019 and interview speakers, I asked to speak to Sr. Bethany Madonna, a Sister of Life. These women are on the front lines of the pro-life movement. They are strong, they are loving, and they are beautiful examples of Christ in action.
In a previous interview, Sr. Bethany noted that deep down inside everyone is pro-life. I asked if she thinks that explains the anger with which people respond to pro-life messages.
My daughter’s thoughts about Sr. Bethany’s answer:
The pro-life movement is something that is close to my heart. Over the past few months, I have worked to spread the loving, pro-women messages of the pro-life movement, primarily through posts on my Instagram Story. However, whenever I post something pro-life, girls in my school who are adamantly pro-choice always post something “pro-abortion.” Before SEEK, I couldn’t wrap my head around their beliefs. It didn’t make logical sense to me. Yet, after speaking with Sister Bethany Madonna, my eyes were opened.
When my mom and I had the opportunity to talk to Sister Bethany, I was excited to hear her thoughts. When Sister Bethany said that one of the reasons people respond angrily to pro-life messages is because abortion is a wound, and will always be a wound because it is a failure to meet the real needs of women, I was surprised. I had never thought that. Maybe the reason that the girls in my class always “retaliate” to my pro-life messages is because, deep down, they know that abortion is a failure of women, even though the pro-choice movement boasts that abortion is empowering.
Sister continued, saying that grief and sorrow are harder to access than anger and aggression. Some women who support abortion are doing it angrily. They are angry at men and at the pro-life movement. They stomp their feet and march for themselves. But, the pro-life movement is based in grief and healing. They mourn all the children who never got a chance at life and work to help women who’ve suffered through an abortion heal. The pro-life movement represents those who cannot represent themselves. The anger that pro-choice women feel stems from their inability to reach the grief that is deep down inside of them.
My next question to Sr. Bethany was: How can teens who are interested in spreading the pro-life message respond to other teens who attack them verbally?
As a mother, my desire is to bang some heads together but Sr. Bethany reminded us that love is the most important thing and she gave my daughter some great advice. My daughter shared her thoughts:
January 22nd, 2019 marked the 46th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the court case that led to the legalization of abortion in America. On that day, I decided to share a few pro-life pictures on my Instagram Story. Almost immediately after my photos were posted, a few pro-choice girls that I know shared pro-abortion photos on their Story.
That evening, I was chatting with one of my friends, who is also pro-life, and he mentioned that I should have a debate with one of the more vocal pro-abortion girls in our senior class. Right away, I said no, calling to mind Sister Bethany’s advice. Sister told me that the best way to respond and spread the pro-life message amidst rebuttal from pro-abortion advocates is to stand firm in my belief while responding to the verbal attacks with love.
My friend, who said he would pay to watch me and this girl debate, didn’t understand the necessity to respond with love. I told him that debate between us wouldn’t be fruitful because both of us are already too emotionally invested in our beliefs. It would become arguing and neither of us would win.
The only way for me to reach her heart is to continue to show her love and friendship while standing strong in my pro-life stance. While she may never come to agree with me, maybe through my peaceful response and proud support of pro-life, she’ll slowly understand the truth behind the pro-life movement.
I am proud of my daughter. I am proud of her for being brave and I know she has suffered because of it. Sr. Bethany reminded us that in suffering we are uniting our hearts to Christ. I often remind my daughter that Jesus told us:
“Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely]because of me.” (Matthew 5:11)
With the recent legislation in New York, more than ever we need to fight with love for the unborn. There is an evil seeping through our culture, an evil that is insidious, infectious, and causing us damaging blindness to God’s truth about the value of all life and the value of our own lives.
In the Letter to the Romans, St. Paul gives us encouraging words:
“Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20).
Let us pray for the grace to fight this evil for those who through no fault of their own, those who represent the future of our society, those who are our greatest gifts, are endangered.
Copyright 2019 Merridith Frediani