Chicago suffered through one of its snowiest winters in years, but I missed the worst of it. I spent almost six weeks in Everett, Washington, north of Seattle, involved in a trial. I had planned to commute on the weekends, but the short time and long distance, Chicago weather, and a nasty cold all conspired against me.
Staying the weekends gave me a chance to attend Mass on Sundays at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church. I enjoy going to Mass away from home. It’s interesting to see different sanctuaries, statues, and stained glass. It’s good to hear different preaching and singing, to watch the faithful interact in worship, and to learn of their special ministries. Variety is the spice of life, and with some things that’s true in Church life, too.
But some things about Church remain the same, and one in particular caught my eye. It was a young couple dealing with their two-year old. It brings back memories! Dad would hold her for a while, but usually not for long. The child wanted mom, and with mom she found contentment. It comes as no surprise. Mom usually handles those late night feedings. She’s changes more poopy diapers than dad. Mom coos and sings better than anyone. Mom is the proudest of those first steps and first words. When the child falls, mom is the one who comes running. And no one in the whole world hugs like mom. These things come naturally for her. They are part of the mother-child bond that starts to form the very moment a mom learns that a child grows inside her. That two-year old instinctively knew and felt the bond.
The mother-child bond is so strong that there may be no greater pain than that caused by its breaking. Sophie’s Choice tells the story of a young Polish immigrant. Although freed from Nazi imprisonment, Sophie lived under the dark cloud of her past. Her captors had forced her to choose which of her two children would remain with her and which would be killed. Alone, afraid, and absolutely desperate, Sophie chose. Life for her was never the same. Sophie lived in regret and guilt until she could no longer stand to live at all. The war had ended years earlier, but the Holocaust had claimed another victim.
Tragically, we have not done much better for mothers. Our culture forces desperate women into decisions they would rather not make. This coercion does not come through prison camps and guns, but it is just as effective. It’s called “pro-choice.”
Before 1973, women confronted with unexpected pregnancies babies found protection in laws that made abortion an illegal and socially unacceptable. The law gave women the answer they need in dealing with unhappy husbands, boyfriends, and family members pushing for abortions. And distressed women contemplating abortions had to think twice, and then some, because the law made abortion illegal. Abortions still occurred, but with far less frequency than they occur now.
With the legalization of abortion, the whole dynamic changed. Abortion is now available at any stage of pregnancy. Society has made abortion an alternative to an unplanned pregnancy. Without the law’s protection, many women must make a Sophie’s choice. Embarrassed? Choose! Unsupportive boyfriend? Choose! Angry parents? Choose! Unhappy husband? Choose! Unhealthy child? Choose! Oversized family? Choose! Financial problems? Choose! Job pressures? Choose! “Pro-choice” is not a liberating freedom. It is a scream into women’s very souls: “Time is running out! Choose!” Too often, desperate women chose wrongly with consequences that haunt them for life. Some bonds cannot be reconnected. Life just doesn’t work that way.
It didn’t for Emma Beck, a talented artist. She aborted her twins after her boyfriend reacted badly to her pregnancy. Emma deeply regretted her abortions; she realized that she would have been a good mom. Emma wrote about her suffering: “I told everyone I didn’t want to do it, even at the hospital. I was frightened, now it is too late. I died when my babies died. I want to be with them: they need me, no-one else does.” Emma’s writing was found in her home—where she was found hanging. Emma died on February 2, 2007, her 31st birthday. Another holocaust, another victim.
May is the month for celebrating mothers. On Mother’s Day, we will show our love for our mothers with flowers and cards and gifts and brunches and barbeques and words and hugs and kisses. In parishes all over, moms will be feted in homilies and raised up in blessings and prayers. All as it should be. But this year, we should add something to the way we as Church honor mothers. We should fall down on our knees and beg their forgiveness for what we have made them choose. Then we should take action to end the holocaust once and for all. With elections drawing nearing, we will have a great opportunity to show our love. We don’t need more Emmas.
During May we celebrate also another mother, our Blessed Mother. She who was forced to watch her Son die a hideous death on a cross surely knows the sufferings of mothers who cannot protect their children. She knows our culture’s desperate need. And she knows better than any of us why He came to earth in the first place: to restore a broken bond. There can be no greater intercessor for us all than her.
After all, she is our Lady of Perpetual Help.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics. He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois, where they raise their six kids.
© 2008 Paul V. Esposito. Culture of Life. Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is freely granted.