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Matter of the Heart

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May 2017

Did You Ever See A Dream Walking? The 1933 song, popularized by Bing Crosby, was about a dream girl — or sometimes a guy depending on who’s doing the singing. Lots of times, though, we can feel like we’re the dream. Whether we’re sleep deprived, distracted by all things electronic, or just waltzing through life in our own little worlds, we can be oblivious to all that’s going around us. Sometimes, we’re in bad need of a good shake.

In 1939, a book shook the social consciousness of a nation. John Steinbeck’s classic, The Grapes of Wrath, told about the Joad family, tenant farmers driven out of Oklahoma by dust storms and land foreclosure. They head to California seeking a better life, one they never find. An oversupply of labor drives down the wages of fruit pickers to near starvation levels. Labor violence erupts. Struggling to survive, the family lives in a boxcar. The Joad’s daughter Rose of Sharon, malnourished throughout her pregnancy and abandoned by her husband, gives birth to a stillborn baby. Only hours later, heavy rains force the family to retreat to a barn occupied by a child and his starving father. Though still weak and spent by her unsuccessful labor, Rose of Sharon gently cradles the man in her arms and feeds him with her breasts.

Mothers are like that, yah they are.” They are the words of a child spoken in just about the cutest TV commercial ever made. They speak the wisdom of the ages. Who else would do all a mother does for others? Her love is endless. She wipes away tears and bandages an assortment of scrapes and cuts, all made better by a tender kiss. She cooks, cleans, shops, chauffeurs, works in and out of the home, picks up dirty clothes, makes beds and helps with homework. Mom is a disciplinarian but also a mediator when dad takes a crack at being the heavy. Mom is the greatest teacher and the greatest listener. Got a problem? Go to her.

Mom claps the loudest at recitals and school plays. She beams with joy at even meager achievements and helps all around her to do more and better. Mom eats cold meals so everyone around her can enjoy a hot one. Mom worries, and then worries more. She prays, and prays again and again. She is a staunch advocate and a fierce protector. Mom feels more pain because she has the biggest heart and deepest compassion. She would die for her children. But she doesn’t celebrate herself because she is also the most humble. Mothers are like that, yah they are. She does it all by nature and what she learned from her own mom.

Sadly, our culture has misled women. It tells them that self, not others, is the most important thing in life. It tells mothers to take that misguided notion of self to the nth degree: to kill if need be. But the culture just doesn’t use those words, for the truth is too hard to accept. So it speaks of “compassion.” One abortionist claims to kill babies out of compassion (can’t help but wonder if he charges less money for those). Some religious leaders support abortion for the same reason, while many others remain silent. And so misled, some women have convinced themselves that killing their own children is an act of compassion. But abortion is never compassionate, for compassion means to share in the sufferings of others. Killing is not sharing. A compassionate mother does not kill her child, no matter what.

Then why do they? Very often, it’s because they can find no one to share their struggles. Some pregnant mothers desperately need someone to throw them a lifeline, someone to walk the journey with them. Too often, they find themselves alone because they don’t know where to turn for help. They become like prey separated from the safety of the pack, easy pickings for the wolves in sheep’s clothing — the “compassionate” abortionists.

It’s all so sad because for many expectant mothers, it’s all so avoidable. We are the pack, the ones called to keep them safe. And if we remain awake to their needs, we can. One way is through the Gabriel Project. It started very simply decades ago with a sign hung outside a rectory in Houston, Texas: “If you will have your baby, this parish will help you in every way.” It took its name from words the angel Gabriel told an amazed virgin asked to be the mother of our Savior. Nothing is impossible for God.

Today, Project Gabriel is a nationwide network of parish and diocesan-based ministries supporting needy expecting mothers. It links mothers with trained “Gabriel angels,” who mentor these mothers and help meet their various needs. Some may need financial or material resources. Others may need places to stay or health care during pregnancy. Others may need employment or transportation. Still others may want to place their babies for adoption. The needs are many, but the resources are there in us, for God works through us. And nothing is impossible for Him.

Through efforts like the Gabriel Project, we can rebuild a culture of life so badly in need to repair. By our financial support and volunteer assistance, we as parishes can take an active role in helping needy mothers. By educational efforts at all levels of parish life, we can build in our young and old parishioners alike a greater respect for unborn human life. And we can show the mothers, some who may not be parishioners, perhaps some not even Catholic, what it means to be truly compassionate.

And we must be aware of those needy women who rejected abortion in favor of life for their babies. Recently, a woman approached our group as we prayed in front of an abortion mill. She was with her 10-month old child, a child alive because she rejected the temptation to abort. She needed, and still needs, help. It is so very easy to lose sight of the fact that women’s needs do not end once they give birth. Programs must reach out to them, too. They have done what we asked. We cannot abandon them.

For the heart of the matter is that true compassion is a matter of heart.


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 and have six children.

© Paul V. Esposito 2017. Culture of Life. Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted. Visit us at and on Facebook.

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