40 Days For Life: September 28-November 6

Virgin with Child: Discalced Carmelite Convent, Segovia Spain. Photo credit:thespeakroom.org

Recently, I participated in a 24-hour Adoration and Procession for Life at a local parish as part of the 40 Days for Life 2016 Fall Campaign. One of the organizers was a secular Carmelite, and I wanted to show some kind of support.

In one sense, nothing happened. After Adoration and Mass, we walked leisurely to the Planned Parenthood nearby, prayed, and sang to the accompaniment of a single guitar. When we stopped at the corner, holding our “Pray to End Abortion” placards up in the air, people would either honk and beam a smile, or yell at us from their windows as they passed.

At first, I blended in with the crowd, and tried not to be noticed by the passersby, but as young women walked up the other set of stairs into the clinic, I was reminded of my community college students, particularly an eighteen-year old girl on the day of her final exams. She was shaking and couldn’t concentrate. I took her outside the classroom, and there she told me, “Yesterday, my grandma forced me to have an abortion. I didn’t want to do it. She made me do it.” I didn’t know what to say. We just embraced for a very long time.

I remembered another one of my students, her eyes aglow with joy as she showed me photos of her two-year old on her iPhone. Despite the tube from a tracheotomy that protruded from her throat, the little girl was laughing. “There she is,” my student said with pride. “She’s the reason I’m in this classroom!”

And then I remembered my own story. In the third month of my fourth pregnancy, I went for the usual round of ultrasounds and check-ups, but there was nothing usual about the results. The doctors had identified a growth in my son’s brain. Within one week of the ultrasound results, I was scheduled for a visit with a genetic counselor who explained to me that the baby I was carrying in my womb would be severely mentally handicapped, and that in all likelihood, he would not survive beyond the age of three. She told me that one of my options was abortion and that she could schedule an appointment the following week. My husband and I looked at each other and refused. We would keep the baby no matter what.

In the two months between my appointments, I would often place my hands on my belly and stare numbly into space. I asked for prayers from anyone who would listen, and rather than trying to imagine the unimaginable, I tried to stay resolute in our decision to keep the baby.

During the next ultrasound appointment, the doctors surprised us when they said that the brain growth had disappeared. The initial result was probably a misreading, they explained. A few months later, my fourth miracle child, a beautiful, healthy boy was born.

My son is now fourteen years old, and has a very sharp, witty mind. I don’t know what life would be like without him. In fact, I have had moments of desolation when holding his hand has felt like my only life raft.

People say that abortion is a freedom and a choice, but my experience is that its availability gives a false choice, a false freedom. I wonder how many women have been offered the kind of choice that I was offered by a professional health practitioner, said yes, and unwittingly aborted a perfectly healthy baby. I wonder what young girls would say, if they even had a glimpse of understanding of the exponential joy children give to those around them. I wonder what they would do if they had the knowledge that with each newborn, God gives special graces to raise that child. Every time each of my children were born, my husband and I thought that for sure, we would not be able to afford it, and that we would collapse in financial ruin, but we were wrong. With each child, the blessings multiplied, as we faced each challenge with our wounded faithfulness and love. I wonder if the young girl I embraced on the last day of school has found freedom from the choice she was forced to make.

With all these memories in mind, as those of us in the Procession for Life started praying the first decade of the rosary, I asked an older woman for her placard, stood boldly at the corner of the intersection, and held up my “Pray to End Abortion” sign, hoping that someone, at least someone, would have second thoughts.

by teresa linda

Lauryn Hill can say the rest….


Zion Lyrics

One day you’ll understand

Unsure of what the balance held
I touched my belly overwhelmed
By what I had been chosen to perform
But then an angel came one day
Told me to kneel down and pray
For unto me a man child would be born
Woe this crazy circumstance
I knew his life deserved a chance
But everybody told me to be smart
Look at your career they said,
“Lauryn, baby, use your head.”
But instead I chose to use my heart

Now the joy of my world is in Zion
Now the joy of my world is in Zion

How beautiful if nothing more
Than to wait at Zion’s door
I’ve never been in love like this before
Now let me pray to keep you from
The perils that will surely come
See life for you my prince has just begun
And I thank you for choosing me
To come through unto life to be
A beautiful reflection of his grace
See I know that a gift so great
Is only one God could create
And I’m reminded every time I see your face

That the joy of my world is in Zion

Why the speakroom?

Photo credit: thespeakroom.org

About a year ago from today, my husband and I were asked to be the godparents of a beautiful blond-haired, blue-eyed baby boy. “We just want you to pray for him,” was all his parents asked of us. Before becoming a godparent, I had not held a baby for over ten years. Yet in the past year, each time I have carried this adorable child in my arms, I have been struck by the combined sense of newness and familiarity of the experience.

I am reminded of those years I held each of my own children in my arms, stayed up for them night after night in times of sickness, and walked through the drug-infested streets of our West Philadelphia neighborhood, ready at any moment to give my life up for theirs. None of my children remember those early, formative years of their lives. I’ll never forget them.

Every now and then, my children will facetiously say, “Mom knows everything.” I would answer back with a small laugh, “I knew all of you before you knew yourselves!” but I would finish the rest of the sentence in the silence of my thoughts. “That’s what has made motherhood so painful.” In raising four children, I have not only had the joy of celebrating their accomplishments, but I have wept often for them, most of the time without their even knowing it.

Parenthood gives a small window into the ways of our Heavenly Father. He allows us, His children, to come to Him with our own wills and to make our own choices. How it must grieve Him to watch and see many of the self-destructive choices we are making. And yet, He in his great love and tenderness for us provides us the gift of His own Son as a means of adoption, transforming our lives, and thus, transforming our world.

Saint Teresa of Avila wrote of post-Reformation Europe, “The world is on fire. Men try to condemn Christ once again. They would raze His Church to the ground. No, my sisters, this is no time to treat with God for things of little importance.”

Shortly before she was gassed in an Auschwitz death-camp, Edith Stein (Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) wrote, “The world is in flames: the fire can spread even to our house.”

And again, even more recently, during the World Youth Day celebration in Poland, Pope Francis said, “The world is at war, but it’s not a war of religions.”  He was referring to a war for money, limited resources, and power.  Pope Francis later added in his last address to the youth that too many young people are unaware of how dark the world really is, and are therefore unprepared to face the battle.

There are more people dying for their faiths and being forced to leave their homes, particularly in the Middle East and Africa. The United States has spent eight trillion dollars (one trillion = a million millions) on a financial bailout that hasn’t helped those who were most affected by the economic collapse.  The list goes on.

How do we respond to this world on fire? Pope Francis says, “The times are becoming increasingly hard, and only in unity can we find the solution to our problems.”

The speakroom is a space where apparent divisions are erased. Historically, the speakroom is a small room in the monastery where cloistered religious can speak to those in the outside world and where the ways of God can be made known to others: secular and consecrated, young or old, from near or far. Remarkably, the grille where St. John of the Cross and Saint Teresa first spoke still bears the holy presence of these two great saints.

In this modern world of war and divisions, and where people are so isolated in many hidden ways, my hope is that ‘the speakroom’ blog becomes a living, breathing space where anyone who has an open heart, can learn, pray, and walk together through the lens of Carmelite spirituality.

In the face of death and Nazi persecution, Edith Stein’s response to a world on fire is the recognition that “above all the flames, the Cross stands on high and it cannot be burnt. The Cross is the way which leads from earth to heaven. Those who embrace it with faith, love, and hope are taken up right into the heart of the Trinity.”

One by one, we must learn to respond from a place of truth, sacrificial love, forgiveness, and fraternal friendship– the way of the cross – which involves both the crucifixion, and thankfully, the resurrection.

By the end of this year, three of my four children will have left for college. They, like my godson, will have my prayers. But I also hope, as I hope for myself and all the readers of this blog, that my children will look to thespeakroom.org as a place for guidance and strength, slowly come to know the depth and breadth of the love of God, and see with a child’s eyes of faith.

Teresa Linda, ocds

What to expect in ‘seculars speak’

Carmelite saints, like Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint John of the Cross, Saint Therése of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face (the Little Flower), Saint Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein),  and Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity were avid poets and writers. It is no surprise, then, that there are many Carmelite seculars who are themselves, drawn to the word. In this section, you will soon find testimonies and thoughts by secular Carmelites and other lay people who have a particular devotion to Carmelite spirituality.