Marita Vargas
August 17, 2009
The making of a pro-life advocate
By Marita Vargas

What do any of us know but LIFE. With all of its pain and contradictions, few of us would trade it for the alternative. Only when we are sick or wounded in spirit, bereft of hope or love or meaning do we tempt death or seek it. Our commitment to life is so strong that when we discover another who is passing into despair, we do all we can to effect his healing and bring about in him a renewed commitment to life. We do the same for those facing possible physical death. So it seems odd that a pro-life advocate must be made, when in reality all of us should be pro-life advocates for the simple reason that we all have been born.

So it was that on an overcast Sunday in October of some years back, I was routinely going about my business when I became irretrievably lost to the cause of life. It was as though a strange breeze was blowing my way — invisible, weightless, penetrating.

It was my privilege on that day to have been in the middle of treating my young siblettes (nieces and nephews) to morning hot chocolate. After that it would be Sunday school and church. The chocolate was so-so, the croissants stale, but the company was good. I remember laughing and soaking in the human warmth on a day that hinted at the approach of winter.

It was as I eased into the church parking lot that I caught the breeze. I always attended the services with the kids. But this morning, I parked the car, let them out and watched them enter the building. Their parents would join them later. Then I turned the key in the ignition, backed out and gunned the engine. I made a quick circle around the lot, unsure of where to go, but was overtaken by a feeling of not being where I belonged. The feeling was one of delicious restlessness.

Thoughts of strolling an abandoned beach crossed my mind or of enjoying a long, lingering latte at a favorite roasting company. Why not both? Yippee. I was playing Sunday school hooky, and the day was mine. When 10 minutes later I landed three blocks away from the best café and parked outside a downtown Catholic Church, I barely registered my location. I was on autopilot, on time for a divine appointment that hadn't been on my schedule.

It was Sunday, so Church before coffee. When I entered the dark interior a lively older woman was at the podium. She was talking about her work at a crisis pregnancy center. That's when the still small voice hit. This organization is for you. Volunteer. That's why you're here. I had wandered into a Catholic Church on Respect Life Sunday, of all things. (I was at the time a Catholic grazing in other spiritual pastures.) I knew I had to visit her table after the service and sign-up to help.

The memory stands out because I never hear still small voices. They are not in my department. I go about too well swaddled against any thing that pierces my static-ridden consciousness to pick up on still small voices. This one had to come with the kind of precision that I reserve for catching connecting flights or falling in love. The older woman only spoke for minutes. If I had even wandered toward the latte instead of the sanctuary, I would have missed her.

That little meeting led me on a journey that will continue until I die. I did volunteer at the center. Every particle of my being was opened to life, every cell in my body fed on its optimum natural and supernatural environment. I had always been pro-life, but I had been a bystander outside the debate. I had to evolve.

I had been unconscious to the untold pain of abortion. Sharing in another's sufferings unites us with humanity and with the secret cause behind the universe, as a young James Joyce put it, filtering his understanding of Aristotle through St. Thomas Aquinas. The full picture requires us to rejoice when others rejoice. That gives us life's full continuum.

Naturally in a setting that touches on the infinite there was a lot for me to learn. From Roe to The Island of Doctor Moreau, from Hippocrates to Ponnuru, from Life Chain to the March for Life, from speaking with friends to writing for strangers — I have become a pro-life advocate for the simple reason of having been reborn.

I do not deserve such a great gift any more than I deserved the gift of life. All I can do is show gratitude for the gift and humbly seek to make it seem like an obvious good that will inspire its acceptance by others.

Years and years ago, Ellen Goodman wrote a column encouraging women to tell their abortion stories. By doing so, she hoped that these women could convince skeptics and detractors of the need to keep abortion legal. Their stories would demonstrate that abortion had helped them lead better lives.

Women have begun telling their abortion stories. Undoubtedly they are not quite what Ms. Goodman had in mind. The stories are of loss and despair, of deception and betrayal, of regret and self-recrimination. They are moving — and restorative — because silence is murderous, truth sets free. When we hear them, we should do all we can to effect in each woman her own healing and bring about in her a renewed commitment to life. This new life doesn't only apply to babies, though marveling at their innocence is a first step on the pro-life trail for many. It applies to the women who are reborn as new creatures — forgiven, absolved, and healed. They look forward not only to new life, but to the life of the world to come. Alleluia.

We should all tell our "How I became a Pro-life Advocate" stories — tell them until we have wrung every last tear from our auditors or have sent every last laugh echoing to heaven. Some, life Bernard Nathanson's, sound like something from the Confessions of St. Augustine; some, like Norma McCorvey's, sound like something out of Victor Hugo. They all involve conversion, and remind us that we enter this world "trailing clouds of glory" and leave it, if we are lucky, with the reassurance that something greater than us and our lives lies in the "world to come."

© Marita Vargas

 

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Marita Vargas

Marita Vargas has worked as a teacher and occasional reviewer... (more)

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