Picture of Church of the Visitation in Westphalia, TX that was totally lost to fire. I find this picture to be very prophetic. Our Lady has warned us time and again to turn back to God and of what will happen if we don’t.
I gave a talk at the Carmel Center on the Sanctity of Human Life. This is a transcript (with a few tweaks) of the talk I gave. Many of you have heard parts of my story before, but I hope you will still read it as it pertains to the Sanctity of Human Life. As we live in a world of shootings and murder, now more than ever, we need to recognize that we are the walking wounded, who have believed the accuser, and don’t know how much we are loved by God. God Himself has left us a path to true happiness and joy and we have tossed it aside and now we are clearly seeing the consequences.
Good Afternoon, it’s wonderful to be here today. I am sure you all are thinking, wow, Father Andrew Bulso looks so strange…. Unfortunately he was unable to make it today so I am here in his place to talk to you about the Sanctity of Human Life. Please pray for our Priests.
My name is Susan Skinner and I am a wife to my husband Jason and a Mother to 3 children, two teens and one tween and one child lost to miscarriage. I am also a Catholic blogger at Veil of Veronica, I have written for the National Catholic Register and I am a columnist at Catholic Stand. I am the RCIA and Adult Faith Formation Coordinator, I give Spiritual Direction and I am member of the Deliverance Ministry at my parish.
I want to begin my talk on the Sanctity of Human Life with a quote from Saint Teresa of Calcutta;
“We must not be surprised when we hear of murders, of killings, of wars, of hatred. If a mother can kill her own child, what is left but for us to kill each other.”
I begin with this statement because it is so profound and speaks to the devastation we see across our society today. And to how we as a society got where we are, where life can be tossed aside easily. And I want to share with you a personal story that may seem out of context, but I assure you it is not. I tell this story because it impacted profoundly my view of Catholic Church teachings on the Sanctity of Human Life.
I will begin by telling you a little bit of my background. I am a cradle Catholic. I grew up in a home that prayed to Rosary together. I went to 16 years of Catholic school. I was well catechized by my parents. But I also grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, a tumultuous time, a wild time. Though my parents taught me well and I valued what they taught me, I also had adopted a worldly view when it came to certain aspects of the faith. By the time I got married, I was a grocery store Catholic, picking and choosing which teachings I would follow. I was always ardently against abortion, so this made me conclude I was very pro-life, and that I very much valued the sanctity of life.
I had my first child about 18 months after my wedding, on the Feast of Saint Stanislaus of Krakow, patron of moral order, though I didn’t realize it was his feast at the time. I suffered very severe post-partum depression and anxiety. In fact, the voices in my head barraged me so badly with images that I could not control that there was a point I didn’t value my own life. I remember clearly one day sitting in the bathtub thinking I couldn’t make the voices stop so I will just put my head under the water and never come up. At that moment in time I got a very clear image in my head of my sister. I knew that she would be sad, so I instead of sticking my head under the water I looked to my left and I saw a Rosary on the side of the bathtub. I picked it up and began to pray it. I don’t think I realized the spiritual warfare that was going on around me at the time. I thought I was suffering a physiological response to a drop in estrogen, or at least that’s what the Doctors told me.
The journey from there was one of many ups and downs. The doctors wanted to help me get better giving me the best advice they knew. I went to counseling. I took medication, I exercised, tried to sleep as much as you can with a new baby, and of course, took birth control because they told me, as the world tells you, you cannot have another baby who will be such a burden. And I believed what they told me. I didn’t see or realize at all what was happening.
I followed the advice and within a year I would feel almost normal. I got to a place of “good enough” but that place was filled with ebbs and tides of high anxiety mixed with some depression. But I was functioning. I prayed on and off, mostly begging God to stop my anxiety.
I remember when I went off birth control and was pregnant with my second son how upset my doctor got with me, verbally reprimanding me in a very hostile tone telling me how I was putting myself in jeopardy. As I hung up, I felt sad that she was not happy for the new life that had been created.
I hung up the phone and I prayed to God and I told him, “Jesus, I trust in you.” After a pregnancy filled with complications. I gave birth prematurely to a healthy baby boy on September 29, the Feast of the Archangels. I didn’t know that at the time either, even as I named him after one of them.
My husband and I decided, myself somewhat reluctantly, we were done having children.
I went back to my comfort zone of praying sometimes, going to church regularly, and using birth control. At some point, I decided the birth control was making me fat, so I went off of it. In hindsight, my worldly view was still used by God to bring us the great blessing of our daughter, born of the feast of Saint Polycarp. Little did I know what was about to happen in my life that would make me hear the words of Saint Polycarp, when he went before the Roman proconsul, “hear me declare with boldness, I am a Christian and if you wish to learn what the Doctrines of Christianity are, appoint me a day, and you shall hear them.”
Those words mean a lot to me, as I stand here before you today to proclaim them myself.
About a year and a half after my daughter was born, I got a call from my friend Veronica, who was the mother of my oldest’s son’s best friend. Veronica wanted to know if my son could sleep over. I got sick to my stomach, and I didn’t know why because my son had slept over her house plenty of times before. I told her he couldn’t sleep over but that I would bring him over and let him play for the day and I would pick him up before dinner. At 4 o’clock I drove out to her house to pick him up. I chatted with her about how wonderful our boys were. She was so positive, pouring life into them about what blessings they were. I drove home for an uneventful evening.
I got a call the next morning from another friend who was distraught and crying. It seems, she told me, that someone shot and killed my friend Veronica in her home and she lay dead right there where I had stood talking to her less than 24 hours before. I found out later there were 4 bullets in her head.
In all the sufferings of my life I don’t think anything could have prepared me for this. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. I couldn’t breath and I couldn’t stop crying. I actually laid down on my bedroom floor and wailed. It seems that Veronica and her husband were going through a divorce and he decided to hire a hit man to kill her. I couldn’t understand. I couldn’t fathom it.
I cried out to God. I screamed at him. How could you let this happen? Why Lord? And in the middle of my fit of rage at God, He answered me.
He said, “I don’t want this, people choose this.” He had been waiting a long time for me to talk to him, really talk to him. I asked God, “what, what in the world can I do, in this awful place?” He answered me. He said, “Susan, good in the world starts with you.” I began to think. I thought about how I had seen Veronica and her husband in church together and I wondered, how can a person who would murder sit in church? God answered me again. He told me that her husband did not start out a murderer, but that his sin had grown in his heart and gone unchecked, and had lead down a long dark path. I remembered the bible verse that stated, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”( Matthew 5:28) That was the moment that verse made sense to me. I never had understood it. I had always thought, “how can a thought be a sin?” But after her murder it made sense to me. Sin starts with a thought, a suggestion thrown your way, it moves to your heart and takes over until you act on it with your hands, sin helps you to justify and dehumanize. And if we never take the time to examine our conscience, or think about what is right and what is wrong, well then, we can really go down a wrong path.
So Lord, “what can I do?” He told me that the only person I could control was myself. That I can choose to love and spread that love outward. For me this meant examining my own conscience and trying to become a better person. Did I love my enemy? or even my neighbor, for that matter? The answer was a resounding, NO. Oh my, I thought, I have not always spread love and left people better off for knowing me. I realized too in these personal moments of conversation with God how I had compromised on the things that he had asked of me.
In the months to follow I came across Pope Paul the VI encyclical, Humae Vitae and I was astonished at the words I read. He spoke of the consequences of contraception, divorce, adultery, abortion, the general lowering of moral standards, the government becoming involved in promoting contraception and involved in the most intimate decisions of husband and wife, a place where God should actually be the center of their decisions.
I was shocked and ashamed as I read these prophetic words. I had considered myself a good Catholic. I was not. As I laid crying in my room realizing all of the ways I had been blind, I thought about confession. I had always hated this Sacrament, but here in this place, I found it to be a gift. A gift I was grateful for.
I went and made the biggest confession of my life. In telling my sins, I was able to encounter Christ. In this Sacrament, I received the grace that Jesus offers to us when we choose to ask for it. I took a good hard look at myself and my selfishness started to burn away because of the love I encountered in confessing.
I also realized the way I had judged others, and how much I had bought into a view of the world that promoted myself and didn’t reach out to others. I thought of Veronica. In Catholicism while Jesus is in His Passion, walking His way to Golgotha, bloodied and beaten, He comes across a woman named Veronica. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus. A small kindness. This man, this God man, was bloodied, beaten, tired, in agony, and this women, Veronica, provided a brief respite, if you will. A few seconds where the sweat and blood were wiped away, and for a moment, however brief, He felt love from this woman. It did not stop His Passion, His suffering, but in a world that was mocking Him, scourging Him, that woman’s touch with the cloth must have felt glorious. So He imprinted His image on her cloth. Veronica, means “True Image”.
I understood what it meant to value the sanctity of life that God creates, and I knew in a moment that the Doctrines of our Church are true.
When this veil is lifted, it is like coming out of a fog. Life is a gift, from conception to natural death. I realized that there is an active entity seeking to steal, kill and destroy. And Satan has done a very good job. By convincing us that contraception is okay he has stolen our fertility. He slaughters our children in abortion. 56 million a year worldwide, more than all other causes of death combined. He is destroying marriage and the family. And we have been trained to think by him. It’s why Saint Paul tells us to take captive every thought.
But Jesus told us;
… from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother [and be joined to his wife], and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.”
It’s no wonder that Satan wants to distort even what it means to be male and female these days. We know as Catholic’s that what God made is good, made in His image and likeness. Yet Satan wants to convince us otherwise. He does everything he can to get people into bed before they marry and everything he can to stop them in bed after they’re married, and we have listened. Listened to a voice that serves the wrong kingdom. And we as a society have created laws to serve the wrong kingdom. I am very much aware as a child born in 1972 how my life was protected by LAW. In fact, when I look at my ancestry, it doesn’t require me to look very far before I find a scenario where today I may not exist if we had had today’s laws back then.
When my Grandmother was in her 60’s she found out she was adopted. Her mother, the woman who raised her, never told her she was adopted and the father she thought died in a war, may never have actually existed. What she did find out was that she was born with a different name than the one she had, and that the woman who she thought was her mother was not. Many of my family members have tried to investigate her ancestry, and have pieced together some scenarios, but due to the death of the woman who raised my Grandmother as her own, and a lack of the birth records, we will perhaps never know the full truth, though we have a good idea.
The thought that has struck me time and again is that because her birth seemed so shrouded in secrecy, there was shame attached to it. In today’s day and age that kind of shame, the kind that breeds secrecy like that, would make a woman abortion minded. Some of the scenarios that I have been told that surround my Grandmother’s arrival on this earth are scenarios today where people would have an abortion. Whatever the case, I can’t help but think if my Great-Grandmother had been pregnant today, she may have been a woman at huge risk for aborting her child. That my Grandmother lived, I can perhaps attribute to the fact that the LAW protected her life. I often think about this. That if abortion had been acceptable back then, I may not exist. Though I know there was probably much suffering surrounding the birth of my Grandmother, the joy that was brought forth into the world by her and her family line has been boundless. There is no shame in that.
The impact of this on my family personally is profound. My grandmother, with her murky story of coming into existence, had 12 children. I there are at least 54 grandchildren, and many, many more great-grandchildren. We are doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, firemen, policemen, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters. If my grandmother had been aborted there are literally now hundreds of us who would not exist.
I was once told online that if my ancestor had been aborted, I wouldn’t be around “to give an (expletive),” so I should just be pro-abortion. That statement presupposes that my life has no meaning, that my brother and sisters, that my cousins, my nieces and my nephews, we don’t matter to the world. I know for a fact that is not true. We matter. We matter to those who love us, to those whose lives we have impacted and most importantly to God, who knew us before He formed us in the womb. Every life is precious.
The impact of abortion goes far beyond mother and child, it impacts generations, generations that are lost. We often seem to narrowly look at the specific person who is in an unplanned pregnancy situation – even more so only the woman and not the man. But what I found to be true in my own family made me pull way back and see the countless lives that were affected by the one choice of my great grandmother. This is something we need to be talking about. We need to help others pull back and see the generations of human lives that are cutoff from life by this one choice.
When it comes down to it, the mentality that accepts abortion, is a mentality that devalues. It is a very narrow view, thinking of only the immediate situation and not considering others that may be affected. This devaluation of human life spreads from being pro-choice, eventually permeating all aspects of society. This is because the source of the pro-choice argument is a lie. Although a lie can sometimes seem like it is in the best interest of the person, as you logically follow that lie from its source, we eventually find ourselves in a place where starving a person in the hospital becomes acceptable, or eliminating the life of a healthy baby who may have an unfavorable genetic makeup is the recommendation of the doctors. Moreover, the elderly are deemed unnecessary once they need so much of our care and help and so we find ourselves tossing them aside, in the name of mercy. Where we end up by following the lie is where good is called evil and evil is called good. This is what Saint Teresa of Calcutta means by what she said. But she and Pope Paul VI take it even further when they include the mentality of the acceptance of contraceptives, this is where the real breakdown began. Contraceptives allowed sexuality to become twisted, and children become commodities to be bought and sold and created in a lab.
ArchBishop Fulton Sheen stated; Once the idea is introduced that one may take the life of a person because he is not useful to the state, then it will not be long before we are taking his life because his ideas are not the same as those of the state. In 1936 Hitler introduced the idea of mercy killing under the lying title of ‘Charitable Foundation for Institutional Care.’ The basic principal was that those who could not be of benefit to society should be killed. Up to the outbreak of the war 275,000 people were put to death. Once the door was opened for destroying the sanctity of a single personality, there was nothing to stop wholesale slaughter.”
The path of Truth is a straight line. A narrow road. If you follow that path it will bear fruit in all aspects, as long as you remain on the path of Truth. Oftentimes at the onset of this path it does not look favorable. But the final destination is a clear promise from the Father to His Beloved child that he will rest with the Father for all eternity. While walking on the path of Truth, if you look back to where you have been along the way, you will be able to see the good fruit that this path bears. The stories of triumph over suffering and an ever leading deeper spiritual union with the Father will be the stories of those upon the path of Truth.
Conversely, the path of lies always leads to destruction. It is a path that may look beautiful at first, or there may even be beauty along the way. It may contain parts of Truth. You may meet very loving and kind and generous people along this path, but we must remember that the final destination of the path of lies is destruction. If you look back on the path of lies you will see the traces of destruction that it has left in its wake.
If we look at these two paths with the example of abortion, a clearer picture may be seen. First of all, we know that the majority of men and women who find themselves in an unplanned pregnancy situation are faced with an uphill battle. Often times they themselves are not equipped to face this battle on their own, whether that be financially, socially, emotionally, physically, mentally or spiritually. By choosing to walk the path of Truth, we know that it will not an easy path, but neither was Jesus’ passion. By placing our trust in God and taking that first step along the path of Truth, not knowing the outcome, but surrendering our lives to the Will of the Father, we are SAVED. Oftentimes it is our own selves standing in the way of letting Jesus SAVE us.
As we move along this path of Truth, we begin to see God place people (his hands and feet) along this path in order to help these men and women who are struggling. This is a reflection of Simon of Cyrene who helped Jesus carry the cross. Even Jesus needed help! And what joy to know that we are able to participate in God’s great work by loving and helping others along the way. In this act, God reaches down from heaven, through you and me, to be incarnate in this world. The path of Truth, when we continue on this path, although it is not an easy path, eventually shows us the light of Christ’s presence in the world. It shows us His love and mercy and action that is able to conquer the world. The fruits of the path of Truth are what we look back upon in order to encourage us on further. It is the strength for the journey when things get tough.
In this same situation of abortion, we can see that there is also a path of lies. This path is no doubt full of love and concern for the men and women in these situations. There are many people who are there at the entrance of this path to help and support them just as they are on the path of Truth, but their love and support only goes skin deep. By leading the man and woman to have an abortion, these people are able to remove the immediate circumstance and alleviate them having to continue on in their uphill battle. But it is a false help. It is a lie. The men and women who have chosen an abortion are left in their pain. They are like the thief who chose to walk the passion alone.
When we choose to walk our passion WITH Jesus, we find healing and peace through our surrendering ALL of who we are to Him. We cannot hold anything back, not our hidden pregnancy, our sexuality, our sins, our fears, our pain, not anything! On a more global level we are seeing where this path of lies in regard to abortion has lead. At this point in some states, abortions are legal up to 40 weeks, up to the point the mother is pushing the baby out of the birth canal, up even to the point of the baby being born alive and then giving the mother the option, after birth, to deicide the baby’s fate. Here we can see clearly that the upfront concern for women and men in the situation of an unplanned pregnancy, the loving concern that we find at the beginning of the path of lies, has clearly led to destruction.
In further pondering this, I realized God is all about the pure and loving relationship. Satan wants to destroy relationship. It made me profoundly understand that the post-partum depression I suffered wasn’t just physical and emotional, it hit the deepest core of who I am, my soul and it was an attack on the essence of my motherhood. This made me think of Mary, who is the daughter of God the Father, the spouse of the Holy Spirit, and Mother of the Son, all things related to God, but the preeminent definition of who she is in relation to God is Mother. That is the essence of who she is and is a defined dogma.
Our existence is about our very relationship with God and how we relate to God extends outward to our fellow man. When we recognize our source, and that it is a source outside of ourselves, but that dwells in us, we become Christ-like.
The very first relationship we have is that of daughter or son. This is a relationship of receiving. We are young, weak, unable to care for ourselves, and so we must receive what we need in order to flourish. A child that receives from his or her parents what is needed is a child that flourishes.
The next relationship we have is two-fold – it can be brotherly or sisterly – or it can be spousal. These relationships are giving and receiving. These relationships are intimate, not in a sexual way (though with spouses that intimacy is also physical), but in a way, that when the good of the other is sought, these people can know who you are and continue to give love and receive love from you.
The relationship with a mother or a father has with their children is one of giving. When a child is in the womb and later born, they are completely weak and helpless. They cannot give of themselves. Mothering and Fathering require much sacrifice.
This is the ultimate expression of God in us because it requires total giving. Satan has convinced us that sacrifice is about suffering and that suffering is worse than sin. We make laws intended to stop the suffering, which is only counter-intuitive and brings more suffering, when we should be working to purify our hearts to stop sin, recognizing that love of the other is life giving. It is no wonder Satan attacks Motherhood so much.
Motherhood is life-giving. The other place that is Life-Giving is the Eucharist, which necessarily needs the Priests, who we call Father. Women give life from their wombs and men, as Priests, give life to us in the Eucharist. There is an attack on the womb, which in Hebrew came to mean mercy. Whether it be the physical womb of a mother, or the Tabernacle that houses the Eucharist. There is an attack on the Mercy Seat.
The relationship cycle is meant to purify us and draw us closer to God. Throughout our lives, it is an ebb and flow of these relationships, but union with the will of God is a life-giving, self sacrificing love.
We need first to receive, and then give and receive, in order to be brought to this union of giving the way that God did. When we walk this path, when we walk in the authority God gave us, we become confident Mothers and Fathers that the devil will flee from. This self-giving love does not require actual Motherhood or Fatherhood, it requires the recognition that the Love of God is sacrificial and giving and can dwell within each of us. It is true charity and does not expect a reward.
Mary as Theotokos is the ultimate expression of the love of God. Defining Mary as the Mother of God defines who Jesus is and how He wants to fill us and what we are to become.
If a society looks down upon Motherhood and Fatherhood the society will collapse because it is a society that doesn’t know how to give. We have reached that point.
Jesus came as the Divine Child to show us the source of charity, to show us how to give.
Mary and Joseph were essential to this plan because they had to give of themselves in order for the rest of us to receive Him and grow into Mothers and Fathers whether literally or spiritually.
He started as a child to show us who we are to become. To show us our own dignity.
Looking at the Divine Child you are looking at the source of dignity.
In a twisted diabolical form, Satan has convinced by getting us to accept contraception and abortion, that we are uplifting women by attacking the very essence of what forms her in Love.
The other place Satan attacks life-giving is in the Eucharist by attacking Priests. They take what Jesus said about calling no man Father and twist it to destroy what Christ is trying to teach us about Love.
The Fatherhood of the Priest is not a Fatherhood of man. Remember no one is good but God alone (Mark 10:18). The Priesthood is the Fatherhood of God, a Fatherhood of giving, a source of charity. Priests are giving us divine life very literally. The devil wants nothing more than to destroy this. And he is working inside the church.
God calls each of us as the Body of Christ to actively partake in the building of His Kingdom. Living a Sacramental life from the heart, helps us do this. Each of us has a different role but we should all be working together, in love towards our fellow man, to create laws that breathe life, and to help those who are suffering. To help people walk out of a life of sin. We need to be doing the Spiritual and Corporal works of mercy. These actions are birthed from our prayerful relationship with God.
If we want to change our society and help her to recognize the Sanctity of Human Life we must purify our interior in prayer from which action can flow. We can turn to the Mother of God who is so needed right now. And her sons, the Priests, who are also Fathers of God because they give us the source of charity in the Eucharist. We need to build them up and pray for them. We must look at the Divine Child. When we recognize the Divine Child mirrors Christ on the Cross and the Christ in the Eucharist; He is person totally in the hands and control of others. We must ask ourselves how will we love Him? How will we love others? We must recognize the dignity of every human person from conception to natural death, and for me this means even the dignity of the person who murdered my friend.
Romans 16:20 tells us, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The
grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.”
Our lady and Saint Michael are always depicted with the devil under their feet. For us to truly embrace the Sanctity of Life, we too need to put the devil under our feet and say no to the culture of death and embrace that each and everyone of us is made in the Image and Likeness of God. We as a society need an illumination of conscience to life the veil of confusion and help us recognize the Sanctity of Human Life from conception to natural death. In closing, I will leave you with a prayer asking for this;
Lord Jesus, you came to destroy the works of the devil and to call us all children of God.
You sent us the Advocate so that we may know your truth and rest in the bosom of the Father.
Hear our prayers and supplications Lord as we beg of you to help us in this time of darkness and confusion.
Send us Angels in sufficient rank, number, power and authority to fight the demons off and away from us, to fight the demons off and away from our families, our communities and our nations.
We ask Our Lady and the entire Communion of Saints to intercede and pray on our behalf.
We are your Mystical Body, and we ask for healing through forgiveness and restoration.
Lord Jesus, rain down the Holy Spirit upon all of Mankind.
Illuminate and convict each of us of who we are in your eyes.
Show us how much you love us and comfort us as you reveal to us our faults.
Give us the strength and courage to surrender our sin to you, who alone can make us whole.
May we turn back to you with our whole heart and be transformed in your image.
We implore you through the intercession of Saint Michael, lift the veil of confusion that plagues us.
Lord, show us your mercy.
In this we give thanks and praise.
All Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, Amen.