The testimony I gave today at a memorial for the unborn…
Thank you…I know some of you have heard my conversion story before, but it best relates my relationship with my aborted daughter, so I will try and read it as close to what I wrote here as possible, so I don’t miss anything…
My conversion story is probably not like many conversion stories that you hear, because I converted while I was in college. You see, I was a virgin in high school, and at the time I thought that I was weird. I only had one serious girlfriend in high school, and she had just had a baby and had given it up for adoption, so I was not quite in the same league as her ex-boyfriends, and I didn’t have a chance to play the confidence game on her that I was somewhat familiar with from movies and stories from my buddies that were so much more “accomplished” sexually than I was. After graduation, I went off to college in New York. After being sheltered in my life in a little town of Shelton, Washington, it is hard for me to believe that I boarded that plane to fly to New York at age 17. Once I got there, I did what I always did, blended right in and made some fast friends. Providentially, I was given a card on my first day of plebe summer, or what we called “Indoctrination”, and I had to declare what religion I was. Since I had enough military background, both Mom and Dad were in the Air Force, and I was in a Naval Junior ROTC program in high school, I knew better than to check that I had no religion, because I would miss out on the break that Sunday Service could afford you from the constant badgering of the drill instructors during our first two weeks. I checked the Roman Catholic box because one of the guys that I most looked up to in high school, as much as an atheist could look up to someone who has faith, was attending the Military Academy at West Point, and he was Catholic. I was elected as the freshman class president after our indoctrination period ended, and my name wasn’t even on the ballot. It was at this point of my achievement of success in the world, that I started my journey to understand who God is and how my faith in him related to my life. I was never comfortable with the person I was inside, but it seemed that everyone else thought I was something special. Before beginning my journey to initiation in the Sacramental life of the church, I had completely accepted the lie that we are all broken sexually and there is no hope for us. So, as far as saving myself for marriage, I had a break between my freshman and sophomore year in college. The pressures of being freshman class president and over 20 credits a quarter, as well as all the extra-curricular activities that I couldn’t miss out on. It all had severely affected my ability to keep my grades at an acceptable level, and the academic punishment was to set me back a year. On returning home to Shelton, I thought I couldn’t continue as a virgin, because I had been in New York and it seemed ridiculous that I was not a “man of the world”. So, I hooked up with an old friend’s ex-girlfriend that lived in my neighborhood, that I knew had always wanted to hook up with me. I moved in with an old friend from school that was willing to help me find a job and he was impressed that I was this new “man of the world”, and that I was no longer a virgin and fresh from some amazing experiences from New York. I finished my year of punishment, or regression, I like to call it becoming more and more broken, and had finally hooked up with a girl who had been living on her own since she was 16,and we made plans to start a life together when I finished school. (I was not attending church during this time) My first call home after returning to school, found her back dating a bunch of guys that she had put on hold while we were together, and killed the childish dream that I had, that we would ever get back together. As for me, back at school, I struggled mightily to get my sex drive back in the bag, only to fail miserably in almost every relationship I had. Mostly because, I did not understand the true meaning of my sexuality and temptation was just too strong for me to handle alone.
As I began my study of the Catechism and the History of the Catholic Church, with my Chaplain and Pastor, Father Leone, at the United States Merchant Marine Academy, I started to realize, by the grace of God, that there was nothing but truth emanating from the faith that was being proposed to me by the Church. However, no matter how I may have begun to commit mentally to the truth, my physical commitment was going to take some time for me. After I had gone on a 6 month deployment on a couple of ships out of Tacoma, Washington, I returned home to Florida this time to visit family, and I met an amazing young woman. I was invited to escort her, as my girlfriend, to her Senior Prom. I was working weekends to pay for my miscellaneous expenses and still got some support from Mom, who had moved to Cocoa Beach, so I agreed to make the trip down to escort her to the prom. Once I got there, she told me that she had made arrangements to make sure her Dad was going to make himself scarce that weekend, so we could have some time alone. In retrospect, I guess I could have been more vocal about what I was hoping for, but I was around 19 or 20 years old, and my mental commitment to the truth was still not guiding my decisions, and I think we all struggle with that even now, at least I know I do.
It was about a month or so after the prom; I got a call from her, telling me that she was pregnant. Personally, my emotions were all over the place, and I honestly did not know what I was supposed to think or say, because this was supposed to happen after we were married. She told me that she was scared and her neighbor had told her that she would take her to the clinic the next day to talk to someone about it. My thoughts were centered on the fact that my career in the military was probably over, but it didn’t concern me too much, because I did have a sense that God was going to work all things together for good. Now I know from Romans 8:28, We know that all things work for good for those who love God,* who are called according to his purpose. I discussed the proper next move for me with my sponsor in the church, Mike Dalton. Who, by the way, is now the only friend I am still in contact with from college, and he said that I need to make sure she knows that I am willing to be there to support her and the baby. I assured him that she knew that I felt that way, but I was afraid of the decision that she might be convinced to make, by this neighbor friend. I am pretty sure he took me to the chapel and we prayed, but I remember he took me to the chapel to pray a lot, so I don’t necessarily remember this particular time in prayer specifically. So, I received a call the next day, or the following week, the timeline is blurry because I spent a lot of time trying to block the memory out of my head. She said the neighbor had convinced her that she would not have a life if she kept the baby and she needed to just have an abortion and be done with it. I tried to console her over the phone and tell her that I knew that it was a hard decision for her to make. She became immediately distant, as if to say, she was trying to put distance between me and her, so that she wouldn’t have to remember what happened. We lost contact over the next few months as I finished my sophomore year of studies, with passing grades…At least enough to keep me out of more trouble, academically. I visited her, on Summer Break that year, because I just wanted to see if there was anything that I could do to salvage our relationship, of course. However, she met with me for the sole purpose of telling me that the abortion experience was a severe darkness that she was sure that she would be dealing with for the rest of her life. I heard some time later, from my sister, that she did end up getting married and having children and I hope and pray that she does not still struggle with this darkness overshadowing her life. As for me, I started out praying for the baby that we lost to the abortion and ended up years later, getting some consolation in knowing that the baby has probably been praying for me. I have been given the baby’s name, but it was only for the purposes of praying with her one time, and the name has not come back. Even early this morning as I thought about giving this testimony, I could only think of my girlfriend’s name, and it was as if my daughter was telling me to pray for her. Oh yeah, I was given the consolation of knowing that she is a girl. Thanks be to God and His infinite mercy, I was able to see His love in the acceptance of the church, even with the knowledge of the tragedy that my personal life had become, the church got me started on the road to complete my healing, from the beginning of my life in denial of God, and sexual brokenness, to a growing wholeness when I rest in Him.
Since we live in a broken world, I hope that my healing and the healing of all of us continues today and for the rest of our lives here on earth, through the power of God, until we are called home to spend eternity with all of God’s children…Especially those that never got to see the world in this life. You see, I hope to see my baby again and with the grace of God, she will recognize me for the man that the prayers of all the communion of saints and the Blessed Virgin Mary have created me to be in heaven…(This is where I stopped my testimony this afternoon at the memorial!)
Today, I am married to my wife, Tonya. She is a saint for living with the brokenness that God has been healing in me for the past 16 years of our marriage. We have four incredible children, and God’s most recent addition to our family is a girl. Our daughter, Kasaundra is a 3 years old, and she reminds me daily of what God’s love must look like, and keeps me focused on creating a better world for her to grow up in. In my work as a youth minister for Saint Alice Catholic Church, I realize that a lot of our Catholic youth are growing up without God, because of the secularization of society, much the same way as I did. We have to keep working to show them that God has a better plan for them than the hook up culture that they see all around them. I don’t know if my story would be enough to convince a young man or woman to wait until they are married, but thanks be to God we have the Theology of the Body from Blessed Pope John Paul II to lead the conversation with them about how the story of creation and God’s plan for our bodies from the beginning is pointing to so much more meaning in their sexuality than the hook up. We need to stop the murderous lies that are streaming from the organizations in our world, like Planned Parenthood, that are leading more and more of our young people, as well as adults, into accepting that they are alone in their sexual brokenness and there is no hope of abstinence or chastity. My hope is, that we can start to change the world, by changing ourselves. I still struggle with chastity, but that doesn’t mean that I can give up and say that Jesus’ blood has washed me clean and I am saved, so let’s move on. I was recently told in confession that I probably always will struggle with chastity, which really sucks. However, I was also told recently that it is in weakness that God shows his strength, so with that in mind I would like to share what I believe is the root cause of abortion in our culture today.
If I look out on the street today, I might be perfectly ok walking around and enjoying the different outfits that we will see out there. However, if it happens to be the right time of the month for my wife and she is ovulating and we know we have to abstain for the purposes of making sure we are both ready to bring another child into the world, I may not want to walk the streets with such reckless abandon. Some of you might not understand what I am talking about, so let me use Jesus’ words to help explain. In the 5th chapter of Matthew’s gospel, the 27th and 28th verse have Jesus saying…”You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” I think if anyone was lost about why I was talking about walking the streets of Eugene before, hopefully understands completely now in light of that reading. However, it is two words from those two verses that I would like to focus on. Jesus says, “with her”, and I would like to propose that Jesus is telling us that it is not just me who commits adultery when I look with lust at a woman, but I commit adultery “with her”. To me, this means that it is important for me to guard my eyes for the sake of my own salvation, but also for every woman who could potentially be affected by my lust-filled gaze. Before I get too lost in explaining what constitutes a lust –filled gaze, I would like to say that our children are growing up in a culture that revels in the fact that we can look at whatever we want and it shouldn’t affect us. This is a lie from the pit of hell, and if you look at verse 29 of that same gospel chapter, Jesus tells us that if our eye causes us to sin, we should tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna. So, if we want to save our culture we should all cut out our eyes…No! However, if we know that part of our body, my own interpretation, could be affected by actions that we are likely to take in a given situation, we should discern the times when we should avoid those situations. Also, it is only when we are being honest with ourselves, we realize that we need to have open an honest conversations with our kids about guarding their eyes on the internet and through different applications on their smartphones, we can save them the pain of struggling with chastity almost twenty years into their marriage. Then again, maybe that is not the point. The point is they need to know that we struggle, so they know that their struggle is not in vain. They need to see the times we go to confession and we give our struggle to Jesus. Most importantly, they need to see us live out our marriage in joyful communion with each other as the fruit of the struggle. My oldest son is 15 years old, and he has seen Dad at his worst. He also sees Dad going to confession almost every week to let Jesus continue to work on his conversion. My hope for all three of my sons, is that they will know when they need to guard their eyes, and keep good and holy friends around them to let him know when they are slippin’. As for my daughter, my hope for her is that we will do everything we can to keep places like the Carmelite Monastery open, so she can visit there often, to see examples of what true chastity looks like in a woman. She is also getting to see her Dad and Mom going to confession, which is good. She even got to sit in with me once in confession, because she wouldn’t wait outside for some reason. I am hopeful that we will continue to build up our young women in our culture, so there are more examples of chastity that we don’t have to leave our parish to see.
The truth is, that only if we are honest about the struggle inside of us, that we can see to live out the chastity that God is calling us to. The fruit of that chastity will be enough, in my opinion, to root out the cause of abortion in our culture, which is disinformation and lack of self-control.
Thank you and God bless you!
During our Memorial celebration at Saint Mary Catholic Church today, I cut off my testimony in the middle and added this from Saint John Chrysostom…
Do you not hear the Lord saying: Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst? Will he be absent, then, when so many people united in love are gathered together? I have his promise; I am surely not going to rely on my own strength! I have what he has written; that is my staff, my security, my peaceful harbor. Let the world be in upheaval. I hold to his promise and read his message; that is my protecting wall and garrison. What message? Know that I am with you always, until the end of the world!
Saint John Chrysostom, pray for us!
He continues here , under the tab Office of Readings, but I heard the Holy Spirit telling me that it was enough, so I stopped there. Please feel free to leave any comment here.