Friday, 12 April 2013

servants of dignity, pt 1

About a year and a half ago, I blogged about an idea that was on my mind: a theoretical bunch of nuns called "The Servants of Dignity". I have spent many days since thinking more about the idea. In recent months, the idea has begun to evolve and to press more urgently against the bars of my mind. I never really thought that I was meant to found a religious order. But I did begin to think that I might be capable of helping one person. So I began praying about the idea of offering one day of free child care every week to a single mom. My husband was supportive of this inspiration, so next I spoke at length to my most amazing nun-friend in the world - there she is - the super cute one on the right.....
And I didn't really tell anyone else. I was still discerning the idea and thought it might end up being really impractical given the four children already in my daily care. My friend, Sr Grace Dominic, a Sister of Life, assured me that that was no selfish consideration.  Since her entire ministry is centered on the pro-life cause, she was able to tell me some other concrete practical things that women in crisis pregnancies need but often lack.  But I kept coming back to that first idea.

And then was one of those impossible days. After being up all night with an infant burning with a fever of over 104 degrees, I had to take him (with all three of his siblings) to the doctor's office first thing this morning. After hurriedly dressing the kids and shoving on my own clothes, I tried to put in my contacts and my eyes absolutely blistered. At first I thought it was from lack of sleep - then I realized that my three year old had "cleaned" the inside of my contact case with liquid handsoap the day before. Unfortunately that same three year old had snapped both of the (sticks?) off the sides of my eyeglasses last week and I'd had no time to get them repaired. So I had no choice but to hold the lens portion of the glasses over my eyes as I drove to the doctor. The three and five year old bickered the whole trip. The two year old had diarrhea. The doctor sent us to the hospital for blood work. It took an hour. None of us had eaten anything yet. The girls bickered until I both said and did regrettable (non-parenting-with-grace) things. The toddler squirted more. The baby wailed. When we got home the toddler dumped a full open glass of Welch's purple grape juice all over the living room carpet of the rented home in which we live (and which is currently for sale with a viewing scheduled for this weekend). I cried. And, in the midst of all this chaos, I read about the Gosnell trial. I read through fresh aching tears. And in one overemotional, passionate moment of being overwhelmed with motherhood and not-motherhood all at once, I wrote a most absurdly long Facebook post and decided that "Servants of Dignity" was more properly suited for being a grassroots movement than a religious order. I decided definitely to act on the idea and to publicly invite others to do so alongside me.

In New Zealand, I'd had a dream of a group of nuns who would pick up where the pro-life movement tends to let off. In my opinion, the pro-life momentum seems to come to a screeching halt at that excruciatingly crucial moment where the mother chooses life, the baby is born, and the pair are sent off into the sunset with a bunch of really cute infant clothes and diapers. (Life, what a beautiful choice!)

I don't think pro-lifers and pro-choicers are hearing each other. I know there is not a pro-choice slogan in the world that will sway a person convinced of the sacredness of the unborn child. But I think most pro-life slogans sound absolutely fruity to the pro-choicers, and I understand why. It's not as simple as we're making it sound. It's like we've never stepped foot in an inner city. It's like we have no idea of the real, everyday suffering that a woman and her child will face after she makes a decision to keep her baby - even if she and her child are spared the hell of the inner city. It is so, so hard to raise a child even under the best of circumstances: in a stable marriage, with a supportive spouse, with financial security, with relative maturity, supported by adoring grandparents and doting friends, on a safe street with a great school district. Of all the woman I know raising kids (plural) - and I know many... and they are rich and poor, married and divorced, lonely and surrounded by community -  I do not know one mother amongst them who is not seriously struggling. True, I have some friends with just one child who are loving every golden moment, but even among my friends who are parenting only one child, many are feeling overwhelmed and stressed.  Even under the best of circumstances!

Now, let's take that same woman and take away her income, her spouse, her nice house, her health insurance. Let's also take away a decade of personal maturity. And let's suppose that her child is not planned, and not a "surprise",  but an absolute shock. There is no sense, at this point, in getting up on a soapbox about sexual consequences or sex education or any of the rest of it. We should dialogue about those issues, but let's just focus on this woman in this crisis situation right here. If she is living in fear of her parents' and friends' condemnation, our pro-life slogans barely reach her.  If she is living (or has lived) the hardships of the inner city, our slogans seem ridiculously ignorant. I remember praying once in front of an inner city abortion clinic and being screamed at by many residents who insisted that we didn't understand their life. They were right.

I am starting to understand how compassionate people can be pro-choice. I am not pro-choice (anymore!) and never will be again. I simply understand that a childhood defined by fatherlessness, parental drug use, poverty, violence, physical abuse or other pain can SEEM worse than the evil of abortion. I think the pro-life movement has been pretty successful in overturning the ignorant argument that "it's not a real human person". I think we have miles to go in overturning the astute observation that raising children is really, really hard - especially when you have precious little support. I think most pro-choicers know (on some level) that the "fetus" is (or might be) a real person. That's why nobody boasts about their abortions. But I think that pro-choicers are looking at an impossible dilemma (with a "quick mercy killing" on one side and long, drawn-out years of real and bitter suffering on the other) and choosing the "easier" way.

So I want to be part of the solution. I want to offer practical support. I believe that prayer is truly powerful - and that prayer with fasting is even more powerful. I will pray and fast.

I also believe that the Lord responds to prayer and fasting by calling people to action. I think that the Lord will hold us all accountable for abortion. He asked the goats on his left, "Where were you when I was hungry?" and He will ask us "Where were you when I was being aborted?" The sheep on His right performed Corporal Acts of Mercy. They saw a need and offered practical support. They fed the hungry.

A lot of pro-choicers donate money and baby items. No doubt that is practical support and it is good to do so. But I think we need more people who are going to also put themselves face-to-face with the women and children who need support. I think support has to have a face - and two arms. This is where the Servants of Dignity come in. This post is long. I am tired. The next post or two will continue in this vein - hopefully bearing the fruit of additional reflection, prayer and dialogue with others willing to help. Thank you for reading this long post. Please pray for this endeavor!


  1. Wow, Kelly, wow. SO many prayers headed your way. I think what you're doing is absolutely incredible. Thank you for the reminder to not be so narrow-minded- whenever I'm debating these issues with people at school, it's so easy to think that "their" side has no moral or logical basis. But it does. I'll keep that in mind.
    God Bless, beautiful!!!!

  2. ... what can I say, you are incredible, another thought provoking brilliant blog post! Thank you. Shelly xx