by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
A week ago, I was in McAllen, Texas, to give a talk at a banquet benefiting the McAllen Pregnancy Center that provides assistance to families experiencing difficulties with a pregnancy. I am not certain how much my presence helped them, but I was inspired by my brief time in McAllen.
Earlier in the week, I had attended a planning luncheon in Kansas City for this fall’s Vitae Society event. The Vitae Society creates pro-life messaging for television, radio, billboards and social media. In recent years, they have placed many billboards in the Kansas City area encouraging mothers experiencing a difficult pregnancy to contact one of our Pregnancy Resource Centers. At the meeting, we were told that a record number (more than 70 abortion clinics) had closed in 2013. One of those closures occurred in McAllen.
Texas recently passed a law requiring that physicians performing abortions must have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. This is a common sense requirement for the safety of women. If complications arise during an abortion, it is reasonable to want to make certain that the doctor can provide adequate care. However, this simple requirement forced several abortion clinics to close, including the one in McAllen.
When I arrived in McAllen, I was picked up from the airport by the vicar general of the Diocese of Brownsville and a layman by the name of Eric, who was the vice president of the board for the pregnancy center. He also served as a sidewalk counselor. Eric is a successful businessman who has been married for 20 years and is the proud father of three teenage daughters. For Holy Week, their whole family had made a retreat together.
He told me some amazing stories of how God had used him and other volunteers to save babies and rescue mothers and fathers from living with the terrible burden of authorizing the killing of their own child. While visiting the center, I learned that, in the past week, a former staff member of the abortion clinic had come to the pregnancy center for assistance with her own pregnancy. This former abortion clinic employee expressed deep regret and remorse for her involvement in the destruction of the lives of so many babies.
Eric told me that several months ago, while sidewalk counseling at the abortion clinic, he encountered a woman who was coming to procure an abortion. He had asked her why she was con- sidering abortion. She told Eric that she already had three children and she could not care for a fourth.
Eric asked her the ages of her children. She told him that her oldest, a girl, was eight years old. Eric offered that he and his wife would adopt her oldest daughter. They already had three girls. What was one more? Her daughter would have three new sisters who would love her.
He promised to provide for everything that her daughter needed, in terms of medical, educational,
and other expenses. He told this mother that she would be welcome to visit her daughter any time and to be involved as she wished in her daughter’s life. Eric suggested to the mother if he adopted her oldest, then she would be able to welcome the new baby, because she would still have only three children.
The woman began to tear up. She said that she could never give up her oldest daughter. Eric asked her: What was the difference from allowing her oldest daughter to be adopted and aborting her unborn child?
They were both her chil- dren. At least, her oldest would still live and be able to enjoy life. The mother went with Eric to the preg- nancy center to meet with
a counselor to determine what assistance she needed to give birth and care for her unborn child.
However, Eric’s most powerful story had nothing to do with the pregnancy center. Four years ago, while leaving his mother’s home in Mexico, he was kidnapped. His captors beat and insult- ed him for several hours. They demanded that he give them money that he did not have or they would murder him. At one point, they held a cocked gun to his head. The leader of the group was shouting to the gunman: “Shoot him! Kill him!”
During this entire ordeal, Eric was praying. He was praising God for the many blessings that he and his family enjoyed. He told Jesus: “I want to do your will! If you want me to die this way, I want to do your will.” However, if he were to die, Eric pleaded with God to take care of his wife and daughters.
Eric turned over everything to God. He wanted to do God’s will whatever that was. He was amazed at the words coming out of his mouth. He did not feel they were his words, but someone else was speaking through him. He told his captors that he knew they were not bad men. He told them that he was not their enemy. He wanted to help them. He wanted what was good for them.
While the gun was cocked and aimed at his head with the leader of his captors shouting at the gunman to kill him, Eric felt his death was imminent. He continued to pray, blessing and praising God. His would-be assassin lowered his gun. They put Eric back in their car and took him back to his mother’s neighborhood, where they released him.
Eric said that he thought he was a good Catholic before this frightening event. However, after this traumatic experience, he definitely changed. God had given him additional time. Eric wanted to use it well and wisely. He now desired to be an even better husband and father. Eric wanted to use whatever time he had left in this world in the way that was most pleasing to God.
It was inspiring to hear how Eric had responded to this crisis. He did not become argumentative toward his kidnappers. He absorbed their ridicule and abuse and amazed himself by remaining patient and calm. Most importantly, he prayed and he wanted to do God’s will whatever that might be. Wow!
I was amazed by the faith and heroism of this man and his passion to serve God. Hopefully, no one reading The Leaven will ever be faced with such a frightening circumstance. However, I am convinced that Eric responded the way he did because of a lifetime of prayer, a lifetime of desiring God’s will over his own. Hopefully, none of us have to lose almost everything, before we realize what is really important. If we strive to place God’s will above our will every day, we will be much better equipped to respond well to the most dif- ficult circumstances. Think about it!