The Face of Mercy

“Sweetie? I just want you to know: if you are pregnant….we can do this.”

Natalia looked up at her mother in utter astonishment, her mind racing and her heart filling with hope. We can do this, her mom said. We can do this.

Natalia had found out just days before that she was nearly six months pregnant, with less than a week to go before she reached the legal limit for an abortion in New York State. She was a full scholarship college athlete returning from a semester abroad with just three semesters to go before graduation. She had been about to break up with her boyfriend and was shocked and unprepared to deal with such a life changing situation. She had to decide fast and so she did- abortion. It would be a two- day procedure that would “fix” her problem and she imagined that life could go back to normal. So, only days after she learned of her pregnancy, she found herself inside the walls of a Planned Parenthood. Natalia had kept the pregnancy secret from her mom, but she reached out to a mentor. Her friend called our Visitation Mission, but Natalia would not give permission for us to call her. We thought all was lost as Natalia returned home after Day One of the abortion procedure.

But an early morning phone call restored our hope. It was Natalia, reaching out to us! She shared how conflicted and regretful she was after beginning the procedure the evening before. She had thought about it all night, and just when it was time to leave again for the abortion clinic, her mother spoke those words of compassion, mercy, and hope: we can do this. Unbeknownst to Natalia, though unaware of the abortion that was in process, her mother had suspected the pregnancy for months and began saving money to care for her grandchild. Natalia was convicted: I cannot go through with this abortion. But, was it too late? She hoped against hope that the abortion procedure could be halted and reversed. With the abortion having been begun 12 hours before, chances were quickly dwindling.

In a flurry of activity, the sisters made arrangements to pick Natalia up. With hearts hoping, but not sure at all what they would find, they headed off to the local ER, ready to encounter the usual protests and hostility from the medical staff.  Although the pregnancy was far enough along that the baby could be viable, we have encountered great obstacles in similar circumstances: “The abortion has already begun. Nothing can be done!” But God is not outdone in generosity, and this day was an explosion of His mercy.  Door after door opened up for us at the hospital. Natalia was seen immediately and the procedure was able to be reversed, with no damage done to her unborn little one. The staff, though we knew them all to be pro-choice, were helpful and warm, even offering Natalia some prenatal help and encouragement. With big sighs of relief, the sisters and Natalia headed back to our convent to take it all in and recount God’s incredible mercy that day.

In his prayer for this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis writes:

“[Lord Jesus Christ,] send your Spirit and consecrate every one of us with its anointing, so that the Jubilee of Mercy may be a year of grace from the Lord, and your Church, with renewed enthusiasm, may bring good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed, and restore sight to the blind.”

Though Natalia was unaware that this is the Year of Mercy, its graces were pouring down on her like a storm as she repented her decision and was given the grace of a second chance. As in the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), God the Father was rushing out to embrace her, to meet her with arms outstretched and a heart over-spilling with merciful love. And how did He reveal these arms of love? Through her own mother, whose intuition and practical resourcefulness imitated Our Blessed Mother, Mother of Mercy, whom we call in the Salve Regina our life, our sweetness, and our hope. The words of mercy and hope she spoke to Natalia that morning were certainly inspired by the Holy Spirit, Who gives us words when we have none (Lk 12:12).

In this Year of Mercy, let us too be the face of mercy to our family, our neighbors, our co-workers, and to those we meet in the street. Having first received God’s mercy into our own hearts, we must go forth and, like Our Lady, lead others to Jesus, the Divine Mercy, and to the Heart of the Father. In this Year of Mercy, we have no idea the power of a simple statement of love to change a heart and save a life.

Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself. Amen. (Closing prayer of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy)