Healing Through Divine Mercy

We sat down with Marian Press author Theresa Bonopartis to talk about her new book on post-abortion healing, A Journey to Healing Through Divine Mercy. For Theresa, the healing from her own abortion came through Divine Mercy and praying the prayer Jesus, I trust in You. Her healing brought about a desire to dedicate her life to helping others heal from abortion. So, 20 years ago, she combined efforts with the Sisters of Life to found the ministry Entering Canaan, which provides retreats for women suffering from abortion. In cooperation with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (CFRs), she also offers retreats for men and siblings, and she trains people across the country who work in post-abortive ministries.

In your book, A Journey to Healing, you share about your own experience of post-abortive suffering. You have a powerful story of healing. Why is it important to tell that story today?

I tell the story so that other women (and men) who experience post-abortion suffering don't feel so alone. Just yesterday, I got a phone call from someone who has been keeping this secret to herself for 30 years. So, when people hear your story, and that you've gone through healing, they feel like there is hope for healing for them - that it's possible for them to get out of this hell they are living in. A big part of post-abortive suffering is that you feel very isolated and alone. Don't forget, the secular world tells us that there's no such thing as post-abortion and they really drown out the women who have struggled with it. So you feel like you are the only one who struggles with this and there must be something wrong with you for feeling that way. By sharing my story and the stories of others, I can help these women to feel that they are not the only ones who experienced these things. They are not alone.

In your own story, you said that when you went to see a therapist to seek help, he told you to forget about your abortion.

Right. He said, "That's not what's bothering you." I was told that I was suffering because my husband was an alcoholic. But, in reality, I married an alcoholic because I was such a mess from my abortion. I've heard the same thing from countless women who have sought help in therapy. For a long time, very pro-abortion people headed the American Psychological Association, and even today you have therapists saying there are hardly any adverse effects from abortion ... so, you have the professionals saying there is no such thing as what you are living with every day of your life, and it makes you think you are even more crazy. Now we do have a database of some good counselors who recognize post-abortion suffering - though not nearly enough professionals to meet the need - but there are professionals today who will acknowledge that abortion causes pain and suffering [in the parent], and that it affects you not only psychologically, but also spiritually and sometimes physically as well.

Your book is a series of meditations, based on passages from the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska. How did the message of Divine Mercy impact your own journey and how does this message speak to post-abortive women and men in general?

I was introduced to the message of Divine Mercy in the late 1980s, and it just became a part of my life. I would pray the Chaplet every day and I just really entrusted myself to that. My healing came one night, crouched on the floor in the bathroom. I kept saying, "Jesus, I trust in You," and I felt like I climbed on the Cross with Christ. But instead of feeling pain, I felt this warm rush go through me. There are no words to describe what I felt, but in that moment I knew I was healed. This was after 15 years of suffering after my abortion.

Before that healing, at low points when I felt very depressed, I would say the prayer, "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" (Diary, 950). Whenever I was suffering spiritually because of my abortion, I would cling to that prayer, especially at times when I was feeling that there no way out of this hole - because it is truly a spiritual battle. You feel unforgivable. You hate yourself. You feel alienated from your child and think that when you die your child will point a finger at you and say, "This is the person who killed me."

I really believe Satan uses all these things to keep the post-abortive person away from God and away from healing, so that prayer from St. Faustina was kind of like a stronghold for me in times when I was really attacked or was struggling with the feeling that God wouldn't forgive me. The message of Divine Mercy and all the things Faustina says in the Diary and all that God spoke to her - that no sin is greater than His mercy - speaks to the heart of someone who is post-abortive. God is telling us that even this sin can be forgiven. This message helps with the healing. Because in healing, you need to take the focus off of yourself and put the focus on Christ. You are healed because of what He did, not because of anything you can do. I always say that. You can't do anything to make up for your abortion - but you don't have to make up for it because Christ made up for it by dying on the Cross. It's His mercy and what He has done that give you the way to healing and freedom from abortion.

A huge part of your healing was the prayer Jesus, I trust in You. How did that prayer bring you through the darkest moments in your journey? And what does it mean to trust in Jesus and in His mercy?

For me, trusting in Jesus means not acting on my emotions. It's like the virtue courage. Having courage doesn't mean you don't fear, it just means that you move forward in spite of the fear. My family kicked me out of the house when I was pregnant, and I felt alone and abandoned. But trusting has nothing to do with our feelings. So, no matter what, I am going to trust in God. Even if I'm in a raging battle, I'm not going to sit in that fear and doubt. I'm going to seek help. Or pray. I'm not going to let my feelings run this. When you are in the depths of the pit, and everything seems dark, but you still believe in the love and mercy of God, that's faith. If you cling to that faith, you will find He never abandons or disappoints us.

How did your healing affect your life and your ministry?

Because I knew God's mercy was there for everyone, I felt a call to be involved in this work. I wrote letters to Cardinal O'Connor and told him we really need something for post-abortive people. He told me that when he began the Sisters of Life, one of their ministries would be for post-abortive people. (In fact, a good friend of mine became a Sister of Life.) Essentially, the ministry developed from my own personal experience. It's really sharing my "journey" to God in the most difficult struggle of my life, so that other people would be able to find healing as well. At retreats and in the meditations from the book, I talk about things that I knew people struggled with in healing. For example, just acknowledging your sin can be so terrifying. I built the ministry around things that I had learned in my own battle, and I continue to develop it. We do men's ministry now. And we do ministry for siblings of aborted babies. The ministry has continued to expand as God has revealed more and more to me and through working with thousands and thousands of people. The ministry is over 20 years old now.

You said that the Jubilee Year of Mercy inspired you to write this book of reflections to help others experience their own Jubilee - a year of liberty and reconciliation with God. How so?

You can read a lot of books on women's testimonies about their abortions, but they do not address this issue in a practical spiritual way. I know from developing and doing the retreats, the spiritual talks are the things that really help women move forward. For example, if you are talking to someone suffering from something like abandonment, then every slight is an issue of abandonment. So many things will trigger that trauma because the wounds are so deep. In this book, I try to address those wounds through stories and meditations on Divine Mercy, and I think the book really reaches down and touches the wounds. This book really has nothing to do with me. It has more to do with Jesus reaching into these places through these meditations and helping people heal. It opens their heart more in trust and love for Him, knowing that He desires their healing and that their children desire their healing.

As the Jubilee Year of Mercy closed, Pope Francis wrote an Apostolic letter, Misericordia et Misera, where he says that "Everything is revealed in mercy; everything is revealed in the merciful love of the Father." How has this been true in your own experience and the experience of the women and men you minister to?

When you look at the Cross you see all these wounds and it looks difficult and horrible, but when you climb on that cross with Him, with your wounds, and make your wounds one with His wounds, the pain goes away because He fills the wounds with His love, His mercy, and His forgiveness. That's not just words. It's an experience. Sometimes people say, "Oh, there's not really healing from abortion." That's not true. But healing doesn't mean that you forget the experience. Being healed means that you can go forward in your life and have joy again in your life. So that when things come up, you understand what's happening and you move forward. You are always going to remember, and, frankly, I don't want to forget my child. I don't want to be one of those people who has an abortion and it doesn't bother me. And those are the things that women need to know. It's okay to grieve. It's a good thing to not forget about your child. But you should never look at the horror of abortion without the courage and strength you receive by knowing the mercy and forgiveness of God.

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