Meeting Christ On The Road To Life
Published: January 19, 2012
I feel a special affinity for St. Paul because he was so honest about what a wretched sinner he was before his conversion.
He started out as a bloodthirsty man named Saul who persecuted Christians, including the first martyr, Stephen. And then on the road to Damascus Saul was blinded by a flash of light and fell from his horse.
“Saul, why do you persecute me?” Jesus asked.
I find it telling that the Lord didn’t ask “Why are you doing this to my followers?”—but why are you doing this to me? The question echoes Christ’s words in Matthew’s Gospel that whatever we do to suffering people, we actually are doing to him.
This poignant question has resonance for the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which occurs Jan. 23, a special day of penance and prayer occurring two days before we celebrate St. Paul’s conversion.
Whose life ends when an abortion takes place? Well, there are still many people who say no one is actually killed; what happens, you see, is a blob of tissue is extracted—and that’s that.
There are some people who once believed this—and strongly supported legalized abortion—but, in their own ways, encountered Christ on the road to Damascus, and said, “Enough.”
Among the most famous was abortion-rights activist Bernard Nathanson, a medical doctor who was responsible for 75,000 abortions. And then one day he was blinded, at least figuratively, by the truth, and had a complete change of heart.
He wrote, “Ultrasound opened up a new world. For the first time we could really see the human fetus, measure it, observe it, watch it, and indeed bond with it and love it. I began to do that.”
He converted to Catholicism, became a strong defender of life and wrote his autobiography, “The Hand of God: A Journey from Death to Life by the Abortion Doctor Who Changed His Mind.”
My own conversion didn’t involve being thrown from a horse. Instead, I clung to the reins with all my might and was nudged off slowly over a number of years.
In my 20s and 30s, I was an atheist and a radical feminist, and strongly defended legalized abortion when I taught college-level philosophy. As for what exactly was destroyed during an abortion, I told my students, it surely wasn’t a human being but just a blob of matter that would become human some time down the line.
When exactly? Well, that was open to endless debate, since no one could point to a line in the sand, an instant when the blob suddenly became human.
In my 40s, when I returned to my faith, I came back clutching the horse of my former life very tightly, refusing to give up my beliefs about abortion.
It wasn’t until a diagnosis of cancer in 2000 that I really got serious about my faith. It was then that I sought out a priest for spiritual direction because, quite frankly, I was terrified that I would die, and I wanted to get some matters straight before then.
I didn’t realize the Lord was putting me on the road to Damascus when I met this priest.
At first, I was drawn to him by his incredible kindness, as I sat there weeping about this terrible detour in my life. And once we got beyond discussing the inevitable “why me?” associated with cancer, I began asking him questions about Catholic teachings, especially on life.
He explained the history, gave me reading material and patiently answered all my questions. At some point, I felt my tight grip on the reins starting to loosen.
There was no longer any way I could avoid seeing the truth. If the “thing” in the womb had human DNA, and if a pregnancy test showed up positive—thereby indicating this “thing” was alive—well, then, obviously this was a living human being from the moment it came into existence. From that another conclusion followed logically: Abortion meant taking a human life.
As the feast day of St. Paul’s conversion draws near, I picture Christ confronting a doctor in an abortion clinic and asking quietly, “Why do you persecute me?”
After all, Christ was the one who said, “Whatever you do to the least of these my little ones, you have done unto me.” And, really, who fits the description of “least of these” better than a baby in the womb?
The chilling conclusion calls us to pray fervently—especially on Jan. 23—for those who work in abortion clinics that they may one day see the light.
These people may not realize it, but in taking the life of an unborn child, they are participating in the crucifixion of Christ.
Lorraine Murray writes about her conversion experience in her book, “Confessions of an Ex-Feminist” (Ignatius Press). Artwork for this column is by her husband, Jef Murray. Readers may contact the Murrays at email@example.com.