Friday, June 25, 2010

True story

About five years ago, I was part of a group teaching a "Back to Basics" class in our parish. The goal was to educate Catholics about the fundamentals of our faith, since so many of us received weak formation growing up.
My topic one night was contraception. I presented the biblical, historical and logical reasons for the Church's teaching against contraception, and I also touched on the issues of IVF, human cloning, embryonic stem cell research, etc.

We had a lively discussion that night, the students were engaged, and I felt very good about the whole thing. I felt even better when a woman approached me after the class. She was energized and full of compliments. She thanked me for the explanations that I gave that night, and she told me that she had known in her gut that IVF was wrong. She went on to explain that she and her beloved sister had both struggled with infertility, and that her sister had ultimately turned to IVF to conceive her children.

"I tried to convince my sister not to do it, that it was against God's law and Church teaching, but I didn't have the right words," she told me. "I am so happy that you are teaching about this! Thank you so much. People just don't know, but we need to inform them. Nobody talks about this."

In my excitement and pride, I basked in the afterglow of the "I-taught-a-good-class" high. Thank you, Lord, for using me tonight! I feel great! This woman understands the truth, and it is so good to be here together, of one mind, awestruck at the beauty of our faith!

Smiling, she continued: "Even though I also had infertility issues, my husband and I never considered IVF. We used artificial insemination to conceive our daughter. She is such a blessing! I am so grateful that we were able to conceive her in a way that didn't go against our faith."

My heart dropped. I was not prepared for that. I hadn't mentioned artificial insemination in my talk.

I had about two seconds to decide what to do. I could let it go, but that wouldn't be right. Not only would this lovely woman leave uninformed, but there were two or three students who had lingered and were listening. Or, I could tell her the truth, and then watch her happiness turn to... what? Anger? Indignation? Denial? Despair?

Quick prayer to the Holy Spirit, and then, with a softened voice and an apologetic look: "Oh.... I am so sorry to tell you this, but it is also wrong to conceive a child using artificial insemination."

In an instant, the joy went out of her face, and she became very quiet....

I stumbled on a bit about the whys of it, was as gentle as I could be, assuring her that her daughter was a precious gift and was cherished by God and the Church no matter how she was conceived. The woman was very gracious, but I could tell that her mind was now troubled and that she wanted to be somewhere else. She thanked me again and she left.

I felt horrible, but I was looking forward to seeing her at the next class and getting a chance to talk to her again (she was a regular). Turns out, she never came back. We never spoke again.

A lot of things went through my mind, but primarily I was wondering if she had left the Church. I was saddened and disappointed at the possibility, but I eventually forgot about it.

Fast forward about a year or two. I am reading our diocesan newspaper and there is a feature story about IVF and related issues, several pages long. The article profiles Catholics who had undergone IVF treatments but have since come to understand and embrace Church teaching.

One segment profiled two sisters, both of whom had suffered from infertility. One had undergone IVF, and the other had been artificially inseminated. I looked at the large, full-color picture of the two smiling sisters with their precious children, and I recognized one of them as the woman from class!

The article filled in the rest of the story for me. In the interview, the woman said that she had gone home shaken from a doctrine class after she had learned that artificial insemination was wrong. However, she loved her faith and was prepared to defer to the Church. She later discussed all she had learned with her sister, and they both continued to study the issue. Ultimately, they both came to see the truth of Church teaching, and both women went to confession. They now educate others on the truth as often as they can.

The joy that both of them exuded in both the interview and the photo was simply awesome! I was relieved and elated!

The moral of the story? You bubble-dwellers already know: Witnessing our faith to others is often uncomfortable and even cringe-worthy in this culture. Sometimes, we would prefer to crawl into a hole and die rather than speak an unpopular truth to a skeptical or hostile crowd. But if we stay silent, we will never know what good God might have brought about had we spoken. For every ten people who reject what the Church proposes, there may be one who is transformed. And there may be others who initially scoff, but who years later put the pieces together.

So, if you ever feel sick to your stomach or embarrassed to share a "hard saying" of our Catholic Faith (especially to fellow Catholics), please pray and push ahead anyway, speaking the truth in love. God is always ready to honor our feeble efforts!

PS: I am thankful that God allowed me to see the fruit that eventually came from that awkward experience. Usually we don't get such sweet consolation, but that's okay, too. One of the charisms of Mother Angelica's Poor Clares (or so I've heard) is that they are not permitted to know, until Heaven, the fruits of their prayers and offered sufferings. So even if the beneficiary of an answered prayer should write and thank them for a miracle, the superior would not let the nuns know. That blew me away when I heard it! Sacrifice with no immediate reward. That is true love.


  1. What an amazing story! Love it!

  2. That is an amazing story and not how I expected it to end. I have been in a similar situation and did not handle it as well as you. I’m so glad you were able to speak the truth, but with compassion and understanding.

  3. I am so glad you posted this! What a difficult situation for sure! It reminds me about being out at the abortion clinic sidewalk counseling. Though we share the message of truth with love and compassion, there are obviously cases where it doesn't stop someone from doign something wrong but does still make them feel bad about it before and after. Sometimes doubt creeps in and I wonder if we made a hard, horrible situation worse, but I have to remind myself that telling the truth (with love and compassion, and also sharing the message of healing and forgiveness) is never wrong. It is hard to be that kind of messenger. I don't know what I would have done in your case, but there is a good chance I wouldn't have said anything. You were so brave! I, too, am glad you got to see the fruits of your labor!

  4. Love this story Leila! When we approach others with truth in love, just as the church tells us, we can truly bring our fellow men to Christ. And your quick prayer to the holy spirit is EXACTLY how that's done. Way to go and thank you for sharing that powerful witness!

  5. Wow-that is powerful stuff! It reminds me of the line from the Holy Spirit prayer, "send forth Your spirit and we shall be created and You shall renew the face of the earth." What a perfect example of allowing the Holy Spirit to use you to renew the face of the earth! I'm inspired!!

  6. I often have that feeling standing on the street corner at the abortion clinic. Am I even making any progress especially when people drive by flicking you off and cussing you out. Actually that makes me know I'm making a difference because of the emotion I envoke! ;) hahahaha

    Great story!!! I love it!!! It's good stuff!

  7. Leila - thanks for sharing this! Recently I have struggled with increased feelings of awkwardness in regards to discussing the faith. Ugh!

    On a happier note, I've also been allowed to see several prayers answered very powerfully lately. Maybe God is trying to offer encouragement for the weird interactions! And how fascinating about the Poor Clares!

  8. I have a story like that which I've shared with you before in regard to my crisis pregnancy counseling. Remember? The woman who told me she was convinced that abortion was wrong......but then went to have one anyway? Months later, I found out that she had backed out at the last minute and it was because of what I had shared with her. I think that God blessed you and me both with the consolation of finding out how it all worked out in the end so that we could learn to trust Him. He wants us to become closer to Him and He won't allow us to stumble around in total darkness. The consolation isn't to give us a pat on the back so that we can feel good about ourselves as much as it is to teach us to trust Him. We do well to rejoice in that gift of a consolation which may never come again because if we now fail to trust in situations like this, we are, perhaps, without excuse.

    I hope that makes sense. Anyway, I'm very grateful that you had an experience like that. Thanks be to God!

  9. Amazing! I got a little teary eyed when I read this!

  10. Amazing story! What a blessing that you got to see the fruits of sharing the truth even though it was difficult.

  11. The Holy Spirit was definitely working through you!!!! What a wonderful story!

  12. I remember the first part of the story from Back to Basics and I'm glad to hear about the follow-up. You are so right, we seldom get to hear how God uses us. Enjoy His providence.

  13. Wow, what an amazing story! I always try to remember that speaking up and letting others now the truth is so important, it may not bring immidiate results (or very nice ones) but in the end you've planted a seed for someone to grow in Gods truth and love. :)

  14. Thank you for this story!! What a testament to the truth!

  15. WOW! That is so great that you happened to see that article, and that you did what you knew you should in that moment.

  16. What wonderful courage! I hope that I would have the guts to speak the truth in a similar situation. God is definitely working through you!
    Also, I admire the courage of those women who realized the error of their ways. I think that it would be very difficult to sort through the feelings of guilt for committing such a grave sin and the joy you would obviously feel being a mother to your child.

  17. Thank you all for your comments and wisdom!!

    Deacon Doug, is that you?? You were the brains behind "Back to Basics"! God bless you!! (And nice to have a man on the blogs!)

    Lisa, oh yes, I remember that story.... gave me chills.

  18. Ladies, can I share something with you? A few of you might know me. My name is Maria, I'm forty three, and I've been married for three years. My husband (he's forty five) and I have been trying to concieve for three years now. We haven't been able to get pregnant once. Two years ago, much to my devastation, I was diagnosed with endometriosis stage four. I've had two surgeries so far.

    Many know of my husband and my struggle. Our family and friends. Co-workers. People who live in our apartment. Yesterday, out of the blue, I received an email from a young lady who just happens to be the neice of my best friend. She told me she knows how much I want to be a Mother and have a baby. She told me how much she wants to help me. She told me she prayed about it and she is convinced that God wants her to help me and my husband out. Guess what she offered to do? Be a surrogate Mother for me and carry our baby! Oh my gosh, when I received this email I was shocked! I still am!

    Can you imagine how much I wanted to write her back immediately and say "Yes"? I mean, my hubby and I do not have many options left. I am going to be forty four in August and my periods started skipping last year right after my second surgery. Hubby and I would love to be able to foster adopt or adopt, but it's so expensive and we don't have enough money. We are living paycheck to paycheck. Also something happened to us both this year, which could make it impossible for us to ever adopt. I'm sorry, but I can't write about it here. So as you can imagine for a lady who has been teaching at daycare centers for twenty two years and loves children, always wanted her own, who cries often wanting a child so much, and feels so sad and discouraged about not being able to have a child of her own, well when someone emails you and offers to be a surrogate for you, it's really difficult (heart wrenching) to have to tell her no!!

    I am not sure what to email back to this girl. She is a family friend, the neice of my best friend. I do not want to offend her. But even if this is the only way I can ever be a Mommy, I still have to say no! Why? Because I know in my heart and soul that God does not approve of surrogacy. As much as my heart aches and my arms ache to hold a baby and have my own child, I can't risk losing my soul (or hubby's soul). It is my job as his wife to help him reach heaven.

    I know that I have to write this young lady and tell her no, but not sure how to do it without offending her. She is a very sweet girl and I know she has good intentions. But like I said before, I know God does not approve of babies being concieved through surrogacy or IVF.

    By the way, I am asked all the time why hubby and I are not trying IVF. Usually I'm asked this question by people who have tried IVF.

    Maybe you guys could pray for me? This infertility/endometriosis thing is so hard especially when me and hubby want a baby so much! Thanks!

    Thinking of you and praying for you all!


  19. Maria, you are extremely courageous and strong to withstand the temptation that is dangled in front of you! You are an unsung hero, for sure.

    I would be honored to pray for you.

    And as for what to say, I would just say that you are very appreciative of her big heart and her wanting to help you in your struggles, but that surrogacy is against the teachings of your faith, which is more important to you than even having a baby. I think she will understand, and perhaps she will even ask you more about it.... thus opening up an opportunity for evangelization!

    God bless you, and I will be praying....

    (PS: Is even fostering out of the question? I thought the state pays you to foster?)

  20. Leila, what an amazing woman you are! I love this post.

    Maria, I love Leila's advice to you, it is simple and to the point while still allowing you to be a powerful witness to our beautiful faith. We are all praying for you and feel you pain. I, too, suggest looking more into fostering if you feel so called. I discovered that our legal issues will not prevent us from ever fostering, only now since we are still in the thick of it. There were also no expenses incurred.

  21. Oh Leila I'm so glad you shared this! And good job to you for teaching that class! I can't imagine having to have been in your position when that lady thought she had done the right thing with IUI! Bless your heart, but the HS gave you the strength to speak the truth in love!

    Loved this post b/c I have been feeling attacked by friends and family IRL on sticking with the church especially in this area of infertility. People just don't get it and it saddens my heart to no end! Your post gives me the pick-me-up that I needed!! Thank you!!! :)

  22. Beautiful! Thank you for sharing!

  23. I don't know if anyone will see this b/c I know I'm commenting on an older post, but without a blog of my own, I wanted to point out this article relating to IVF and Christian teaching:

    I posted on HAMF, too, in hopes that one of you would see it :)

  24. KC, THANK YOU!!!! This is exactly right!! If Christians are against embryonic stem cell research, they must also be opposed to IVF! It has always driven me crazy that they don't see that it's the same issue!! Thank you, because I was just getting ready to do a post on IVF again...

  25. I truly admire you and hope to be as faithful to the Church as you are when I'm older someday and able to help teach the Truth. :-) I want to fill my journal with beautiful stories like these.


  26. Hi Leila! Thanks so much for dropping by and commenting on my IVF post. This post you wrote here was so very difficult for me to read…my heart ached for both of you ladies…for the woman who used artificial insemination and for you to have to be the barer of bad news…It is difficult to speak truth…but it must be done, but always with grace. Wishing you a lovely weekend,


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