Rachel's Vineyard Retreat: The Beginning of True Healing of the Mind, Body and Soul through Jesus Christ
By Rev. John M. Verrier.
I see Rachel’s Vineyard as a spiritual and psychological journey of true healing for people who have had abortions. This is a retreat for anyone who has been wounded by abortion: moms and dads, husbands and wives, grandmothers and grandfathers, single people, young and old alike.
Rachel's Vineyard, a spiritual ministry for healing after abortion, was founded by Kevin and Theresa Burke in 1997. These weekend retreats are named after a woman in the Old Testament who mourned the loss of her children so much and wept so bitterly that she refused to be consoled. But scripture tells us that for Rachel ”there is hope for her future.” (Jeremiah 31:15-17).
Our society does not recognize the deep pain and the gripping physical, psychological, spiritual and social consequences that comes from a grief that is denied to a mother (and other members of the family); a grief which comes when a child is “no more” because of an abortion. Rachel's Vineyard is a place where all the repressed feelings of grief, anxiety, guilt and anger are allowed to come to the surface after being buried for many, many years.
How this healing happens in each person is very unique. For three days each wounded heart enters a new world which is immersed in God’s unconditional love. Throughout these days the Scriptures come alive and you are really there; walking and talking with Jesus. This experience is Catholic (although it is open to anyone - Catholic and non-Catholics); it is sacramental; it is nothing short of miraculous!
Abortion is not an unforgivable sin. But the women and men who have made the mistake of having an abortion find it very hard to accept forgiveness. Once the initial pain can no longer be buried, many problems begin to surface. Such problems include those within family relationships and between friends. People that have been wounded by abortion almost always suffer from depression, doubt and despair, and feelings of worthlessness caused by the painful isolation of this secret sin. The sickness of this secret sin sinks into the depths of the psyche and these brothers and sisters of ours begin to have unrealistic thoughts and fears of God’s punishments and retributions. In some cases post-abortive men and women feel that they don't deserve to live or that God will take away their present blessings. Suffering in silence they continue to resist the help of others and begin to fear that they will never again experience true happiness. They despair of ever being as happy or as close to God as they once were! Again, abortion is not an unforgivable sin. But it sure feels like it to those who have experienced the agony of abortion.
If you feel lost because you have had an abortion or have in some way been wounded by the sin of abortion, please consider a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat! If your heart is broken and your spirit is crippled, please consider a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat! If you can no longer recognize the person who is looking back at you when you stare into the mirror because that person you remembered seemed to live a long, long time ago, please consider coming to a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat! At this retreat you will meet some wonderful people who will help you re-discover that life is beautiful and so are you! These people, who are the very instruments of God Himself, will literally lead you to embrace Jesus and to embrace your child again! If you come on this retreat you will feel unconditionally loved by Jesus and by your baby. And you will finally find the path to peace for which you have been searching for so long.
In the following seven paragraphs, taken from “The Jericho Plan” by David C. Reardon, I hope you will see that a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat is a blessing coming to us directly from the heart of our loving God!
A Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat can help you take the steps towards healing that you have not yet taken after your abortion experience. Anyone who has been through this hell knows that the road to healing is not an easy road to take; and no one should ever walk that road alone! We all need people to help us; and full recovery from the trauma of abortion can take a long time and effort. God’s forgiveness can be had instantly, but sorting out life experiences and feelings, and overcoming doubt and despair takes time. A Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat is a really good first step down that road to full recovery! Mourning the loss of your baby takes time, and that process of mourning is often cut short and never completed because of feelings of denial or guilt. Denial and obsessive guilt prevent us from mourning or force us to repress or cover up the sense of loss we feel. Mourning and feeling the pain of your loss will fade as you begin to heal. A Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat will get the mourning process back on track.
You must recognize that you are not alone in your pain. Others have been through similar experiences and heartbreaking trials as you have. Their experiences and their understanding can really help you. And they want to help you, just as you may want to help them after the healing is done! A Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat will set you free from the horrible feeling of isolation! In the healing process we recognize that we have to take personal responsibility for our actions. But we must also recognize that others were involved too! To let go of your anger you must pray for God’s forgiveness for yourself, but also for everyone else who either encouraged the abortion or failed to help you avoid the abortion. A Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat will remind you of the supreme power of prayer and forgiveness.
Forgive yourself!!! God does not want you to live a lifetime in mourning. If you have repented and have confessed your sin in the Sacrament of Confession then your sin has been forgiven. You have been made new again in Jesus Christ, Our Lord! Rejoice in the knowledge that one day you will be with your child again! You will be in the arms of the Lord. And your baby will be in your arms! A Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat will help you believe this truth without a shadow of a doubt!
Forgive those who acted out of ignorance as Jesus forgave those who crucified Him as He hung upon the cross. Those who failed you during your time of need also acted out of ignorance, fear, or petty human selfishness. Let them know that you forgive them, if possible. God wants us to forgive our enemies. This forgiveness should even extend to the abortion providers. A Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat will put you on a path of spiritual strength which will allow this miracle of grace; the miracle of forgiveness!
Finally, surrender your children into the care of our loving God, their Heavenly Father; the Father of us all. Be confident and know, with all your heart, that your children are loved, happy, and well cared for. They, too, desire your joy and happiness. Yes, they miss you, but they do not resent or condemn you, because they live in the love and mercy of Jesus Christ, Our Life and Our Love. Do not try to hold onto them by prolonging your grief; hold onto them by sharing their happiness in heaven. Isn’t this what you really want? A Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat can get you on the road to being there! Yes, God’s love and forgiveness, His compassion and mercy are real. God’s wants you to be healed. His arms are open and waiting for you!….at a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat! Please come!
God bless you in Christ through Mary!
Rev. John M. Verrier
Pastor of St.. Joseph's Parish, Brimfield, IL and Pastor of St. James's Parish, Williamsfield, IL