Susanna Spencer has a masters in theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is a writer and the theological editor for Blessed is She, and writes on her own blog Living With Lady Philosophy. She is a homeschooling mother of four and lives with her family in St. Paul, Minnesota.
October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month, and Oct. 15 is the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. This year I was painfully aware of the day as friends posted their remembrances on social media. I kept thinking about how a year ago I was pregnant with our baby who passed out of me in early November. I could not muster the emotional strength to face the day publicly, so I held onto my three miscarried babies in my heart. I thought I had made it through my grieving, but perhaps not.
When I went on a silent four day Ignatian retreat last weekend, I did not plan on praying about my miscarriages. In fact, during the four days of the retreat, I barely thought of them. I went through the Ignatian exercises facing other spiritual things. I got to the point where I though I had gotten all I needed on this retreat (i.e., cried all of my tears), and I would just rest peacefully with God.
But on Sunday morning, the retreat director encouraged us to allow God to give us the extra graces he still had to offer us. In fact, the last short day of the retreat was often when one received more graces. I took his advice to heart and decided to be open to the movements of the Holy Spirit.
The last conference was on the Resurrection, a meditation that often does not get a lot of time in weekend long Spiritual Exercises. I had a half an hour to pray before the end of the retreat, so I decided to just take time to meditate then.
The scene I chose to meditate on was that of the traditional appearance of the Risen Jesus to the Blessed Virgin Mary before he went to anyone else. I sat with the Blessed Mother in her sorrow, thinking about the great suffering she witnessed her son go through. Then I found myself prompted to unite all of the sorrow I have had over the years of losing babies to miscarriage with that of the Blessed Mother. I put my head in my hands as hot tears ran down my face and dropped into my prayer journal.
I held onto the sorrow with my Sorrowful Mother, but then her risen Son came into the room. “Mother!” he said. I watched as she jumped up to embrace him, and then to my surprise three children walked out from behind him and came over to me. I instinctively recognized them as my own, lost children and reached out towards them. They climbed into my lap and I held them in my arms. These were my babies, the babies that I had lost, and they were not lost anymore. I saw Jesus depart and then his mother came over by me. She, too, cuddled my children, and we rested in that moment together. The tears still poured down my face through this entire scene, but the sorrow had turned into a hopeful, confident joy. I understood more deeply the joy of the Resurrection.
I have studied long and intensely what the Tradition of the Church has taught about what happens to miscarried babies who die without Sacramental Baptism. I have read the documents, prayed out it, discussed it, and wrote an article explaining it all. I knew in my head that there are good theological grounds to hope that God would work outside the ordinary means of salvation (Baptism) to free children who die before they are able to be sacramentally cleansed from Original Sin. But last week my heart learned what it really meant to hope this, to believe in this, to “entrust them to the mercy of God.” (CCC 1261)
I have a feeling that from now on, whenever I pray the first of the Glorious mysteries of the Rosary that I will find my miscarried children in that room with the Blessed Mother and her risen Son.