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Dorothy Day on Abortion and Mercy

Jessica Keating_headshot

Jessica Keating, M.Div.
Director,
Human Dignity and Life Initiatives
University of Notre Dame

Contact Author

“Don’t you care about anything other than abortion, like U.S. military plans to invade Iran?,” a middle aged man asked a women holding a sign that read, “Abortion Hurts Women.” I happened to overhear this question a few weeks ago, when I participated in the nation’s largest Planned Parenthood protest in history.

The problem with this question and others like it (don’t you care about poor, don’t you care about the environment, don’t you care about the plight of the immigrant, don’t you care about
homelessness, don’t you care about human trafficking, etc., etc.), is that they attempt to limit the horizon of conversation to predetermined and falsely constructed dichotomies. Such questions are not neutral; rather their framing fossilizes the narrative about human dignity in our country through the unrelenting rehearsal of 11951995_10152931926825793_3853225836498330680_nslogans and arguments. These questions, whether expressed on Facebook or Twitter, in the media, or by presidential hopefuls in what seems like endless election cycles, are nearly always linked to the desire for power, to get candidate X elected. The not-so- hidden implication of such questions is that one cannot care about the unborn and militarism, or human trafficking, etc., etc. I have also heard the question inverted, so as to imply if one is really against abortion, all other human dignity issues must recede from view. In either inflection, there is a lack of nuance, distinction, and vision.

In light of the absurdity of this set-up, I have found myself reflecting on Servant of God Dorothy Day as a particularly important icon for Catholics in America who are daily tempted to fall prey to disjointed “issues”-based politics and to cultivate a comparable “issues”-based gospel. She confounded such tidy divisions and simply declined to engage the American political milieu in such predetermined ways.

Day actually rarely spoke or wrote directly on the topic of abortion. Scour her journals, articles, letters, and books. Search her prolific corpus, and one will find scant reference to that ordeal of which she had a most intimate knowledge. She wrote a fictionalized account of her own abortion in an early work, The Eleventh Virgin, and obliquely gestures to the experience in her autobiography, The Long Loneliness. Indeed, she expended her considerable journalistic talents denouncing state sponsored militarism, detailing the rhythms of Dorothy_Day_1934family life, describing the scandal of the works of mercy, writing letters, and advocating for a new social order. In part, no doubt, this had as much to do with the historical fact that abortion was not available and practiced on the scale it is today until the end of her life, but I also suspect her relative silence on the subject had something to do with Day’s own deeply painful experience of abortion.

In addition to the references to abortion in The Eleventh Virgin and The Long Loneliness, Day speaks of her abortion again in a tender letter written on February 6, 1973 to a young woman named Cathie whose own abortion left her in deeply wounded and contemplating suicide. To Cathie she speaks of pain and hope, healing and prayer. “In a way,” Day writes “to use old-fashioned language, I feel you are a victim of souls, bearing some of the agony the world is in, Vietnam, the Third World, ‘the misery of the needy and groaning of the poor’”(All is Grace, 397).

Day again mentions abortion in a reminiscence to mark her 75th birthday that appeared in the August 10, 1973 edition of Commonweal Magazine. Writing of her conversion, The Imitation of Christ, and Bartolome de las Casas, she writes:

God forgive us the sins of our youth! But as Zachariah sang out, “We have knowledge of salvation through forgiveness of our sins.” I don’t think anyone recognizes the comfort of this text better than I do. I have not yet been attracted by the present tendency to bring everything out into the light of day by public and published confessions. Were we not taught by Holy Mother Church to respect the modesty of the confessional? Or is that a silly expression? But oh the joy of knowing that you can always go there and be forgiven seventy times seven times. (Even though you wonder, in your distrust of yourself, whether you really mean or have the strength to “amend your life.”) I hope your readers can read between the lines from the above and recognize what my positions on birth control and abortion are.

In the same “letter-article,” she recounts being asked by reports in
Australia about her views on abortion and birth control. To these 2251719973_01c2c3fd40questions, she explained matter-of-factly:

My answer was simplistic. I followed Pope Paul. . . . Thank God we have a Pope Paul who upholds respect for life, an ideal so lofty, so high, so important even when it seems he has the whole Catholic world against him. Peter Maurin always held before our eyes a vision of the new man, the new social order as being possible, by God’s grace, here and now, and he so fully lived the life of voluntary poverty and manual labor.

There is a striking similarity between Day’s straightforward answer and Pope Francis’ first interview with America Magazine where, when asked about abortion, contraception, and gay marriage, he said simply, “I am a son of the Church.” And yet, such simple answers are far from simplistic. Rather, they speak of a life lived according to a particular form of life and a particular logic of love and mercy.

Day’s most formal statement about abortion appeared The Catholic Peace Fellowship’s “Statement on Abortion,” which she co-signed with six others on June 28, 1974. Here the authors write:

We make this statement to protest a policy and a practice, not to condemn any individual for a tragic decision she or he may have felt forced to make, just as in our protest against war and its destruction of human life we pass no judgment upon the individual who acts in good conscience.

. . . For many years we have urged upon our spiritual leaders the inter-relatedness of the life issues, war, capital punishment, abortion, euthanasia and economic exploitation. We welcome the energetic leadership our bishops are giving in the abortion controversy and we are proud to join our voices with theirs. At the same time we must point out that, ultimately, the sincerity of our words and theirs on any of these issues will be measured by our readiness to recognize and deal with the underlying social problems which turn many people to these deadly womalternatives, to condemn all forms of social and economic injustice and to work for their elimination and the establishment of a social order in which all may find it easier to be “fully human.”

What are we to make of these three references? The first appears in personal letter in which Day recalls her abortion and the healing grace of God. The second appears in a self-described “letter-article,” wherein she speaks of abortion in connection to the mercy and authority of the Church. The third reference appears in a formal statement, in which the authors denounce the policy and practice of abortion and call for a new social order, one which makes human flourishing easier—a society that, in the words of Peter Maurin, “makes it easier to be good.”

Taken together, Day’s remarks on abortion offer two essential insights.

1) Mercy capacitates us to see more. In her “letter-article” for Commonweal, Day quotes the Benedictus: “We have knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of our sins.” The mercy of God, fully disclosed in the person of Christ, and Day’s encounter with God’s mercy enabled her to see more of reality. Indeed, it is a life prayer, of participation in the sacramental life, that forms such a vision. Grace elevates and penetrates even that which is available to reason. It enfolds us into the logic that knits together all “life issues.”

If this sounds similar to a seamless garment life, it is because it is. But let me be clear, such a vision must avoid conflation. The image of the seamless garment like the image of the Body of Christ, with Christ as the head, is a hierarchical image. Abortion, the willful termination of human life, is simply not the same moral act as capital punishment or even economic exploitation. Rather, such a vision requires the careful and precise distinction evident in Evangelii Gaudium, when Pope Francis explained why the protection of the unborn takes primacy of place in the Church’s teaching on human dignity.

Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with
particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenseless pope-francis-im-not-a-marxistand innocent among us. . . . Defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right. It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development. Human beings are ends in themselves and never a means of resolving other problems. Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defense of human rights, which would always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be. No. 213

A society that fails to defend its most vulnerable members will soon find that it is unable to defend other human rights, that indeed, what is considered a “right” increasingly will be determined by the powerful.

At the same time, such a vision can see the inner connection of all life issues. We do well not only to remember that the realities of war, migration, and economic exploitation often disproportionately affect the most vulnerable among us namely, children, but also that all offenses against human life, in different ways and at different levels of gravity, participate in a logic of violence, in a logic that produces a throw-away culture. We also do well to remember that the realities of war, migration, and economic exploitation often disproportionately affect the most vulnerable among us namely, children. Day expresses this when, in her letter to Cathy, she sees the acute particularity of Cathy’s suffering and its universality. It is precisely because of the Church’s teaching on abortion (and euthanasia) that enables her to to speak and act with clarity, conviction, and authority on all issues related to life, to labor tirelessly against an economy that kills (53). This kind of vision is elevated and expanded by an encounter with God’s fierce and tender mercy.

  1. Mercy is a habit that requires concrete forms of practice. Peter Maurin was famous for saying that the aim of the Catholic Worker was to build a new society in the shell of the old, one that made it easier to be good. In her “letter-article” to Commonweal, Day seems to make a non-sequitur from her affirmation of Pope Paul’s upholding of respect for life to Peter Maurin. As I read over the passage a second time, however, it struck me that her abrupt change in subject was only an appearance. Indeed, for Day (and for us) Maurin is living witness to the gospel of life. He provides, as does Day, a particular enactment of a life conformed to Christ, to the one who reveals the breadth and depth of human dignity, which is made known to us again and again through the tender forgiveness of our sins. It is a life lived within the horizon of mercy.

In his concrete practices of prayer and the works of mercy, the vigorous exercise of his mind and enactment of his vision for an agronomic university, Maurin (and Day) worked to build a “social order in which all may find it easier to be ‘fully human.’” By daily practicing the way of mercy, they labored for a society in which it was easier to be good, easier to choose life, easier to say no to the will to power and violence in all its many forms.

I stood on Grape Road, with my jeans rolled up and my hair pulled back, with the young and old, with men and women who had also come to plead for justice and mercy for unborn, to call for a new 11879275_10152927735535793_2395403451959082158_osocial order, one that makes human flourishing easier—a society permeated by mercy. This work on behalf of the unborn is not exhausted by protesting, though that is critical. It is not exhausted by legal changes, though these are necessary, as the law shapes the imagination. It requires more; it requires concrete practices of care and support for mothers and their children—health care, paid maternity leave, a living wage, etc. Mercy does not choose its own way. It does not say, I will do this work of mercy but no other. Mercy is a bridge, it has wholeness, a breadth and depth that makes it easier to choose life.

Political Speech, Bull*$!%, and Human Dignity

Jessica Keating

Jessica Keating, M.Div.
Program Director,
Human Dignity and Life Initiatives
University of Notre Dame

Contact Author

A couple of weeks ago I suggested that decadence is a disease of the eye that trains us to see and un-see reality in a particular way. Decadence forms and distorts our vision, not unlike the way cataracts distort and blur one’s physical capacity to see. At this point, I would like to suggest that the widespread use of ‘bullshit’ in public discourse functions as decadence’s corollary with regard to speech. Indeed, decadence and ‘bullshit’ are one another’s helpmates, each mutually reinforcing and cultivating a profound lack of concern for truth.

What precisely is ‘bullshit?’ In his masterful book, On Bullshit, Princeton philosopher Harry Frankfurt interrogates the term and finds our current definitions wanting. He concludes that ‘bullshit’ is a programmatic form of speech which is unconcerned with truth. On BullshitFrankfurt explains that the proliferation of ‘bullshit’ is a profoundly problematic aspect in much of modern public discourse, which has largely dismissed the very possibility that one can accurately identify the truth. Such a position could lead to total silence, the refusal to make any assertion about the way things are. Yet, modern public discourse has not fallen silent; in fact, there seems to be more to say than ever. Though we have largely eschewed the possibility of accessing truth beyond the subjective and personal, we continue to make “assertions that purport to describe the way things are” (62).

Herein lies the essence of ‘bullshit.’ It is not simply that the ‘bullshitter’ plays fast and loose with the truth; it is rather that the ‘bullshitter’ refuses to submit “to the constraints which the endeavor to provide an accurate representation of reality imposes” (32). Unlike a liar who must believe he knows the truth in order lie, the ‘bullshitter’ engages in a program that is less deliberative, one that is wholly unconcerned with truth. Indeed, ‘bullshit’ is not the limited insertion of a falsehood the way a lie is; it is a program of discourse in which one “is prepared, so far as required, to fake the context as well” (52). It is a form of speaking that sells a vision of reality which, though it may sometimes be true or sometimes be false, is wholly unconcerned with truth.

As Frankfurt notes, ‘bullshit’ exists in the tension of discipline with regard technique and laxity with regard to correctness (23). In few places do we find more paradigmatic instances of bullshit than in advertising and in politics, insofar as the latter increasingly takes on the form of the former.

Thank you for smokingAdvertising campaigns for tobacco provide one such classic example, so paradigmatic, in fact, they made a movie about it called Thank you for Smoking. In the film we see that tobacco lobbyists never quite lie to the public, but neither do they submit the discipline of accurately representing reality. It isn’t as though the men and women crafting cigarette campaigns fail to get the facts right, it is that they filter them in order to create an attractive aura around smoking. They are prepared to “fake the context.” In short, whether what they say is true or false is irrelevant. What matters is selling cigarettes. According to Frankfurt, it is the ‘bullshitter’s’ disregard for the truth that makes him a greater enemy to truth than the liar.

Political speech often functions in the modality of ‘bullshit’ for two reasons. First, politicians are frequently required to speak about issues that exceed their knowledge. This will, Frankfurt observes, will nearly always produce ‘bullshit’ (63). Secondly, because American politics are irreducibly ideological, politicians can never be too concerned with truth or they won’t be re-elected. They must be more nearly concerned with pandering to voter opinion, power, and money.

Those concerned with issues of human dignity ought to be particularly concerned with the expansion of ‘bullshit’ in political 17trump-web-master675discourse. Like so much political speech on both sides of the aisle, particularly political speech that has to do so intimately with human dignity, both parties demonstrate an utter lack of concern for the truth. Republicans often provide classic instances of ‘bullshit’ when speaking about immigration reform and policies that make it easier to welcome life (see Carly Fiorna’s opposition to government mandated paid parental leave or anytime Donald Trump speaks about immigration reform), while Democrats provide us with equally paradigmatic examples when speaking of abortion.

A particularly timely example of ‘bullshit’ came two weeks ago, when Massachusetts’s Senator Elizabeth Warren gave a rhetorically impassioned defense of Planned Parenthood on the Senate floor. Though the Senate vote was motivated by the recent release of videos showing possible illegal activity on the part of Planned Parenthood executives and doctors, Senator Warren’s speech was more nearly a defense of abortion as such.

The following morning, clips of her speech popped up all over social media with tags branding her a feminist hero. She was touted in Salon as a “badass” for “slamming” the GOP, her two pro-life Democrat colleagues, and by extension anyone who has the temerity to disagree with her.

Recall that unlike lying, ‘bullshit’ is not so much a discrete intervention as it is an overarching program. Yet, concrete examples of ‘bullshit’ are discernable, and Senator Warren’s Planned Parenthood apologia provides us with at least two arcs of ‘bullshit.’

Insofar she is unconcerned with submitting to the kind of
constraints that would provide an accurate representation of reality,
Warren acts in a way similar to the advertiser, the pundit, the lobbyist, and the pollster. She engages in misdirection and deflection, employs information in order to try to sell us a vision of the way things are, a vision that is unconstrained by the demands of truth.

From her use of statistics to her underlying, though unstated (and, indeed, unimportant for the ‘bullshitter’) duel claim that it is better Elizabeth Warrenfor some human beings not to exist or that to be a feminist requires embracing the systematic program of killing the unborn, Ms. Warren’s speech provides us with an excellent example of bullshit. Her argument turns entirely on the rhetorical sincerity, sincerity which itself is rendered bullshit by its very presumption to give an account of reality unconstrained by correctness. In fact, Ms. Warren, like many of her colleagues, trades on a kind of antirealism that pervades modernity, insisting that we cannot reliably access objective reality or know how things really are (Frankfurt, 64).

Ms. Warren rehearses the standard Planned Parenthood tropes, citing the 2.7 million Americans served annually at Planned Parenthood facilities, as well as the 3% statistic, which asserts that abortion only comprises a minuscule fraction of the organization’s overall health care services. Senator Warren isn’t lying by citing these statistics, but she also isn’t concerned with the overall context or correctness of these figures. In fact, these pieces of information are carefully chosen, while others left are out in order to sell Planned Parenthood. Ms. Warren fails to account for statistical data which demonstrates that federally recognized Community Health Centers dwarf Planned Parenthood in terms of numbers served. CHCs provide care to over 21 million Americans a year, offer more robust health care services, and yet receive a fraction of the federal funding that Planned Parenthood receives.

She also goes onto assert that Americans, and American women Beyond the Abortion Warsmore specifically, are sick of the attack on women’s health care
(read: abortion rights). Though it is easy enough to imagine that Americans are, indeed, sick of the vitriolic ways abortion is discussed in the public sphere, Ms. Warren’s assertion seems more nearly to imply that Americans favor liberal access to abortion. This is not, however, correct. As Charles Camosy demonstrates in Beyond the Abortion Wars. Americans are trending pro-life, and women are more likely than men to regard abortion as morally wrong (3, 110-129).

Warren further implies that access to cancer screenings and birth control are somehow irrevocably tied to unfettered access to abortion, and claims that any attempt to unlink abortion from other health services constitutes an attack on women. Abortion is simply the collateral damage we must put up with in order to preserve access to pap smears, cancer screenings, and condoms.

She even wonders aloud if her Republican colleagues had fallen on their heads and woken up thinking it was 1950 or 1890. This sound bite has positioned Ms. Warren as a feminist voice, leading the way against the misogynistic backwardness of anyone who dares to question the practices of Planned Parenthood. But hers is a ‘bullshit’ kind of feminism because it operates only according to ideology (albeit, sincerely held) of freedom of choice. Such an adherence to an ideological context actually attenuates one’s ability to see evidence to the contrary. It makes it impossible to change one’s mind.

Like many elite feminists, Warren does not deeply engage questions such as whether abortion actually solves any of the economic, social, or educational problems that are used to legitimate the practice or how free the choice actually is.

Speaker of the House John Boehner addresses the 113th Congress in the Capitol in WashingtonIn fact, as Camosy astutely observes, 64% of women seeking abortions in the United States feel pressured to do so (126). For this, as well as other reasons, there are feminist scholars who propose that because abortion actually functions within a social matrix of consumerism and power, the rhetoric of choice that surrounds abortion is not merely disingenuous, but functions to benefit and sustain the elite and powerful (121-6).

Why, then, did Senator Warren fail to account for this? Precisely because her intervention on the Senate floor was not intended to represent reality accurately or to engage in a careful or nuanced conversation about abortion. Her purpose is to sell an account of reality and a vision of feminism that creates and sustains a perceived need for Planned Parenthood and legitimates its practices.

The practice of ‘bullshitting’ also has long-term effects. It increasingly weakening one’s capacity to attend to things as they actually are (Frankfurt, 60). The habit of ‘bullshitting,’ which is often the mode in which politics functions, actually renders reality more difficult to know because its sustained in political discourse surrounding any number of human dignity issues, from abortion, to paid parental leave, to immigration reform, to euthanasia, actually corrodes our ability to know the truth and therefore the value of the human person.

One Prayer for One Life

Leonard DeLorenzoLeonard DeLorenzo, Ph.D.

Director, Notre Dame Vision

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Rosary beads passed through my fingers this past Friday as I prayed over a child’s grave at the back of Cedar Grove Cemetery.  Just over a year earlier this young girl was laid to rest, the daughter of loving parents, the sister of loving siblings, the beloved of many.  The first half of her life was spent in her mother’s bodily care and the second half was spent almost without interruption in the arms of family and friends.  In the resplendent light of this April morning, I prayed for her intercession because later that day a young mother—the friend of one of my students—was scheduled to terminate her own pregnancy.

I went to this grave with my rosary in hand because I didn’t know exactly what to pray for.  I had thirty minutes before I was to drive my student to the train station so she could go home to be with her friend—the pregnant mother, whose appointment at the abortion clinic was later that day.  Certainly, I wanted to pray for the life of this child, which, as far as I knew, would only last another few hours.  Of course, I wanted to pray for this young mother, whom I do not know and whose particular suffering I could not fully imagine.  And yet in the passing of the previous night I had already begun to ponder all that a ‘prayer for this child’ and a ‘prayer for this mother’ would entail.  It would at least also mean praying for the child’s father, who, as I was told, is an “abusive boyfriend.”  It would mean praying for the child’s mother’s mother, who, as I was told, “wants her to get the abortion.”  It would mean praying for the love and support of a family I cannot name, a community I cannot picture, and, ideally but also rightly, a set of conditions that would truly support life.  In short, I needed to pray for a miracle and I didn’t quite know how to do that.  But I did know Issa Grace.

“Issa Grace O’Brien of South Bend, IN, passed away in the loving arms of her family, on Monday, March 24, 2014, after living for nine months with Trisomy 18.”

This blessed child.  It would be foolish to try to mark where the care she received ended and her life began.  Who she was and the care she received were inseparable.  The care she received was bound up in who she was, and thus those who provided the care were themselves bound up in her, and she in them. That isn’t just who Issa was, that is who Issa is—the same Issa who is now moving into the fullness of glory.  How can I pray for that unborn child in the last hours of his or her life?  What does this prayer sound like, what does it look like?  My answer was this blessed child, Issa Grace.

I wasn’t just praying ‘to’ Issa ‘for’ this other child.  I don’t really know how else to say this, but I was praying ‘with’ Issa and, even more startling, she ‘is’ my prayer.  I pray that the child in the womb of that young mother will become who Issa is: the beloved of many, the one whom many behold, the gift of care.  To pray for this unborn child is to pray for everything.  It is total prayer.

If Trisomy 18 is an abnormality; the care Issa received should not be.

Praying over Issa’s grave I found myself desperate for the life of this other child I did not know.  I prayed for her life, and in doing so I prayed for her mother, and thus for her father, and for her mother’s mother, and for all those circles of care that could and should be there for this child, and for all the arms that can and should hold him or her, and for all of us who must not rest at anything less than total care in our total prayer.

I don’t personally know any of the people for whom I was praying and I don’t presume to know too much of their situation, nor do I presume to know too much about what it is like to carry a child into this world.  What I do know is what I have witnessed and, in some real way, participated in as my wife carried our four children to term.  I know that even under the best circumstances—with a supportive family, excellent medical care, more than adequate financial resources, the seemliness of a child born in wedlock—that child bearing and child rearing is nothing short of heroic.  Truly.  No matter how common childbirth might be in this world, it requires much more than common virtue.  What’s more, no one can do it alone.  It is an act of community to support the mother who supports the child who comes into the world.  Next to all the more obvious sacrifices of body that most everyone can probably imagine for the mother, there are innumerable imperceptible sacrifices that run from beginning to end: small sacrifices of time, preference, comfort, privacy, and the like.

I know this from (imperfectly) accompanying my wife as she carried and, in many ways, still carries our four children, but I also know this from that remarkable witness of little Issa Grace and her family.  Rarely if ever was there a moment when that child was not carried, and rarely if ever was there a moment when those who carried her—beginning but not ending with her mother—were not themselves carried by others.  The prayer I was learning to pray for this unknown child now held within the body of this unknown mother is a prayer for the miracle of these layers of care and carrying to sprout in the apparent hopelessness of the present situation.  In the desert of desolation pressing in on that child, I was learning to pray for the emergence of those concentric circles of life, opening like a rose in full bloom.

HandsRosary

When I felt that last bead of the rosary slip through my fingers, and as those last words of prayer were passing over my lips and floating over Issa’s grave, my heart had expanded to make room for what my prayer means:

Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy

Our Life, our sweetness, and our hope,

To thee do we cry,

poor banished children of Eve…

If that child for whom I sought to pray is the one crying out to the Mother of Mercy, then that child is praying that I, myself, recognize the poverty of my own care for others and how I, myself, am wandering in exile from the love in which I should live.  But that child is also praying that I, myself, might always remember that I am a child of the care I have received, and do receive, and will receive, in the sight of those eyes of mercy turned towards me and in the eyes of all who have likewise seen me in mercy.  That child for whom I pray is already the image of what I pray for: that child lives for the moment without fear or anxiety, wholly supported in the body of his or her mother.  In a moment such as that, who that child is and the care that child receives are inseparable.  That child was not in exile; I’m in exile—along with all those like me who do not trust in this care nor live up to the duty of providing it without ceasing.  That child did not know the day nor did that child have any sense of the approaching hour.

All this pierced my heart as I concluded my prayer, and all I knew is that I wanted this child to live.

Sometimes it is harder to accept the answer to a prayer than it is to pray the prayer itself.  But when I received the text from my student later in the day that her friend, “isn’t getting it done until Wednesday because she printed off the wrong sheet of paper,” I immediately rejoiced.  The “wrong sheet of paper” meant five more days of life, all of it gift.  For this child who, I imagine, cannot yet measure time (though who knows if I am right about that), five days is an eternity… almost literally.  Dare I even hope that in those five days that miracle for which I pray might come to be: that the family and the community and all of us will hold the mother who holds the child and accept the sweet weight of holding that child now and at the hour of his birth?  Dare I hope that this child will be another Issa: the one beheld and beloved all the days of her life?

All I know at this moment is that that child lives, even though, as of this writing, nearly half of the time given by the miracle of that “wrong sheet of paper” is already spent.  It is still hard for me to know exactly what I should pray for, and so I continue to think of Issa, to pray for her intercession, to allow her to be my prayer.  She is the image of my prayer for this one life.  Issa holds together my prayer for this child with the prayer for this child’s mother.  Issa connects that prayer to the prayer for the father, for the mother’s mother, for the mother’s family, for the community, and even for myself, even though I don’t personally know any of them.  In short, I pray for life.

Issa Grace, pray for us.

St. Gianna Beretta Molla, pray for us.

St. Joseph, pray for us.

Mother Mary, pray for us.