Kelli Carney Youth Minister
member of the pro-life generation
Love saves lives was the motto of the 2018 National March for Life in Washington, D.C., and the phrase has stuck with me ever since. Love saves lives. It seems simple. That love saves lives, but the reality of the matter is that it can feel more complicated.
God gives us free will so that we may love one another. Without free will, He would be controlling where we place our love. It is up to us to be compassionate, kind, and patient with all those we encounter. We can choose to be selfish and ignore the needs of those around us, or we can make sacrifices in order to build others up. Ultimately, love is a chain of choices that lead someone’s life to good.
“My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action.” (1 John 3:18)
So how do we live out this love?
Kelli and other members of the Pro-Life generation at the Capital Building in DC.
I believe in order to live out this love completely, we need to be confident with ourselves. As the saying goes, “one cannot pour from an empty bucket.” We must recognize our worth and our strengths. If we cannot love whom God has made us to be, why should others believe our love for them is genuine? I have come a long way in this journey of loving myself. I have gone through stages of not having many friends. I have been rejected by many organizations and positions that I hoped would be a good experiences. I’ve wondered, “why am I not good enough?” Throughout college, I reflected a lot on what it means to be “enough.” Now, I can confidently say that I am enough because I am. I exist. God created me, all the way to the little lines in my fingerprints, in my mother’s womb.
"He made me unique, special, and in the image and likeness of Him. Because of that, I love myself..."
This belief, in turn, impacts my relationships with others. I love others because they are. They exist. They have worth and dignity because they, too, were created in the image and likeness of God. I take it as my daily mission to help others realize that their thoughts and feelings are valid. No one else knows what you are feeling better than the way you know yourself. It is easy to tell ourselves that we are overthinking or being dramatic, but hey, your experiences are your experiences. You are not making them up.
"Your story is worthy of being heard."
Terre Haute Highschool students at the March for Life in Indy (Jan, 2020).
Going back to 1 John 3:18, I could tell people “I love you!” and “You are loved!” all I want, but is that truly loving someone? No. We need to be there for our brothers and sisters. We need to be that listening ear, spending quality time, sharing in the joys, and sorrows of life. We need to serve each other in all that we do. A necessary step further is to call our closest brothers and sisters to a higher place, supporting them to choose truth on this journey towards Heaven. This consistent testimony to love and truth is how love spreads. It is contagious.
There should be an environment of love everywhere we go. I love the quote of Saint Teresa of Calcutta that says, “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” If we truly lived this out, abortion would be unthinkable. Suicide would never be an option. The elderly and the ill would want to live as long as possible.
“Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”
- Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta
From conception to natural death, life is sacred, and life is beautiful. I believe we are the pro-life generation. I believe we can make abortion unthinkable in our lifetime. We can help bring suicide rates even lower. We can eliminate the mere thought of assisted suicide. Every time we speak out about the truth, we honor the dignity of every life that has been lost to abortion, suicide, attacks, and more. I have realized that we cannot remain silent out of fear. When we remain silent, more and more lives are lost every day. Speak out for them. Speak out now. Bring compassion, mercy, and acts of love wherever you go.
Live love now - because love saves lives.
**** If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the Lifeline network is available 24/7 across the United States. Please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
For longer than I’d like to admit, I was really angry with God. At the age of eight, I suffered my first assault, and it seemed to break my spirit. My assailant told me that I was a “bad person,” that’s why he was doing what he did. I remember looking up at the Crucifix in my classroom in the following weeks and sobbing, begging Jesus to explain to me what I had done to be hurt like that. I told him that I was willing to trade places with him on the Cross, I knew he had done nothing wrong and didn’t deserve to be up there. But me on the other hand? I had come to believe that “I was bad and deserved it, to die in order to save him.” After years of therapy, I came to realize that I didn’t deserve to be assaulted or to die, but it didn’t explain why. Why would God want me to hurt so badly if He loved me? And so, at the tender age of ten, I decided that either God didn’t exist or, if He did, He certainly did not love me.
"I was politely distant from God and was happy to be that way for the rest of my life."
So I spent the remainder of my time at my Catholic school going to Mass in spiritual silence. I went through the motions, I recited the prayers, I even volunteered to help with the service as a cantor or server. I did it all in silent defiance of Him. I certainly had nothing nice to say and my mother did teach me manners. I was politely distant from God and was happy to be that way for the rest of my life. God, on the other hand, desperately longed to speak with me and to be close once again. It wasn’t until my freshman year of high school that He would get the opportunity.
My high school required all students to attend a weekend spiritual retreat. We were to bring no phones, mp3 players, or any secular reading materials. To me, it sounded like a personalized hell. I begged my parents to let me stay home, I would hate it there and only call every night until they came to get me. My protest fell on deaf ears and I went up to the retreat in my friend’s huge van. It was then I decided that if I couldn’t avoid the retreat, I would make sure they never allowed me to attend another. I was rude and defiant and such a fourteen-year-old that I cringe recalling those unsavory interactions. As I lay on the gym floor that first night of the retreat, I plotted my sure-fire plan of getting sent home early. During Eucharistic Adoration, I would walk out to show how little I thought of the whole affair. I remember falling asleep chuckling to myself, no one would be expecting it.
The next day came and I woke up giddy to get up to no good. Over breakfast, however, I met a really cool girl who liked the same music I did. Then later in the afternoon, I heard a pretty good talk from a kinda cool priest. By dinner time, I was second-guessing my scheme to be sent home. I guess I could go to Adoration, but only because my friends were going to be there too and it was sort of mandatory. So I knelt down in the hazy, incensed gym and looked upon the monstrance. It was pretty, but I felt a pang of guilt as a small voice spoke in my mind. You don’t even believe in this, why are you wasting your Saturday for this? I was inclined to agree with the voice, I didn’t belong here because I didn’t believe in all this. But then my heart spoke instead.
It took far less than my allotted ten seconds for Him to fill up my broken heart. The overwhelming sense of love, acceptance, joy, and peace that came over me was like a bolt of lightning. To quote Hebrews 4:12 “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.” I fell on my face and wept for joy because I was finally home, I knew that I belonged. After all the terrible things I said to Him, God still wanted me.
"No matter how broken or stained or any amount of shame that I harbored, He wanted all of it. And He wants all of you, too. "
I am a very private person. I continuously think about many things, but rarely express my thoughts. I have deep and pondering thoughts about why or how can certain things happen to me and others in our community and world.
How can the homeless survive in harsh winter conditions?
How can people be cruel to animals, let alone other humans?
There are a few of the many things I do not understand.
I am grateful. I have the attitude that I am blessed. I am very thankful to God for making me the way I am. I am not perfect, but I am not totally helpless. I can control myself and my situation reasonably well.
I pray to God thanking him for my family who could have aborted me, they could have rejected me, but they did not. He gave me a great family. Maybe, I could not have survived birth or died as a young child. But, instead, he repeatedly gave me life. I am very graced and grateful for all my blessings and opportunities. I have tried to give my life to him in song, in chastity, in morals, in service, and in prayers of gratitude.
As believers, we can have peace and joy through prayer and gratitude. When we pray and give thanks to God, even when it's hard to, we are promised to be given grace, abundant blessings to trust in faith.
Robin Castro Child of God the Father, Brother of Christ, Dentist
My journey with God has been an interesting one. I would like to point out that I was raised in Godly home, and my parents, particularly my father, is a powerful man of faith. I also attended Catholic school from kindergarten until the end of high school. During my youth, there was not really a time where I doubted God’s existence or even the death and Resurrection of Jesus. I was always surrounded by people of faith at home and my teachers at school. While I believed in God, I do not have a real relationship with Him. I understood God being ever-present, responsible for creating everything. I even believed Jesus’s tale was an example of His greatest love for us.
"All of these beliefs, combined with me trying to do more morally good than morally evil acts...
I thought was enough..."
(Enough to be in good graces with God. Enough to call myself a Christian.)
At the time, I didn’t care to look into the matter any more than that. I was more concerned with all the things in my life that I wanted to do or what I wanted to have. I will admit that I still prayed, but most of my prayers were only to ask God for things I wanted.
I left high school with this mindset, and events in college made it worse. I knew I had to be a good student for fear of losing financial aid and pressure from my parents. It took me a couple semesters, but ultimately I was able to do well in school and balance a hectic social life. One thing I learned about myself is that the desire to be liked by everyone is one of my most significant weaknesses. I was never the most popular person in high school. I was blessed with a tight-knit group of friends. I also stayed out of trouble. No drinking, no staying out late, etc.
In college, I started drinking and going to parties. Almost every weekend and sometimes random nights during the week. I had found more people “liked” me. More people would even acknowledge me on campus. I will even admit, I enjoyed it at the time. By the time college ended, I had earned good enough grades to get into dental school while also being able to maintain my social life. I felt like I was on top of the world. I had definitely built-up overconfidence in my academic abilities and my social abilities. While all this was going on, I had put God on the back burner.
"I was having the time of my life, and I didn’t believe that I needed God at that moment..."
All I can say is that God has interesting ways of making himself known to us, even daily. I started dental school a couple months after college ended. I moved about 5 hours away from where my undergrad program was and start over in a new town and environment. The majority of the friends I had amassed during my time in college were gone overnight, and it did not take long for them to start losing touch. I had made a new friend or two, but I didn’t seem to fit in with a lot of the other students. My new friends were also very studious, so I found myself alone most of the weekends.
On the academic side, I was also struggling. I had put an increased amount of effort into my studies compared to college, but I found myself barely scraping by. To make matters worse, our school gave us a class rank, so I could see exactly how I was performing compared to my peers. When our first set of grades came out, I saw that I was in the bottom half. This broke me.
"Everything I had believed that was important to me: Having a lot of friends, an active social life, and academic success had all been taken from me in such a short amount of time..."
It was at this moment that I started reevaluating my life. I began asking myself questions like: “what am I even doing here?” and “who am I without all these things?” At this point, I started turning more to God. I had always prayed to him when I needed something, and this time was no different. There was a part of me that realized that praying was not enough. To truly be in touch with God: One must live in faith-communities. I had decided to go back to Church. My parents always took me every Sunday to Church, but while I was in college, I realized I started going less until I wasn’t going at all. Luckily, I had classmates who were regular churchgoers and had let me tag along.
My efforts to actively seek God helped me learn one important thing: That God has a plan and purpose for everyone. While I did not understand what was happening at the time, looking back and reflecting has helped me see the big picture. God saw the direction my life was going. He saw how I was chasing after my own desires while growing more distant from Him. I believe that He had to strip away the superficial things I valued in order for me to turn back to Him. I had the realization that we need God more than any of the other things we pursue. This awareness sparked my desire to pursue Him. I now desired Christ’s will for my life instead of my own, often misguided, desires for myself.
"As I started to prioritize God, my outlook on my situation, and life in general, slowly began to change..."
My schooling continued to be difficult, but I realized I was still able to pass exams and finish projects. While I did not have as many friends, the ones I did make, I grew really close with. (10 years later, and we are still all really close today!) I started to see that if I focused on God, He would take care of the rest. Even the way I was praying started to change and grew more mature. Instead of just asking for things, I also started to thank Him for all the things that were going well.
Today, I still look back at that time whenever I face troubling times. I remember that God can sometimes use hardship as a reminder that I still need Him. To pursue God is not always easy. We can easily get caught up with the busyness of life or even the severity of our own problems. All I can say is when your prioritize God before all things, He makes it worth your while.