Monthly Archives: January 2012

The Child is All of Us: Gabriel Santorum’s Lesson Lives On

at Catholic Online

I had an incredible job once. For almost two years I worked at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital, one of the best children’s hospitals in the country. (Think Baby Faye.) I was fortunate enough to be assigned to the Neo-natal Intensive Care and Labor & Delivery units as a resident chaplain. It’s one of the largest NICU’s in the country, with some of the sickest babies in North America. It’s the premiere pediatric heart transplant hospital, and a Level-I trauma center. It is an amazing place.

Life — and death — is around every corner at any given moment. As one of the NICU’s chaplains, I pretty much saw it all; the most severe birth deformities; the most serious diseases and illnesses; the most tragic circumstances; the most gut-wrenching grief. I was a young, single woman with no children of my own, so I could not even imagine what the parents around me were going through. I did my best every day to simply offer them support, prayers, hope, company, and when the darkest hours came, I learned how to witness their sorrow and not run from it.

I learned how to “sit with the pain” as one of the senior chaplains used to say. Death is a part of life, and as life should be treated with reverence, so can death be handled reverently and humbly. It’s not at all easy to stand beside people whose child is dying before your eyes, yet it truly felt like an honor every time I was there for a baby’s last breath; even as every heart in the room was breaking open, including mine.

On one such occasion, I was the only person there to cry. A baby boy had been born too soon, and he had multiple serious birth defects, and his shell-shocked parents could not bring themselves to hold him as he died. They asked me if I would. They named him Thomas. I sat in a rocking chair, alone in a surgical room, and cradled this baby as he slowly died in my arms. Thomas had almost no ribcage so I could see his heart clearly beneath his transparent, paper-thin skin. I watched it beat slower and slower, and he never opened his eyes.

For 45 minutes I rocked little Thomas, sang to him, and told him he was loved. I was sad for his parents, not just for losing their son, but for giving up the chance to spend those minutes with him, loving him. Theirs was a double-loss; I so wish I had done more to persuade them not to give in to their fear. I will never forget Thomas, and I will always cherish those 45 minutes. They were holy and a gift to me.

One of the things I did regularly was take pictures for the grieving parents. Many times I would dress the baby in a sweater that volunteers had knitted just for this purpose. A little hat, some booties, a soft blanket, and a beautiful picture was captured. I would also take some soft clay and make footprints or handprints. What a powerful and humbling task it was to press delicate, tiny feet into the clay to make a mold for parents who would never again hold their child.

I held in my own hands perfectly-formed babies who’d died at 16 or 18 weeks of pregnancy and marveled at their beauty. I learned how vital it was for their parents to see them, hold them, name them, and grieve their death the way they would any other member of their family. Indeed, that child was no less a member of the family!

For those who find something morbid or creepy about all the things I’ve just described, believe me, nothing could be further from the truth. Reverence for the human body, both in life and in death, is healing and elevating, and is one of our better instincts unless it is systematically choked off by an inhumane psychology.

We witnessed the latest evidence of this inhumanity in all the fretting and gasping aimed at Rick and Karen Santorum regarding the death of their infant son, Gabriel.

Isn’t it ironic that our culture of death, those who champion abortion and euthanasia, those who see nothing at all questionable about cutting to pieces a tiny child in the womb are so squeamish about actually confronting a natural death? These people are so troubled by a mother and father who choose to embrace their deceased child’s body with tenderness, awe, and kisses.

Their lack of reverence for life carries over into a lack of reverence for death.

They find it disturbing that parents would allow his siblings to see, hold, and spend time with their baby brother after his death because their narrative says the child is less than a person; less than fully human; less than you and I. They can’t allow the idea to creep into the “mainstream” that a prematurely-born baby is actually a human being with a soul and a body that belongs to him! Gads! What might happen if people thought that perhaps those little ones in the womb weren’t just parasites or insentient masses of tissue?

The Santorum family’s treatment of little Gabriel is “weird” to them because Gabriel had no value in their view. Alan Colmes made that quite clear when he launched into his despicable mockery of the hours after Gabriel’s death and the Santorum’s grief. Colmes taunted them on television for the sake of political points, referring to Gabriel as “it.” Gabriel was not an “it.” He was a baby boy, a son, who was beloved and precious in the eyes of God and his parents.

The abortion zealots are annoyed that Rick and Karen did not treat their son like an “it” or as merely a “fetus” and send him quickly to the morgue. Lest more and more people get the idea that there’s nothing wrong with holding and mourning their lost babies, they go into overdrive calling Rick “weird” and “outside the mainstream” and a man of questionable judgment.

Well, really, what else can we expect? Life that has no value while inside the womb will not suddenly take on value outside the womb. If they would destroy the body before birth, why show kindness after birth? Why hold lovingly that which you claim is a threat to your freedom and rights? Why risk gazing into the face of one whom you deem less human than yourself, less worthy of life?

Their reaction is only logical, but that is why I hope it alarms people. Those who have cruelly criticized Rick and Karen Santorum for revering the life and death of their son have unwittingly given us a clear view of what’s behind their curtain, so to speak. It’s a heartless continuum. Humanity denied to one can easily be denied to any or all. All that matters is the will of those who have the power to “choose.”

No one who has sneered their objection to what the Santorums did is actually afraid that they are weird or of unsound judgment. They’re afraid that respect for the life of a “fetus” might catch on. They’re afraid that a tiny baby’s body might be seen as sacred and dignified, and then heaven forbid, the baby himself might be seen as human. They’re afraid that if too many people realize that mourning the loss of a very small baby is appropriate and good and necessary, then folks may begin to question the narrative that killing a baby is a legitimate “right.”

And from there, the entire facade of “choice” comes crashing down.

Gabriel Santorum’s life was too brief a moment, but his impact will be felt for eternity. He continues to testify to the immutable truth that human life is sacred and the child in the womb is all of us.


Posted by on January 10, 2012 in Uncategorized


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You Never Lose With Love: Karen Santorum, Gracious Lady, Warrior for Life

at Catholic Online

The most ignored candidate in the campaign has now become the most talked-about man in America. Rick Santorum’s stunning achievement in Iowa has forced the media to pay attention, and quite predictably, the knives have come out.

There’s nothing unusual about conservative candidates being mercilessly attacked by the mainstream media. But I believe we have never, ever seen the likes of what they’re going to do to Rick Santorum. I don’t think we’ve ever seen before the kind of hatred, viciousness, lies, and ruthlessness that will be brought against him and his family. The more he succeeds, the more bloodthirsty his enemies will become, and for one simple reason: he stands firmly opposed to the godless ethos of our time and courageously defends the moral and Natural law, and they HATE him for it.

Sadly and shamefully, they’re already targeting his wife, Karen, as well. In the past week alone, she has become the object of vile scorn and defamation from certain mouthpieces of our culture of death.

Again, not really surprising. True ugliness despises true beauty, and Karen Santorum is a truly beautiful woman. She possesses the grace and dignity that our coarsened culture has demolished. She counters the rules of modern “feminism” with great joy and fulfillment, which invites mockery and insults from all those who have either forgotten or never had any idea in the first place what feminine strength really means.

Like her husband, she is a valiant defender of the sanctity of human life and the dignity of every human person. She has put her very life where her mouth is, which of course, is so intolerable to abortion proponents that their new mission is to disparage her in any way possible, even by mocking the life and death of her infant son.

Their cheap shots are proof that they’re scared. They imagine a First Lady who rejects abortion and fights for the right to life of every child in the womb and they shudder with fear. I envision Karen Santorum as the nation’s First Lady and jump for joy.

Jill Stanek recently wondered on her blog, wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a First Lady who would be a champion for Life? It is not an impossible dream, folks. In Karen Santorum it would be a blessed reality because it’s simply who she is.

I’ve had the honor of talking with Karen at-length on several occasions in recent months, and have gotten to know the heart of this great lady. Last fall she did a personal interview with me in which she spoke openly about politics, family, faith, her joys, struggles, and heartaches, and what really matters to her. Just listening to her speak is an occasion of grace — you know you’re hearing a woman of deep faith and courage.

Karen shared with me the lesson that has really formed her spirit and made her who she is today: embrace the cross God gives you, whatever it is. “All you can do is trust Him and embrace the cross you’re given, because there’s definitely a reason,” she’ll say. “Crosses come in all shapes and sizes, but we’re better because of them. Even in the worst of times God is working and His light will shine through.”

She does not say that flippantly or without compassion, but with real humility and surrender. She has had to take up the two crosses every good mother fears most: that of a sick or disabled child, and the death of a child. Karen is intimately familiar with the pain of the Cross — as is Rick — and because of it she is tender, genuinely kind, and eager to love. There is no guile or ego in her. Yet she’s no frail or timid wallflower.

She’s both a lawyer and a neo-natal intensive care nurse, as well as a published author of two books. She has home-schooled her seven children, and presently devotes herself to caring for their youngest child, Bella, for whom she and Rick have fought tooth and nail against a callous medical system that doesn’t consider Bella’s life worth the effort.

Where our abortion-minded culture sees a “burden”, Rick and Karen see Bella — their beautiful blessing. “I’m a blessed mother of a special-needs child. Since her birth, I’ve learned that God truly has a reason for everything. Like every one of us, God has a purpose for her. Bella has made all of us grow in our faith like never before, made us more virtuous and shown us God’s love and mercy. Her life is a very happy and joyful life. Bella is an angel. I truly believe I am in the care of a saint.”

“We are so blessed to be her parents and her family. There’s also a painful side of the journey because you’re fighting for her life, to have her treated with the same dignity as every other child. I can’t tell you how many battles we’ve fought with doctors who wouldn’t even call Bella by her name. These children are denied the dignity they deserve as human beings.

Bella is the greatest “burden” I’ve ever had. I wouldn’t trade the blessings that have come with her for anything in the world.”

I asked her what she might say to a woman facing the possibility that her child may be born with a genetic condition like Trisomy 18, when doctors are likely telling that woman that abortion is the best “choice”, and she answered so plainly, “It doesn’t make any sense to me that we choose death over love. You never lose with love.

It’s never made any sense that when a doctor says your child has whatever defect, he then says, ‘let’s kill the baby.’ If the doctor said that about your five year-old you’d be outraged! As parents we’re wired to do everything possible to save our child. Why does that not apply to these sweet babies in the womb who need our love and care? Just simply bring your child into the world and love your child. You don’t know what God has planned.”

She’s passionate about changing the way doctors see kids like Bella: “I’m on a mission to get every obstetrician and geneticist in the country to change the way they think and especially the way they talk about genetic diseases like Trisomy 18. When a doctor says your child has a ‘lethal diagnosis’ that is ‘incompatible with life’ – those words are toxic. Those words lead to death. Doctors need to stop saying those words.”

It goes without saying that special-needs children and their parents are going to have fierce advocates in the White House under President Santorum! In fact, it was the looming threat of Obamacare that caused Rick and Karen to enter this Presidential campaign.

“Obamacare was the final straw for him, the line in the sand. Something has to be done. That law will change our country fundamentally forever, and as parents of a special-needs child we knew that they would be the first to be denied care under Obamacare. Rick and I can’t stand on the sidelines and allow Obama to bring our nation to its knees. We knew we had to get in and fight.”

Karen also wants you to know some things about her husband.

“He’s a devout Catholic who lives his faith, is very prayerful and will always stay grounded. He’s a loving, devoted, faithful husband and father. He’s someone who goes after the issues with such a passion. Preserving marriage, the sanctity of Life; these are things we really have to roll up our sleeves and fight for. He’s also brilliant in matters of the economy and national security. He has a mind for history and facts and numbers. There’s no doubt in my mind he’ll be a great leader to this nation.

Catholics in America need to understand the critical importance of their votes in 2012. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were both elected because they won the Catholic vote. That is not to our credit! I see America right now literally poised on the edge of a cliff, and Catholics will decide whether the nation goes over the edge or gets pulled back. We have a huge responsibility.”

The campaign road has been rough thus far; clearly it’s only going to get rougher. Karen knows it, and she knows where to go for her strength: “The only way I get through it is daily mass and keeping my prayer life in order. Daily mass, prayer time, family rosary; these things give you strength and I notice a real difference. I know if I’m not there [at mass] I won’t be able to walk this walk. Trust and be faithful is all any of us can do.”

Amen to that. Rick and Karen are faithfully following the road they believe God has laid in front of them. Let’s imagine the blessed day when he is sworn in as our 45th President, and then let’s pray and work to make it happen. The Santorums will be a desperately needed gift to our country.


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Posted by on January 8, 2012 in Uncategorized


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