Michael Hichborn, American Life League

‘God has answered’: How my daughter got her name

Michael Hichborn, American Life League
By Michael Hichborn
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Note: Michael Hichborn is the director of American Life League’s Defend the Faith project.

July 3, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - June 29th was our 10th wedding anniversary, and as my wife Alyssa and I drove home, the intense storm and downed trees that met us along the way reminded us of the intense drama of just 17 months ago.

In December of 2010, Alyssa was eight months pregnant with our fourth child.  One quiet evening, as we were cleaning up after dinner, our 5-year-old daughter, Sonya, was practicing writing her letters.  As we were discussing names for the new baby, Sonya would interrupt by handing Alyssa a sheet of paper filled with scribbled letters and ask, “What does this say, Mommy.”  She had been doing this for weeks, and normally the letters spelled nothing more than “pbthfsa,” or some such nonsense.  But on this particular evening, what she handed my wife was “Elia.”  We thought it sounded like a name, and suggested that perhaps if it held some meaning, we might consider naming the baby “Elia.”  Little did we know how prophetic this event would soon become.

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On January 27th, our new little girl made her grand entrance into the world.  With a healthy new baby, and a wonderful home-birth experience, we could never have suspected what was about to happen.  Less than 36 hours after delivery, Alyssa woke me up, screaming in agony with intense pains in her lower right back.  Of course, we thought it was nothing more than post-delivery spasms, so I did everything I could to make her comfortable, and stayed up most of the night tending to her and helping her as much as I was able.  That morning, I called the midwives to ask them to see her, and when they arrived, they told me that something was wrong and I needed to take her to the emergency room.

On this day, everything seemed to go from bad to worse.  When we arrived at the emergency room, the triage nurse attempted to take her vitals, but couldn’t get her blood pressure.  Needless to say, it was a matter of minutes before they set her up in a room, and then whisked her away for an MRI.  As I nervously waited to hear from a doctor what was wrong, I called for a priest to come anoint her.  When he arrived, I saw my first miracle that day.

When Alyssa came back from the MRI, her vital signs continued to crash.  Her blood pressure was dropping, her temperature was falling, her heart rate was rapidly increasing, and her color was draining.  The on-duty doctor, who was overly perky and lacking in answers, finally told me that they detected a lot of blood around her kidney and her bladder, but couldn’t find the cause.  And while Dr. Perky was attempting to explain the possibilities to me, Fr. Bresnahan came into the room, and gave Alyssa the Church’s sacrament for the sick and dying, and then Holy Communion.  From that moment on, though the situation got much worse, I never saw her vitals dip below where they were.  I am thoroughly convinced that our Blessed Lord, through the ministry of His Holy Church, preserved her life though these powerful sacraments.

Shortly after her anointing, a specialist introduced himself to me, and explained that Alyssa had a ruptured aneurysm in her kidney.  We discussed options, and he suggested an arthroscopic procedure that would effectively seal the artery going into her kidney.  She was going to lose the kidney whether they took it out, or sealed the artery, so I agreed to go along with the less traumatic approach.

By this point, family and friends had put out the call to prayer, which had reached thousands of people across the country.  E-mail prayer chains through our Christendom College alumni association, Facebook posts, and a network of family and friend e-mail chains had reached every state in the country, several convents, and countless priests.

Alyssa was scheduled for surgery at around 4:00, which meant I would have about an hour to run to the house, check on the kids, take a shower, and pick up some supplies.  When I got back to the hospital, I got a call from the doctor that there were some unforeseen complications.  My heart sank into the pit of my stomach and the blood drained from my face as he explained that she suffered a sudden vascular spasm, which prevented them from completing the procedure, and from removing the arthroscopic line they ran through an artery in her leg.  I asked him what this meant, and he said that they hadn’t stopped the internal bleeding, and were concerned that she now might lose her leg.

All of a sudden, I was all alone in a room full of people.  The doctors were doing what they could, but no amount of sympathy from family or friends could fill the massive void growing in my heart.  My children were unaware that anything was wrong, and all I could think of was how I would have to go home to tell them that Mommy isn’t ever coming home again.  I locked myself in a bathroom for a few minutes and wept.  And then I prayed.  I prayed like I had never prayed in my life.  On my knees, I thought of Christ’s passion.  As I remembered Jesus’ words, “I make all things new,” I begged him to make my wife new.

When I saw Alyssa again after the failed procedure, she never complained, but only apologized for how much she had inconvenienced me.  She told me about the pain she was in, but also how she thought of so many people that were suffering worse than she was.  She told me about someone she knew who was suffering terribly, and said that she would offer her suffering up for that woman.  Selfishly, I wished I could trade places with Alyssa because the pain in my heart was unbearable.

As the day waned on, her condition continued to deteriorate.  I consulted with the surgeon, and we decided that he had to go in to remove the kidney.  I walked my wife to the operating room and gave her a kiss.  I really didn’t have anything to say, but to tell her that I loved her, and she chastised me for “doing that thing again.”  I asked her what she meant, and she said, “you know, that thing where you worry so much when you know that everything will go according to God’s plan.”  I gave her another kiss, they wheeled her into the operating room, and I sank to my knees.

For what seemed like an eternity, family and friends joined me in the waiting room, where we prayed the Rosary on our knees.  About half-way through the Sorrowful mysteries, a hospital chaplain came in to see me.  He assured me that he had no news of the operation, but was only there to talk or pray with me.  I told him that we were praying a Rosary, and though he was a protestant chaplain, he joined us on our knees, reciting the Lord’s Prayer and the end of every decade.

Fourteen units of blood, a removed kidney, and the longest two hours of my life later, and the doctor entered the waiting room to tell me that the operation was a success, and all of her vitals had returned to normal.  He couldn’t account for the success of the operation because when he looked, he said her kidney had completely dissolved.  Instantly, the room filled with a celebration of tears, hugs, and smiles.  A second miracle had occurred.

But the most remarkable thing about this ordeal comes back to our new baby’s name.  For each of our children, we chose names with strong Catholic significance.  Brendan Xavier after the great navigator saint, and the powerful Jesuit missionary; Sonya Elaine, whose two names mean wisdom and light; Sebastian Alexander, after two great martyrs, one a soldier and the other a pope.  We had settled on our baby’s first name, Tatiana, after the Russian patroness of students, but still wondered about her middle name.  But her middle name had to be Elia, because when we looked it up that night in December, we found that it was a Hebrew word which means, “God has answered.”  God had answered, indeed.

Red alert! Last call.

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John-Henry Westen / LifeSiteNews.com
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Pope tells Girl Scouts to oppose ‘ideologies’ against God’s design for marriage

Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus
By Thaddeus Baklinski

ROME, June 30, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Pope Francis told Girl Scout and Girl Guide leaders from across the globe last week that it is essential they promote respect for marriage and family according to God’s design.

The pope’s remarks came as both the international organization, World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, and Girl Scouts USA face criticism over support for abortion, homosexuality, transgenderism, and contraception.

"It is very important today that a woman be adequately appreciated, and that she be able to take up fully the place that corresponds to her, be it in the Church, be it in society,” Pope Francis said in his address on the morning of June 26, prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision imposing same-sex “marriage” on the country.

In the face of ideologies that seek to destroy the truths about marriage and family, he said, the formation of girls through Guiding "is absolutely determinant for the future."

"We are in a world in which the most contrary ideologies are spreading to the nature and design of God on the family and on marriage. Therefore, it is a question of educating girls not only to the beauty and grandeur of their vocation of women, in a just and differentiated relation between man and woman, but also to assume important responsibilities in the Church and in society," Pope Francis said.

The pope spoke during a private audience at the world meeting of the International Conference of Catholic Guides (ICCG), which took place in Rome from June 25-30.

Stressing that among educational movements Guiding has played a pivotal role in the faith formation of young women, the pope said, "Education is, in fact, the indispensable means to enable girls to become active and responsible women, proud and happy of their faith in Christ lived in every day life. Thus they will participate in the building of a world permeated by the Gospel."

“To Live the Joy of the Gospel as a Guide” was the theme for the ICCG meeting in Rome, with the stated purpose of reaffirming and strengthening the organization's 50-year-old history within the Catholic Church.

Among the participants at the ICCG meeting in Rome were Girl Scouts USA (GSUSA) CEO Anna Maria Chávez and National President Kathy Hopinkah Hannan.

In a statement, Chavez maintained that faith is “at the heart of Girl Scouts, and is woven into everything the organization does to inspire girls to take action to make the world a better place.”

However, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has cautioned that some aspects of the Girl Scouts pedagogy go against Catholic teaching and doctrine.

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A report by the USCCB focused on three issues:

  1. GSUSA's relationship with groups like Planned Parenthood and international affiliate World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGS);
  2. GSUSA's views on issues related "to human sexuality, contraception, and abortion";
  3. and various materials and resources GSUSA has that have "inappropriate content."

With regard to WAGGGS, the report notes that while this group claims it does not formally back abortion and "reproductive rights," language on its website leaves no doubt that such support exists, as well as support for contraceptive use.

Numerous pro-life and pro-family groups have organized boycotts of Girl Guide cookies in protest of the organization's embrace of feminist politics and activism.

The pope's address to the ICCG meeting, translated into English by Zenit, is available on the Zenit website here.

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St. Peter Damian
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St. Peter Damien (1049): what Church MUST do in response to rampant homosexuality among clergy

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By Steve Jalsevac

June 29, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – The rise of the power and influence of homosexual priests, bishops and cardinals, as well as influential laity, has been a major factor in the growing chaos within Catholicism over the past 60 years. This disorder within the Catholic Church has had a negative impact on the entire world because of the resulting decline in the positive influences that Catholicism has had on civilization for many centuries.

To think that what is happening now is new, however, betrays an ignorance of history. In 1049, when St. Peter Damien wrote his treatise, Book of Gomorrah (Liber Gomorrhianus), to Pope Leo IX, homosexuality and sexual perversion in general were far more openly rampant within the clergy than today.  This horrendous state of affairs is what the Saint addressed in his appeal to the Pope for urgently needed reforms.

We often hear from sleepy, comfortable, cowardly, timid or cultural Catholics, and especially from clergy who are directly implicated in homosexuality, that we should never criticize priests, bishops and especially the Pope. Supposedly, that is a greater sin than that of the heretics and sexual perverts facilitating great personal suffering and sending souls to Hell without anyone doing what is necessary to either convert or stop them.

St. Peter Damien was not so foolish as to listen to such nonsense denying God His justice at a time when the Church appeared to be in its death throes. He understood the grave duty to be blunt about the dangers and sinfulness, to not minimize the catastrophe that would come if strong actions were not quickly taken and to demand corrective actions. And yet, he also emphasized that all of this must be done with charity and Christian hope for the persons involved in the moral corruption. Their conversion was above all hoped and prayed for, rather than their condemnation for eternity.

An Italian translated version of the Book of Gomorrah has recently been published. An English version carefully translated by one of our LifeSite journalists will also soon become available.

On Feb. 11 of this year the Rorate Caeli website published excerpts from the introduction by Professor Roberto de Mattei to the Italian version.

Following are some paragraphs from that introduction that I hope will jar awake some of the faithful, especially considering what is going on now in the United States as a result of the mad Supreme Court decision and the moral chaos around the Synod on the Family regarding Church sexual teachings.
 

Excerpts from the Introduction:

St. Peter Damien (1007-1072) Abbot of the Fonte Avellana Monastery and subsequently Cardinal/Bishop of Ostia, was one of the most outstanding figures of Catholic reform in the XI century. His Liber Gomorrhianus, appeared around 1049, in an age when corruption was widely spread, even in the highest ranks of the ecclesiastical world.

In this writing, addressed to Pope Leo IX, Peter Damien condemns the perverted habits of his time in a language that knows no false mercy or compromises. He is convinced that of all the sins, the gravest is sodomy, a term which includes all the acts against nature and which want to satisfy sexual pleasure by separating it from procreation. “If this absolutely ignominious and abominable vice is not immediately stopped with an iron fist – he writes – the sword of Divine wrath will fall upon us, bringing ruin to many.”

There have been times in (the Church’s) history when sanctity pervades Her and others when the defection of Her members cause Her to collapse into darkness, appearing almost as if the Divinity has abandoned Her.

Peter Damien’s voice resounds today, as it did yesterday, with encouragement and comfort for those, like him, who have fought, suffered, cried and hoped, throughout the course of history.

He did not moderate his language, but kept it fiery to show his indignation. He was fearless in voicing an uncompromising hatred for sin and it was precisely this hatred that rendered his love burning for the Truth and the Good.

Today, at the beginning of the third millennium of Christ’s birth, priests, bishops and Episcopal conferences are arguing for married priests; they are placing in doubt the indissolubility of the marriage bond between man and woman and at the same time, accepting the introduction of laws for homosexual pseudo-marriage. Sodomy is not being thought of as a sin that cries to God for vengeance but is diffused in seminaries, colleges, ecclesiastical universities and even inside the Sacred Walls of the Vatican itself.

Liber Gomorrhianus reminds us that there is something worse than moral vice practiced and theorized. It is the silence that should speak, the abstention that should intervene, the bond of complicity that is established among the wicked and of those, who with the pretext of avoiding scandal are silent, and, by being silent, consent.  

Graver still, is the acceptance of homosexuality by churchmen, thought of as a “positive” tension towards the good, worthy of pastoral care and juridical protection and not as an abominable sin. In the summary Relatio post disceptationem of the first week’s work in the Synod of Bishops in October 2014, a paragraph affirmed that:   “homosexual persons have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community”, with an invitation to the Bishops “…are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing them a fraternal space in our communities?”

This scandalous statement was removed from the final report, but some bishops and cardinals, inside and outside the Synod Hall, insisted on the appeal to look for the positive aspects of a union against nature, going as far as hoping for “a way to describe the rights of people living in same-sex unions.”

St. Peter Damian as a simple monk, and with greater reason as a cardinal, did not hesitate in accusing even the Popes of that time for their scandalous omissions. Will the reading of the book Liber Gomorrhianus instill the spirit of St. Peter Damien in the hearts of some prelates or laypeople, by shaking them out of their torpor and force them to speak and act?

Even if abysmally far from the holiness and prophetic spirit of St. Peter Damien, let us make his indignation against evil, ours, and with the words that conclude his treatise we turn to the Vicar of Christ, His Holiness, Pope Francis, presently reigning, so that he may intervene and bring an end to these doctrinal and moral scandals: “May the Almighty Lord assist us, Most Reverend Father, so that during the time of Your Apostolate, all of the monstrosity of this vice be destroyed and the state of the Church, presently supine, may wholly rise up again in all its vigour.”

The book can be found in Italian here. 

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Phil Lawler

So now is it ‘hate speech’ to deplore the Obergefell decision?

Phil Lawler
By Phil Lawler

June 30, 2015 (CatholicCulture.org) - The ink was barely dry on last week’s Supreme Court ruling when Father James Martin, SJ, began scolding Catholics who were, from his decorous perspective, too strident in denouncing the decision.

”No issue brings out so much hatred from so many Catholics as homosexuality,” Father Martin told his Facebook followers. He repeated the same message several times throughout the day, warning commenters that they must not indulge in “homophobia” and suggesting that someone who questioned whether we were all expected to sing “Kumbaya” was illustrating his point. So is sarcasm now prima facie evidence of hatred?

In my own surfing through the internet, reading scores of posts on the Obergefell decision, I can honestly say that I did not see a single message, a single comment, that struck me as hate-filled. Perhaps Father Martin’s email traffic is qualitatively different from mine. Or perhaps—far more likely, I’m afraid—he sees “hatred” where I see only vehement disagreement.

Is it possible to be angry about the Obergefell decision, to consider it a travesty of justice and a betrayal of the Constitution, without being viewed as a hater? Wait; let’s turn that question upside-down. Is it possible to see all serious disagreement with the decision as hate-speech, without celebrating the outcome of the Obergefell case?

I ask the latter question, you see, because if Father Martin was upset by the Supreme Court ruling, his dismay did not show through on his Twitter feed. He recommended three columns reacting to the decision: one by a fellow Jesuit, recounting how his grandmother could not marry her lesbian partner; another by the gay New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, celebrating the decision; the third by the gay activist/blogger Andrew Sullivan, also celebrating.

The recommendation for Andrew Sullivan’s piece was particularly striking because of the title: “It Is Accomplished”—an explicit reference to the words of Jesus Christ on the Cross. Father Martin, who was horrified by so much of what he read on Friday afternoon, let that blasphemous headline pass without comment. His demand for the use of temperate language, and for avoiding comments that others would find offensive, was applied to only one side of the post-Obergefell debate.

And that’s likely to be the party line for politically-correct Catholics in the wake of this momentous decision. We are allowed to disagree with the Supreme Court, politely, but not too forcefully. Any strident denunciation of the ruling or its logic might be interpreted as hate-speech, which of course is unacceptable. As the secular left clamps down on religious expression—and we’ve already been served notice that the crackdown is coming-- the Catholic left will worry aloud that, yes, some strong public expressions of religious beliefs are distasteful.

The influence of this approach, with its keen anxiety to avoid provocation, has already been evident in the statements released by some American bishops in response to the ruling. Archbishop Gregory says that he disagrees with the Court, but if you don’t know why he disagrees before you read his statement, you’re not likely to be any better informed when you’re finished. Cardinal Wuerl reminds us that we must hate the sin but love the sinner; he neglects to mention what the sin is. And Archbishop Cupich gives no indication at all that he disagrees with the Supreme Court ruling.

We have a long uphill struggle facing us as we seek to restore a proper understanding of marriage, to revive appreciation for the natural law, and to undo this wretched judicial decision. We cannot expect success if we go into the battle unarmed. If we begin the debate by saying that we must not offend our adversaries—even after our adversaries have declared our most fundamental beliefs to be offensive—we are doomed to failure.

We already know how the battle will unfold, because the campaign to crush resistance to same-sex marriage is already underway. The militant left will choose vulnerable targets—a pizza-parlor here, a baker there—and vilify them as “haters.” People who been trained to see “hatred” in any firm disagreement will nod in solemn approval as the alleged offenses are harshly punished. And so juggernaut will keep rolling, gaining momentum, until it reaches us.

There is an alternative. We can speak the truth. Yes, certainly we should avoid making unduly provocative statements. But since we are trying to provoke reactions, we cannot pull all our punches.

More to the point, if we’re going into battle—and we are—we need to know who’s on our side, and who’s working against us.

This article was originally published on CatholicCulture.org and is re-published with permission.

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