SANTA CRUZ, California (LifeSiteNews) — Overlooking the cliffs of the Santa Cruz shoreline, the Shrine of St. Joseph, Guardian of the Redeemer, run by the Oblates of St. Joseph in California, offers a special place of healing, prayer, and reconciliation for mothers and fathers who have chosen to abort their child but now turn to God for forgiveness.
The Shrine, dedicated in 1952 in honor of St. Joseph, whose feast day is celebrated on March 19, includes an outdoor grotto erected in 2001 in which a seven-foot statue depicts St. Joseph as Patron of the Unborn, holding in his hand a 6-month- old fetus. The purpose of the grotto is similar to that of “Project Rachel”: post-abortion healing. The artist, Thomas Marsh, intended the face of St. Joseph to “reflect God’s love, the gravity of the situation, grief, forgiveness, protective strength, tenderness and comfort for the baby, and peace.” On the walls surrounding the grotto hang plaques with the names of aborted or miscarried babies entrusted to God through St. Joseph by mothers and fathers seeking healing.
Speaking of St. Joseph as a model for fathers and protector of the unborn, the Oblate priests explain, “We learn from Joseph that fatherhood is much more than simple physical generation. In fact Joseph, who does not engender any child at all, is the best of fathers and a model for every father. He accepts the life in the womb by honorably taking Mary his wife. He journeys with her to Bethlehem to register the child in the list of humanity. He gives the child a name in the line of David. He defends the child from the cruel attack of Herod.”
The priests continue, “Joseph was the one chosen for the role of father to the Son of God incarnate in Mary’s womb, and he fulfilled this role so faithfully. Within his universal patronage, it is certainly fitting in our times that he be given a new title as ‘Patron of the Unborn.’ No one can be a better defender of innocent, helpless life in the womb. No one is a better model of fatherhood to parents of pre-born children. No one can more fittingly aid in the process of healing and reconciliation for those who grieve and agonize over having committed the sin of abortion. No one is a better image for women who have been hurt by men unwilling to accept fatherhood of the child they engendered.”
At the shrine, as a first step in the process of post-abortion healing, a mother or father is encouraged to name their unborn child. According to the Oblates, “A mother (or father) who has aborted a child becomes most painfully aware of having denied God’s gift of love and of having attempted to rob her offspring of an identity. Often she has been ‘helped’ to deny that the child was human, and to believe that if aborted before birth the child would never need to have a name. The process of spiritual healing involves coming out of denial and facing the reality of the humanity of her child. In order to reconcile with God and herself, she must reconcile with her child. Insofar as she is able, she must exercise now the parental role she had denied, and for which her motherly heart aches. She chooses a name for her child and thereafter always refers to her child by its name.”
In this naming of their child, parents are encouraged to turn to St. Joseph, to whom, through the angel, God assigned the paternal role of naming Jesus after His birth: “You are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” After naming their child, parents may then have this name inscribed on the walls of the grotto.
The following prayer entrusting the child to St. Joseph is then offered for healing and peace.
O St. Joseph, after your most holy spouse, our Blessed Mother, you were the first to take into your arms and heart the baby Jesus. From the first time you gazed upon him and held him, your heart and soul were forever bonded to him. You caressed the Holy Child with fatherly love and affection, and you committed yourself always to love, protect, and care for this Son.
Look now with similar love and affection upon this child of mine, who has gone from this world. I place my child, as well as my grief and guilt, into the eternal embrace of your arms. Hold and caress my child for me with the love of my arms and sweetly kiss my child with all the tender affection of my heart.
As God the Father entrusted the care of His most precious Son into your most loving and confident hands, so too do I entrust into your fatherly care this child of mine. Please present him to the merciful hands of Our Lord, so that one day, when I too leave this world, my child may greet me into eternal life. Amen.
As the Oblates explain, “This entire process of reconciling with the child and entrusting it to God is a powerful aid to reconciling with God.”
The shrine also offers sacramental healing through confession as one of its “principal daily ministries.” “Having accepted her motherhood over her child,” the priests explain, “having asked forgiveness of it, and having placed her trust in God’s Providence, the mother is now able to repent before Him and accept His sacramental forgiveness. Truly believing in His forgiveness, she may forgive herself and seek closure.”
To have a baby memorialized by being inscribed at the grotto of St. Joseph you may contact the Shrine of St. Joseph.