All posts by Emily

Saint Sebastian, Trend On

Saint Sebastian is known as the patron saint of athletes, but do you know his story? An early martyr, he was unique in that he was martyred twice. A covert Christian he joined the Roman Army in 283, living in a time of intense Christian persecution in Rome. He rose in the ranks of the Emperor Diocletian’s Praetorian guards (elite body guards with special intelligence responsibilities) to have access to the imprisoned Christians so he could encourage them. Though hard to verify the details of his life, the stories handed down contain him converting many to the faith including those in prison, the prison guards, officials, including the local prefect, and their families. One preserved story tells of the official named Nicostratus and his wife Zoe. Zoe was mute for six years and upon her conversion was cured.

St. Sebastian. One of the most depicted men in art second to Jesus Christ.

Sadly, Sebastian was discovered in 286. He was sentenced to death by a firing squad of archers. St. Ambrose in his 4th century history described him as being shot full of arrows like an urchin. Left for dead, he was later found to be alive and nursed back to health by Saint Irene of Rome.

Now, I think most of us in this situation would cut our losses and get the heck out of Dodge. Not Sebastian, he was cut from a rare cloth. He confronted a stunned Emperor Diocletion in public renouncing his inhumane treatment of the Christians! He courageously stood up against injustice and it cost him his life. He was then sentenced to death by clubbing. which he succumbed to.

January 20th is the feast day of St. Sebastian, this year it happens to coincide with another great man who courageously stood up against injustice- Martin Luther King, Jr. MLK, Jr also died for his cause. Today there is still injustice, injustice against the unborn comes to my mind. We need brave men and women to stand up and endure the “polite persecution” as Pope Francis puts it. This means your life is not at stake, but you may be judged, laughed at, or worse for being Christian. But just as St. Sebastian was shot full of arrows, but persevered, so we must be able to take the blows of life and continue to fight the good fight.

The qualities St. Sebastian exemplified in his life inspired us to name our son Sebastian. We were devastated to discover while our son was in the womb that he had HLHS (Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome) or half a heart. We knew he would need the strength, courage, and endurance of St. Sebastian to survive the series of open-heart surgeries necessary to save his life. And we figured if we got the miraculous healing we were praying for, he’d probably end up a great athlete : ) Coincidently, it seems that both arrows and the name Sebastian have been trending over the past few years.

An arrow can symbolize different things to different people. From tattoos to home décor they are everywhere it seems. They can signal journey, direction, protection, friendship, evil or something that pierces your heart. When I see an arrow, I think of St. Sebastian, and I think of our own journey. When we received our son’s diagnosis, I felt like I was shot through the heart. I have a decorative plaque with an arrow that says “You are my greatest adventure” and that reminds me of our Sebastian and his heart journey. I also had a heart mom friend, not knowing anything about Sebastian and the arrow, give me a necklace while in the hospital, that had an arrow charm and a dogtag engraved with “be brave and keep going.”  

Here is our little Sebastian at 1.5 yo. Every day is a gift.

Do any of my Catholic friends remember the hymn, “Blest be the Lord?” I never hear it anymore, but it is a classic from my childhood. The lyrics go like this, “Blest be the Lord, blest be the Lord, the God of Mercy, the God who Saves, I shall not fear the dark of night, nor the arrow that flies by day.” (Psalm 91:5), I haven’t heard it in years maybe decades, but the words are so familiar to me. The song goes on, “I need not shrink before the terrors of the night, nor stand alone before the light of day. No harm shall come to me, no arrow strike me down, no evil settle in my soul.” I have to wonder if Saint Sebastian was familiar with Psalm 91. It is such an encouragement in trying times!

Since the year 2000 when the name Sebastian cracked the top 100 it has rapidly climbed up the charts. According to the Social Security baby naming data it was ranked #18 in popularity in 2018. I don’t know what accounts for this increase in popularity. Maybe people like that unlike other traditional boy names, it has stayed only a boy name. (I’m not judging here, our daughter Charlotte we call Charlie). While a lot of people probably still think of Sebastian as the crab from Disney’s The Little Mermaid; I hope now maybe you will also think of a heroic saint worthy to be a namesake. Trend on, Sebastian! St. Sebastian, pray for us!

Let Abortion Break your Heart

The other day (Oct 11) the Idaho Statesmen, a newspaper based here in Boise, ran an article that took my breath away. A friend sent me the link asking if I’d seen it and it opens with this from the AP:

Hevan Lunsford, a nurse in Alabama, was five months pregnant when a doctor told her that her fetus was severely underdeveloped and had only half of a heart. She was told the boy, whom she and her husband decided to name Sebastian, would need care to ease his pain and several surgeries. He may not live long, they were told.

Lunsford, devastated, asked about ending the pregnancy. But the doctor said Alabama law prohibits abortions after five months. He handed Lunsford a piece of paper with information for a clinic in Atlanta, Georgia, a roughly 180-mile drive east.

“The procedure itself was probably the least traumatic part of it,” Lunsford said. “Most of the laws I navigated, there was no reason for them. None of them prevented my abortion. It just made it where I had to travel out of state.”

If you don’t know my story the parallels are uncanny. We also received the devastating news at 5 months that our son had a severely underdeveloped heart, only half a heart. We also named our unborn son Sebastian. Both of our sons were loved. Both of them suffered. Both of us feel convicted to be advocates for others.

“My grief is complicated so deeply by the unnecessary stigma and regulation of abortion. I can’t just be a mother grieving the loss of her son. I have to be an advocate for my son. I have to be an abortion educator. I have to be a political activist. It’s exhausting.” Hevan Lunsford.

I wish I knew more about Hevan’s son Sebastian. I wonder what would cause pain in the womb of an underdeveloped baby, and how would they know it is in pain? Or was the choice to terminate made more out of the very real fear of pain or suffering. I was surprised to learn that one of the myths of doctor-assisted-suicide is that it is often chosen in cases of pain and suffering. The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition did a documentary The Euthanasia Deception pointing out that our medical practices are generally very good at controlling pain, but it is a fear of pain, decline, and/or being a burden, that more often motivate people to end their lives. They are not in a current state of pain. In searching other articles about Hevan’s story she is quoted saying, she “took the pain upon herself so that he would not ever feel a moment of agony.”  This makes me think the baby wasn’t in a current state of pain, but that if she went through with the necessary surgeries for survival with half a heart he would be.

A couple things annoy me about the way this is presented. First off, it talks about “ending her pregnancy.” Birth ends pregnancy. In abortion what ends is the very real life of a baby that has not been born yet. In the other article, she says it was “palliative care.” She is a nurse, she should know how misleading it is to use the term “palliative care.” Palliative care is not a cure, but a medical plan to make patients as comfortable as possible as they live out the days God numbered.  It does not unduly prolong life, but the intentional termination of life is prohibited. Part of the very long definition of palliative care that many institutions use includes:

Intends neither to hasten nor postpone death, affirms life, and recognizes dying as a natural process.

In Janet Morana’s book, “Recall Abortion” she dedicates an entire chapter to fetal anomalies. Reading her book years ago was the first time I had ever heard of “perinatal hospice.” Even in situations where the outlook is grim, the baby may not make it to birth or may only survive minutes, hours, or days, there are choices better than abortion. Perinatal hospice allows babies to be loved and cherished for as long as he or she lives naturally. It is better for the unborn child not to be poisoned, shot through the heart with digoxin, or worse. But it is also better for the parents. As Morana points out, “Parents are able to plan for the birth with the support of doctors, nurses, counselors, clergy, and family. Babies are bathed, dressed, cuddled, and surrounded by the love every baby deserves, and when they die, it is with the dignity every human being deserves. Parents who choose perinatal hospice still have to deal with the grief that comes from losing a child, but studies have shown they can deal with that grief much better than women who choose late-term abortion.” Dr. Byron Calhoun, a pioneer of perinatal hospice in the 90s, discovered that when offered 75% of couples choose life over abortion.  I can’t help but wonder if Hevan and her husband had been offered perinatal hospice.

You can’t imagine the pride I have in my son, my warrior, my great adventure, my hero with half a heart.

Half a heart (Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome – HLHS or could have been a hypoplastic right side which is easier to correct surgically) is fatal after a few days without intervention. When our Sebastian (we call him Ian for short, get it? SebastIAN) received the prenatal diagnosis of HLHS we were given “compassionate care” as an option. Compassionate care would let our son die naturally days after birth, we could even take him home if we wanted. We chose to let him fight! Ian had his first open-heart surgery when he was one week old. He suffered, we suffered. Though I will say I don’t think he was in excessive pain, fentanyl does a pretty good job! The things he will never remember -and we will never forget! Praise God, our reality now is so far removed from the pain in the past! But in that darkness, we found a new appreciation for the light. Christ our light and our love who has prepared a place for all of us. Christ is Love personified. And those who work for Love, Truth, Peace, Beauty, and Goodness work for Christ! They may not acknowledge or recognize Him but He is all those things! Those who love Truth or love authentic Beauty love Jesus!

The story of the Lundsfords and their little Sebastian is heart breaking. It breaks my heart not only for Sebastian himself, but also for his parents. God’s plans are hard to understand sometimes. It is hard to trust a plan that involves suffering, a plan that involves a heavy cross on a little baby, a heavy cross on Mommy and Daddy. Finding out such devastating news at 5 mo pregnant gave me 4 months of agony in the garden. My constant prayer was for a miracle, if possible Lord let this cup pass, heal our son, if it be according to Thy will.

He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, “My Father,* if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39

I know that God has a plan and infinite contingency plans! I know that abortion breaks God’s heart. I know God’s heart breaks for Hevan Lundsford as well, He feels her pain too. He wants to heal her pain and extend his bountiful mercy. There are people he is sending through ministries like Rachel’s Vineyard that can help. I don’t look down on her, I look up to God and see how he wants to shower her with his grace and fill in all her wounds and holes with love.

Many Fridays during 40 Days for Life I would pray at 3pm. The hour Christ died, and darkness fell over the land. Meditating on the Passion, the Stations of the Cross, the last moments of Jesus’ mortal life on earth is sad. The lamb led to slaughter. (Though we know the happy ending!) Praying outside an abortion facility while abortions are going on like I did this past Friday is dark. It is okay to feel sad and lament, it is good to let abortion break your heart because as I’ve said I believe it breaks Jesus’ heart too. You’ve perhaps seen the recent coverage that David Daleiden’s undercover work at Planned Parenthood has exposed more gruesome details about the sale of aborted baby parts. The fetal hearts were harvested alive. It’s not just your heart that breaks but your stomach that turns. How can we combat this evil?

As Fr. Frank Pavone reminds us, we aren’t fighting for victory, but from victory. How sweet the victory Christ won for us through his own suffering! My husband and I have endured quite a few rough patches on this journey with our own warrior Sebastian and have paths unseen ahead, but we’ve been graced with God’s friendship. Now we enjoy “Joy unspeakable, faith unsinkable, love unstoppable, anything is possible!” as Casting Crown’s song Thrive puts it.

Revisit that song. Such a powerful positive light-filled message! Lyrics: “It’s time for us to more than just survive, we were made to thrive!” To spread that joy, is to make God’s heart happy! How many people can you help to heaven? Can you help others find peace on earth? Sometimes, God calls us to dark places, like abortion facilities, to bear his light, his love, and his truth. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine! Ian, you are a light in the world and I will not hide God’s story in you under a bushel, and I’m certainly glad I didn’t let the devil blow you out!

Sources: same as links embedded in story.

(1) Idaho Statesman   https://www.idahostatesman.com/news/local/investigations/watchdog/article235765327.html

(2) The Euthanasia Deception Documentary- http://www.epcc.ca/dvds/

(3) AL.com https://www.al.com/opinion/2019/05/i-cant-just-be-a-mother-grieving-the-loss-of-her-son-hevan-lunsford.html

(4) International Association for Hospice & Palliative Care – https://hospicecare.com/what-we-do/projects/consensus-based-definition-of-palliative-care/definition/

(5) Fetal Hearts Harvested Alive – https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/only-hearts-harvested-from-living-babies-can-be-used-for-research-expert-tells-daleiden-hearing

(6) Casting Crown’s Thrivehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQ71RWJhS_M