Open Book: how a unique pro-life ministry got started

A recent interview for my blog Leaven for the Loaf (reblogged here on April 12) put me back in touch via email with Melissa Ohden, a woman who survived an attempted saline abortion some years ago. Our interview reminded me of her moving memoir You Carried Me (2018: Plough Publishing House), which I’ll be re-reading soon. She was adopted as an infant into a loving family. As an adult, she met her birth mother and learned the circumstances of the attempted abortion that was meant to claim her life. She writes without sensationalism, which makes her story more memorable. Ohden has established The Abortion Survivors Network, which has brought together a startling number of people who survived attempts to abort them. Beyond peer support and sharing stories, the Network serves as a resource for policymakers striving to ensure that born-alive abortion survivors are properly cared for. A remarkable woman, a remarkable ministry.

A book I chose for Lenten reading will follow me into the Easter season, as I’m reading it slowly and taking time to reflect on each section. I have Fulton Sheen’s Life of Christ (published c. 1954) in an old hardback edition, picked up can’t-remember-where quite awhile ago. This is the first time I’m giving it more than cursory attention. It’s become valued reading during my times of Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. I needn’t be in a church to read it, of course. Sheen’s devotion and reverence for God are leavened by a down-to-earth gift for touching busy hearts.

I’ve reached the final pages of a thoroughly secular work of history that I’ve been chewing on for awhile: Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin (2005, Simon and Schuster). A part of the basis for the Spielberg film Lincoln, the book is not so much a biography of Abraham Lincoln as it is an account of a network of his relationships that had a profound bearing on the Civil War and thus American history. Goodwin writes with respect without resorting to hagiography. I’m fascinated to read about how the paths of a handful of intensely ambitious yet patriotic men happened to cross. Those paths eventually led to Lincoln’s Cabinet during the Civil War, where the rich broth of personalities required to preserve the Union kept the President busy.

#OpenBook is a monthly blog linkup by Carolyn Astfalk, featuring a roundup of bloggers and the books they’re exploring.

Open Book: Welcoming Spring

Welcoming spring, observing Lent: it’s a season of new books for me.

I often select a familiar devotional to read during Lent, and sure enough, there’s Fulton Sheen’s Life of Christ in this year’s rotation. I’ve added a work of fiction that’s a stretch for me on several counts: Silence by Shūsako Endō, first published in 1997, translated from Japanese by William Johnston. The story of a handful of Portuguese priests and the Japanese people they evangelized in the seventeenth century is painfully illuminating. What does it mean to be a missionary and an apostate (a word seldom heard in my neck of the woods)? What is Christian witness? How do Christian neophytes grow in faith – sometimes to astonishing degrees – when priests are scarce and persecution is everywhere? I’m still in the midst of the book, and already I know it will leave me with even more questions. It’s a beautiful work, understated rather then melodramatic, difficult but not obscure.

Book cover for "Silence" by Shusaku Endo

I’m loving the fresh look at Dorothy Day in a book by Kate Hennessy, her granddaughter, who writes like a dream. Dorothy Day: the World Will Be Saved by Beauty is subtitled “an intimate portrait of my grandmother.”

Book cover of "Dorothy Day: the World Will Be Saved by Beauty" by Kate Hennessy

I’m not sticking to spiritual fare this month. I’ve just finished Carl Bernsteins’s memoir Chasing History: A Kid In the Newsroom. Anyone of my generation will remember Bernstein’s journalistic partnership with Bob Woodward, but I know younger readers might not know of him. I recommend Chasing History to one and all, whether familiar with Bernstein or not. The book covers the first years of Bernstein’s professional life, beginning as a high school student who was much more interested in journalism than in classwork. He brings the now-defunct Washington Star newspaper to life for readers of this generation. He writes with a sharp eye for events and with affectionate memory for the pros who served as his mentors and co-workers. I read this for fun – and learned a thing or two while I was at it.

book cover of "Chasing History: A Kid in the Newsroom" by Carl Bernstein

#OpenBook is a monthly blog linkup by Carolyn Astfalk, featuring a roundup of bloggers and the books they’re exploring.

Open Book, January 2021

child in space dreaming with book

Timely reading, entirely coincidental: a few days before the U.S. Capitol became the scene of violence and death, I began reading Jailed for Freedom: the Story of the Militant American Suffragist Movement by Doris Stevens. Written a century ago, it’s almost painfully relevant now. Stevens was one of the “Silent Sentinels” who stood in ongoing vigil outside of Woodrow Wilson’s White House, urging him to get behind women’s voting rights.

Not only did the President refuse for far too long, but he stood by when the women who were demonstrating were abused, arrested, and jailed. Note well that the violence was on them, not by them. These were not passive women; they were living proof of how tough nonviolence needs to be in its goals, persistence, and commitment.

That’s not an academic point. Witness the recent events in Washington.

TLDR, spoiler alert: President Wilson finally got the message, and so did Congress. The Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1920.

book cover Carrying the Fire by Michael Collins

A friend told me about Carrying the Fire, and I have no idea how I missed it before now. It’s wonderful. The author is Michael Collins, a man of parts, probably best known for his time as an astronaut. This memoir covers flight training, Air Force service, and his time at NASA including his role as command module pilot for Apollo 11. Collins writes like a dream; I read pages out loud just to revel in his style.

He offers unsparing (though not unkind) brief character sketches of his fellow astronauts. It’s interesting to read contemporary accounts of men who are now part of history.

Pioneering pilot Charles Lindbergh provides two fitting grace notes to the book. The first is his foreword. The second, shared by Collins at the end of the book, is a letter he wrote to Collins after the Apollo 11 flight. In the years since 1969, Collins has sometimes been treated as a footnote to the moon landing; he was the guy who had to stay in the ship while Armstrong and Aldrin left footprints on the moon. Lindbergh took a different view. The man who flew solo across the Atlantic understood the particular beauty and peace of solitude in purposeful flight. In his letter, he greeted Collins as a man who could understand that.

book cover Litanies and Legacies, Mystics and Mysteries by Rev. Paul G. Mast

Litanies and Legacies, Mystics and Mysteries: Themes for living life as a Spiritual Litany is a source of refreshment for me these days. It’s a good companion to Adoration. These are not the usual litanies. From author Rev. Paul G. Mast: “Each litany is different in biographical details and reflection material. But, all the litanies are pathways to God.” (GospelSoft Books, gospelsoftretreats.org)

Open Book is a monthly blog linkup hosted by My Scribbler’s Heart and CatholicMom.com.

Featured photo: Pixabay.