Healing from Abortion: Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat – Stockbridge, MA

By Sr. Natalie Sayde Salameh, MSCL

I attended and participated in a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat at the National Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, MA on Friday, November 1st through the 3rd.  Rachel’s Vineyard was founded by Dr. Theresa Burke, co-author of Forbidden Grief,[1] to provide a safe place for women and men to express, release, and reconcile painful post-abortive emotions and to begin the process of restoration, renewal and healing.[2]

I, personally, am not post-abortive, however, God stirred my heart to attend one of these retreats to understand the pain of abortion and its devastating effects on the human person, in order to be better formed to help our Maronite women and men suffering from the pain of abortion.  I can honestly say, after having attended this retreat with six other women and one gentleman, that the pain of abortion goes so much deeper than anyone can ever imagine, and touches some horrendous traumas and painful memories.

We are ever so good in our society at brushing aside abortion as simply “another medical procedure” or an “emptying of the contents of the uterus”, or “no big deal, just get on with your life”, but I can assure you, after attending this weekend and attentively listening to each retreat participant and their deep post-abortive grief, that this is simply not the truth. 

The shroud of darkness and silence that penetrates our culture regarding abortion is overwhelming. Very few open up about their painful trauma with abortion and are content to sweep it under the carpet. However, the undealt-with trauma of abortion, has many negative effects on one’s spiritual, emotional and psychological well-being. Dr. Burke’s book helps in understanding this, and I personally understood this first-hand during my retreat experience.

All of us retreat participants, including the Rachel’s Vineyard retreat facilitators and team, started on Friday night as complete strangers, but by Sunday afternoon, we were a beautiful family. Most of the Rachel’s Vineyard retreat team are post-abortive women themselves who completed their weekends in years past and now want to help others heal from post-abortive grief, as they themselves did. They were a beautiful, attentive and caring team, working alongside a professional therapist, and a Priest from the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception.    

During the course of the weekend, I witnessed powerful miraculous transformations. Women who had once been engulfed and plagued by shame, guilt, self-loathing and unforgiveness, tasted and experienced the healing mercy of God and were transfigured by it. I was humbled by the experience and what I was able to witness. All I could do was praise God for the ocean of His great mercy and the power of His grace which transforms all darkness into light.

Not only were the retreat participants able to reconcile with God over the course of the weekend, they were able to reconcile inwardly with themselves and with their unborn children in Heaven, and were given countless opportunities to honor the dignity and memory of their unborn children. 

On a personal note, this retreat was life-changing for me and I am not even post-abortive. Imagine what a retreat like this can do for those women and men in our communities who are struggling with post-abortive grief, but are too ashamed to come forward and break their silence. A Rachel’s Vineyard retreat is a safe, confidential space to process and heal from grief. Jesus came to liberate us, to set us free from the sins that torment us, and Rachel’s Vineyard is an opportunity to be liberated from what many falsely call “the unforgiveable sin”.[3] There is, of course, no sin that God cannot forgive, on the contrary, He longs to forgive us and set us free.    

To find a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat near you, please see their website https://rachelsvineyard.org this is how I found the retreat I attended in Stockbridge, MA or call the national line on 877-467-3463.

[1] Dr. Theresa Burke with Dr. David Reardon, 2002, “Forbidden Grief: The Unspoken Pain of Abortion”, Acorn Press. 
[2] Rachel’s Vineyard website: https://rachelsvineyard.org


Syriac Translation from the Liturgy of the Glorious Birth

Maronite Seminarian 
Alejandro Landin, Translator 

Today a child was born, and His name was called Wonder [Is 9:5]. Indeed, God is Wonder because he has shown Himself as a baby. ܝܰܘܡܳܢ ܐܶܬܺܝܠܶܕ ܝܰܠܕܳܐ ܆ ܘܰܫܡܶܗ ܐܶܬܩܪܺܝ ܕܘܽܡܳܪܳܐ ܆ ܕܘܽܡܳܪܰܐ ܗ̱ܘ ܓܶܝܪ ܐܰܠܳܗܳܐ ܆ ܕܰܐܝܟ ܥܘܽܠܳܐ ܚܰܘܺܝ ܢܰܦܫܶܗ ܀ 
Behold! The Virgin conceived and gave birth to the […]


The Rosary in the Month of October

A reflection by Sr. Natalie Sayde Salameh, MSCL

This month we celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary on October 6. The whole month of October is dedicated in a special way to the prayer of the Rosary. After the Divine Liturgy, the Rosary is my favorite prayer.

Over the centuries, the Rosary has come to be known as the greatest Marian devotion of our times. We can think of countless saints, among them our own Maronite saints like St. Sharbel and Nimatallah El-Hardini, who loved praying the Rosary.

We’re very blessed as sisters in the Convent to have prayer time each day where we can offer a Rosary. 

So what is it about the Rosary that makes it the special and powerful prayer that it is? Many people have often got the wrong idea about the Rosary. I’ve heard it countless times, Sister, how can you sit there and just say Hail Mary, after Hail Mary, don’t you get bored? Shouldn’t you just go straight to Jesus, why do you need to pray the Rosary, it’s a waste of time?

Unfortunately, misconceptions over time have tainted the true meaning and power of the Rosary. The Rosary is fundamentally a Christ-centred prayer. As St. John Paul II in his Letter on the Rosary, “one thing is clear although the repeated Hail Mary is addressed directly to Mary, it is to Jesus that this act of love is ultimately directed, with Mary and through Mary.” 

Mary lived with her eyes fixed on Christ, not on herself, treasuring his every word. Pope John Paul II says again, “Mary’s contemplation is above all a remembering. In the recitation of the Rosary we enter into contact with the memories of Mary.”

The rosary is a contemplative prayer. What do I mean by that? I mean that we are using our imaginative and mental powers to reflect on the various scenes of Jesus’ life. Without this contemplative dimension the Rosary loses its meaning and runs the risk of becoming mechanical, repetitive, and yes, boring. 

A little about how we recite the Rosary, there are 4 main prayers that comprise the Rosary (the Apostles Creed, the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Glory Be). A Decade is one Father and 10 Hail Mary’s. There are 5 decades in each Rosary and we are focusing on the scenes of each mystery. Briefly, there are 4 sets of mysteries, the Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful and Glorious. Each mystery captures different scenes in Jesus’ life. 

The Rosary is both contemplation and petition, where we are asking Our Lady to intercede for those intentions we bring to her. Mary can obtain all things from the heart of her Son. To pray the Rosary is to hand over our burdens to the merciful hearts of Christ and his mother.

For me, there is no way I could live without the Rosary. I pray the Rosary every day and I can’t tell you how profoundly I have experienced the presence of the Blessed Mother each time I recite a Rosary. There is nothing that I have ever, ever handed over to her by means of the Rosary where I haven’t received a response. When you ask of the Blessed Mother, don’t be afraid to ask too much, because she is very generous. 

The Rosary is the means not only of contemplating the beauty of the face of Christ, but the greatest weapon against the assaults of the evil one. The evil one hates the Rosary, he shudders with fear with each ‘Hail Mary’ and after the name of Jesus, there is no other name he fears more than the name of ‘Mary’.

So let us go to our mother, by means of the Rosary, she is waiting for us with open arms, and is only to eager to embrace us to herself and lead us to her Son.

For how to pray the Rosary visit: Rosarycenter.org