“Pray For Me, Mama”

God has mercy only upon those who regret their sins and
atone for them either by repentance or works of charity.

St. John Chrysostom

My dears, children of God, believe in God, trust in Him! Accept everything in life:
joy, dejection, prosperity, and poverty, as mercy and the truth of the path
of the Lord, and fear nothing in life, except sin.

Archimandrite John (Krestiankin)


From the earliest age, we are told how important it is to make rational decisions. Our parents teach us to reason so we don’t end up in a difficult or hopeless situation in the future. Sometimes they scare us, warning that stupidity or sluggishness may deprive us of favorable conditions in life. After all, to live well, we must study well, and then find good work. We need to prioritize, always strive for the best, and be ready not to pass up an opportunity. This is all true. Parents are usually correct. Parents are such special people given by God to a specific child, to make his life better and safer, to protect him, and most importantly—to love him. But sometimes reason and love come into conflict, and then you are surprised to discover that they can be enemies. Then you find out that this war is not news and lasts so long that sometimes it seems that it doesn’t exist at all, or that it is a part of creation; and sometimes, suddenly, in the life of one concrete person, this war unfolds with all intransigence, cruelty, and truth.

The theme of this story is abortion. I think it’s important to state that from the outset, because people today are really looking for the positive. There is none here. Well… it’s not quite so categorical. The positive exists, in fact, but it’s not so obvious. If you are attuned to a light story with pleasant feelings—you won’t find that here.

The women, about whom we will be speaking, are very dear to me. Their names, appearance, and even the setting have been changed so as not to give them away. I’m not judging anyone, but only grieving with them, and praying to the Lord for forgiveness. As St. Ephraim the Syrian said, “Do not attack your brother in the day of his sorrow, and do not attach a new sorrow to his soul’s affliction.”

It’s summer in St. Petersburg. Many disperse, leaving the churches empty. The wind is warm, the sun is playful, the tram happily clanks along the avenue, and two women have decided to stop for tea. They just happened to grab me.

In a small apartment—a long table and some stools, the sun freely streams through open windows. Larisa puts a kettle on, and sits on the edge. She’s a little over fifty, with dark wavy hair and big beautiful eyes. Even though smiling, she remains sad. I really like Larisa. She’s very kind and tender. There’s another girl with us, around thirty years of age. She’s silent, unwrapping cookies, and arranging the cups. She smells like vanilla. The women are quiet and silent, and it’s hard for me to be with them. I don’t know how to be modest. I always feel too visible and annoying.

Larisa smiles at me and asks, “Green or black?”

“Always black,” I say too loudly, and I mentally roll my eyes.

She nods and smiles sadly. The kettle boils and clacks. The girl is sitting behind the table and finally subsides. We are making tea, exchanging meaningless phrases, then they trail off.

I hear the kids on the streets making noise. Laughter and squeals alternate with demanding shouts and completely incomprehensible noise. I can literally see them playing. If I had a mustache, I would have laughed in it,[1] but I don’t have one.

“Are you alright?” Larisa asks me.

“Yes, the children,” I said, nodding my heads towards the window, “lords of a sunny day,” and I ask the typical question in such instances: “Do you have any kids?”

“Yes,” Larisa nods, “a daughter and a grandson already.”

I whistle for and ask the girl, “And you?”

She frowns, nervously stirring her tea. Then she takes a breath, and in one gulp says, “I got pregnant at sixteen, but my mom persuaded me to have an abortion. I won’t have any more kids. I am unworthy of this gift; real mothers don’t do that.”

I was a little shocked by this confession, and stared into my cup, waiting for something.

“I had an abortion too,” Larisa quietly says, “a long time ago; and I can’t forgive myself either.”

“And how could you forgive?” the girls asks, and I can hear muffled indignation in her voice.

The voices subside on the street, and I can see the children run to play in another yard, and the day is already not so joyful.

“It’s not for me to forgive. I hope the Lord will forgive me. But I can tell you about it, if you want…” Larisa says, smiling sadly.

We are silent, and she begins her story:

“It was horrible from the very beginning. It seemed that circumstances were pushing me, but an open wound remains in my heart. Anyone who says that abortion doesn’t mean anything is a liar. You never forget it. Time passes, and you begin to think about how old your child would be; and now he would already be walking to school. It’s very difficult. If instead of fear for the future I had known that life would be forever fractured by this one decision…” Larisa says, sighing heavily.

The girl silently stood up and closed the window. It became dark and stuffy. Then she sat close to me. Her cup was still at the other end of the table. I felt the world had shrunk down to the three of us, and time froze. It was a mystery.

“My mother told me I was too young, and I had no husband,” the girl mutters. “And you can’t find work with a child. And now I think about how he would be ten…” she says, grabbing her throat. She’s pale. “So grown,” she whispers chokingly.

Larisa rubs her arm: “You can’t beat yourself up about it; you have to repent,” she says. “God is merciful. There is no sin which will go unforgiven if you sincerely repent; but despair is from the enemy. You must not do it.”

I felt uncomfortable and worried that my presence was disturbing the women.

“Forgive me,” I said nervously. “Maybe I should go?”

“What, Vassa?!” Larisa says, surprised. “Why?”

“Does it bother you?” the girl asked. Obviously, she had misunderstood me.

“Not at all,” I objected. And it was the honest truth. “It was just by chance that I came over here…”

“Nothing happens by chance,” the girl says, interrupting me.

“When I came to the Church,” Larisa continues, “I immediately realized what I had done. The horror of realization was so great that I didn’t eat or sleep, but only cried, not knowing how to be comforted. I didn’t know how to go on living. Then a friend invited me to a monastery, saying there was an elder there whom we could talk with. I went immediately. The elder heard me out, went to pray, and then he returned and gave me a large prayer rule. I was supposed to read it for forty days with prostrations and fasting. He said that if I keep trying, God will let me know.”

“What kind of rule?!” the girl exclaims with undisguised hope, but Larisa shook her head:

“The elder forbade me to pass it on,” she answers.

“What happened next,” I ask impatiently.

“And then...” Larisa says, lowering her eyes. “Then these forty days began. I was ready to read even more. I was afraid forty days would be too little, and at the end of the period I had a dream. I as if awoke in my apartment and I heard a noise in the kitchen. I went there and saw a huge vat standing in the kitchen, and a demon jumping around it and stirring something in it.

“‘You have come?’ he asked me. ‘Well, go and see what you have done.’ I was seized with wild terror, and I as if already knew what was there… in that vat. I awoke from fear. I wept to the point of exhaustion…” Larisa went silent and looked at me. I went breathless from her look. She wasn’t crying now. There was nothing else in her eyes—deeper than just tears, purer, more dispassionate than distress. There was grief in them, and I recognized it. She smiled at me, but remained sad.

“Did you continue reading the rule?” I ask.

She nods:

“The dream returned,” she says, and again lowers her gaze. “Again I heard someone in the kitchen. I went to the kitchen, knowing that today was already the last of the forty days, and again there was the same demon: ‘Look at what you have done.’ I went up to the vat and saw that it was full… children’s bodies and body parts. I cried out and covered my eyes with my hands, and the next moment someone took my hands from my face, and I saw a young man dressed in a cassock… beautiful and so familiar. He stared me straight in the eyes, and I understood everything. I understood that it was my unborn son, who should have been born to become a monk. He was a gift of God—a man of prayer for our entire family. That’s why the evil one approached me. And I… My son stood, turned and walked away from me. There was no longer anything in the kitchen—neither the tank, nor the vile demon—just the back of my son, walking away. I cried and begged him to forgive me. I didn’t want to believe that he would just leave; and suddenly he looked back and said just one thing: ‘Pray for me, mama,’ and I woke up.”

I nearly left immediately after Larisa’s story, mumbling something about urgent business. I was shocked, embarrassed, and didn’t know what to think or how to feel about it. I had a lump in my throat. How to survive a woe created with your own hands? How to make it through… Lord, have mercy! I didn’t and don’t judge anyone who has made or is making such a decision. Freedom of choice is God’s gift to man, like life, and love, but we don’t always understand that in reasoning intelligently about the future, we can be deadly wrong, irrevocably.

Two years passed since we had this conversation. I thought about it the whole time, deciding how to tell it, and whether it was worth it. I tried to understand what this conversation could give to other people. After all, the moment of such a decision is intimate. In fact, it happens in the soul of a girl, or a woman. What difference does it make what others say? They won’t then be untangling this mess! Now I know that in this moment the unhappy girl is tightly surrounded by a ring of invisible enemies, who scare, whisper, pressure, and lead to despair. Family can turn out not to be friends, and friends not to be family. Then I decided to ask the girl herself. Could anything have stopped her then? And what would she say to other girls finding themselves on the same path?

And she said, “When you go for an abortion, you are cold on the inside from fear and doubts. There is no faith, only emptiness…

“Actually, you know that you’re doing something horrible, but everyone tries to persuade you that it’s from fear for your health, that you’re scared of the operation. But health has nothing to do with it—you’re going to kill your child, and the horror is all from that. Everyone says that at such an early date there’s nothing there—it’s a lie. Everyone knows the baby is already alive and real, from the first day. Only the lies of those around you and your own insecurities can push you to such a path. If only I had known then that the moment of becoming pregnant is the moment when the Lord Himself had decided to bestow a child upon me and make me a mother! And it means that God Himself knows I am ready. If only I had understood that there is an enemy who is making haste to destroy my soul, rob my child of life, and to do so he lies, and frightens, leading me to despair, and there’s a whole army around me helping him in this. If only I had known then that the Lord never abandons even one mother without help and sustenance. We need only to pray to Him, and He will help. If only I had known that I would never be able to forgive myself for this choice. If only I had known that parents are special people to whom God has given to a specific child, to make his life better and more secure, to protect him, and most importantly, to love him. If my mama had said, ‘Don’t worry, dear, I’m with you,’ then nothing could have made me walk that corridor. You don’t need much to not walk this path: Believe that everything will be okay, rely on God with all your heart, and most importantly, don’t listen to the enemy. Death is what the enemy has chosen for us. The Lord gives life everlasting! And to all those who have gone through this, I say: All the pain in your life is from unrepentant sin. Make haste to God and repent, and He will heal your soul. Everything can change, as long as we’re alive.”

Vassa Bogdanov
Translated by Jesse Dominick



[1] To laugh into one’s mustache or beard is a Russian expression meaning to laugh quietly and unnoticeably, trying to conceal your laughter. 

See also
Pro-Life and Pro-Choice? Pro-Life and Pro-Choice?
Fr. John Whiteford
Pro-Life and Pro-Choice? Pro-Life and Pro-Choice?
Fr. John Whiteford
If someone says that they are pro-life and pro-choice, this can only mean that they personally oppose abortion, but they think that others should be free to decide the matter for themselves, because they don't want to "impose their morality" on anyone else. Is this a morally defensible position?
How Fr. Dmitry Smirnov Convinces Women Not to Have an Abortion, and Ten Questions That Can Keep a Woman From Abortion How Fr. Dmitry Smirnov Convinces Women Not to Have an Abortion, and Ten Questions That Can Keep a Woman From Abortion
Fr. Dimitry Smirnov, Elena Smirnova, Natalia Narishkina
How Fr. Dmitry Smirnov Convinces Women Not to Have an Abortion, and Ten Questions That Can Keep a Woman From Abortion How Fr. Dmitry Smirnov Convinces Women Not to Have an Abortion, and Ten Questions That Can Keep a Woman From Abortion
Fr. Dimitry Smirnov, Elena Smirnova, Natalia Narishkina
“The work of a psychologist with this category of women is the work of eroding growing doubt. A woman has come to register for an abortion; she’s already made a choice, a decision, but she always has remaining doubts—something on the other side of the scale. The work of a psychologist is to uncover these doubts, ‘to give them’ Which way the balance is tipped we cannot know, because the woman has made a decision. But, all the same, you can try to ‘shatter’ a woman’s bad confidence.”
Moleben of repentance for sin of abortion approved by Russian Orthodox Church Moleben of repentance for sin of abortion approved by Russian Orthodox Church Moleben of repentance for sin of abortion approved by Russian Orthodox Church Moleben of repentance for sin of abortion approved by Russian Orthodox Church
The “Moleben of Repentance for Forgivenes for the Sin of Killing a Child in the Womb” has been sent to the Moscow Patriarchate’s publishing house for inclusion in prayer books.
Anna 9/8/2017 9:32 am
Yes, Why does his soul need prayer and where is this monastery?
Anthony9/8/2017 8:39 am
@Mr Castrese T. All the living are called on to pray for the reposed as they cannot pray for themselves. We each have to commemorate as many reposed people as we know (or don't know) that God will have mercy on them. We should all be praying the Akathist for the Reposed each day as that is all encompassing for all who have reposed in any sort of condition. Or praying with the prayer rope for the reposed. Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on the souls of the reposed. Ayios Paisios Ayioritis says we should spend at least a third of our prayer time praying for the reposed.
Editor9/7/2017 12:51 pm
Castrese: Although the author remains silent about this mystery, we can only offer the following explanation: A mother should always pray for her children, even those who were never born. In praying for them she also prays for herself, because they are of her flesh. When we pray for someone we implicitly acknowledge his existence.
Castrese Tipaldi9/7/2017 12:29 pm
Indeed, the unforgivable sin by Judas was the despair, not the betrayal.

Thank you for this story! It's like a punch in the stomach, but I am very grateful that you've shared it.

If only a man of God would explain to me why the unborn child asks for her prayer....
There is nobody who has lived for one day and sinneth not... but he has not lived, not even one second.... killed as the most innocent of the creatures....
why does he need prayers?
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