Pro-Life Leader: Strong Catholic Education Can ‘Turn the Culture’
Strong Catholic education is essential to the pro-life movement, because it “equips the next generations of leaders — of saints! — who are so desperately needed to restore all things in Christ,” says one of the nation’s pro-life leaders.
Lauren Merz was recently named vice president of strategic partnerships at one of the most effective national pro-life organizations today, Live Action. She is gearing up for the March for Life and for her presentation about changing hearts and minds about abortion the following day at the National Pro-Life Summit, a gathering of more than 3,000 students and adults.
The Cardinal Newman Society asked Merz to explain the impact of her education at Christendom College in Front Royal, Va., which is recommended for its strong Catholic identity in The Newman Guide. We are grateful for her time as a part of our “Profiles in Faithful Catholic Education” series.
Newman Society: How did Christendom College help prepare you for the work you do today?
Lauren Merz: Truly the most important thing Christendom College did to prepare me for my work in the pro-life movement was to strengthen me in the Faith and to fall in love with the Church, and with Christ.
Christendom refined my analytical and writing skills I now use every single day in my work. The very rigorous curriculum and expectations pushed me to pursue excellence in how to think, strategize and communicate. I remember crying over papers and the many hours poring over my studies — they were so challenging, but so worth the effort.
Christendom also taught me how to learn, how to study. I carry the love for study and the search for wisdom with me always. I am constantly reading, learning and studying in my work and personal life, constantly seeking wisdom from those who know better than I, constantly seeking the Truth.
The professors at Christendom are also such beacons of virtue, examples of love and true pursuers of wisdom. Professors and Drs. Mike Brown and John Cuddeback instilled in me a love for philosophy and pursuing the virtues. The essentials we learned about human nature and ethics have been fundamental to me, as I help form Live Action’s messaging and strategy with our team. The understanding of human dignity, morality and the Church’s teachings I formed at Christendom are the roots of the pro-life work I do today.
I was also lucky enough to have a work-study in the Student Life Office for all four years (and full-time job for two summers!) of college. Tambi Spitz was the associate dean at the time, and her inspirational mentorship was invaluable. She taught me how to organize my time and prioritize many tasks at once, manage a team, how to be assertive and honest, yet kind, merciful and loving. Her belief in me that I could do great things and that I was a natural leader and her constant pouring into me truly helped set me up for success.
I volunteered with the Student Activities Council on campus for three years, giving me the event planning and execution experience that I didn’t know I would love and need for my future career.
I served as a Resident Assistant for a year and a half during my time at Christendom, building my leadership abilities. I now serve as one of the top three executives at a national pro-life nonprofit, so those skills are used every day along with all the others.
I also have to give a shout out to Professor Mike Brown for preparing me for the work I do today. I had him for Philosophy 101 (so I have him to “blame” for my major choice!) and he was my thesis director. I will never forget a conversation I had with him during my last week of finals right before I graduated. He stopped me in the parking lot and said “Lauren, what are you going to do with your life after college? You have so many talents, you have a mission to use them for. Go find it!” It really stuck with me that I had a mission I was made for from that moment on. I sought out to find it. And here I am. My deepest gratitude, Professor Brown.
Newman Society: How did your time at the college help strengthen you for the spiritual battle involved in pro-life efforts?
Lauren Merz: Most importantly, Christendom instilled an understanding of the power of prayer and a true, strong, deep, personal relationship with our dear Lord Jesus.
Before going to college, I didn’t know adoration was a regular thing Catholics did. I only remember going during Lent growing up. The regular, monthly holy hours promoted and encouraged for all to attend moved me to fall in love with our Lord in the Eucharist. My time in adoration since then has been truly life-changing. I prayed and discerned my current job in adoration. I love visiting Jesus at St. Agnes Perpetual Adoration Chapel in Arlington, Va., where I live, it’s one of the most peaceful places on earth!
Christendom also instilled in me a deep love of the Sacraments, of course, most especially Confession and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Christendom had one of the most beautifully said liturgies I had attended until then — reverent and full of the majesty and mystery which are so essential. I also become comfortable with going to Confession regularly for the first time at Christendom. Everyone talked about how they needed to go — and they went! The example of my peers and teachers impacted me so much in this.
Today, I am completely dependent upon the generous Grace of God to do this work in the fight to defend the preborn. Among all the cultural battles we are facing today, the spiritual battle is especially strong on the pro-life front. We are fighting such a horrible evil. Some days I can’t even believe that I have to fight this battle — that we are actually killing our own children in such a beautiful, bountiful country and that I have to fight to stop it. It’s mind-boggling and gut-wrenching. It’s only by God’s generous grace and mercy through the Sacraments that I am able to continue the fight every day. Without Him, the evil is too great and I would have quit long ago.
Newman Society: How can strong Catholic education benefit the pro-life movement?
Lauren Merz: Strong Catholic education doesn’t just benefit the pro-life movement — it is essential to the pro-life movement.
The Catholic Church unabashedly upholds and defends the inherent dignity of the human person from fertilization to natural death. It is always the first defender of our dear brothers and sisters in the womb. Without passing down and instilling the wisdom of the ages, the Tradition of the Catholic Church, through Catholic education, our entire culture is lost, and it will be impossible to win the fight to end the killing of children in the womb.
With strong Catholic education, we will turn our culture around and save souls. Strong Catholic education equips the next generations of leaders — of saints! — who are so desperately needed to restore all things in Christ. And who is more desperate in our culture right now than the most vulnerable little ones in the womb at odds against their own mothers?