Forty days of prayer and fasting for an end to abortion is the slogan for 40 days for Life. All over the world, people are mobilizing at abortion mills to peacefully pray and be witnesses for life. What a special honor it was when my dear friend Therese (seen in the picture above) asked me to be one of the local leaders for this campaign. It has been so spiritually intense so far. I will tell you two stories from the campaign.
The first Friday of our vigil at the LoveJoy Surgicenter (a notorious late-term abortion mill in Portland), we witnessed a women leaving the clinic in a hurry, still pregnant! As I stood praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy with one of my faithful comrades, a women came storming out of the back door of the abortion clinic. She was walking so quickly, her boyfriend was having a hard time keeping up. Dressed in her pink sweat suit, she lit a cigarette and mumbled something to us that we couldn't hear. Then she said loudly, "I didn't do it! I didn't do it!" I, of course, was so excited and wanted to talk to her! I said, "Oh, thats so wonderful! We can give you a baby shower!"...She was so upset she just told me she couldn't talk right now and kept speed walking down the street. I shouted out to her, "I want you to know that you're my hero! God will reward you for your choice today, I promise!" I shouted out that we would be there every day if she wanted to come back to talk to us. What a special day! I was so grateful to God that this little baby's life was spared the horror of the abortion that awaited it. May God bless that young women for her courageous choice that day.
The other encounter that stands out in my mind was with a young man I'll call "Tony". Tony had come to the clinic with his girlfriend who was pregnant with their first child. When he walked out the back door, I started a conversation with him, asking him why he was there. He told me that his girlfriend was inside at her appointment for her abortion. He was holding her purse and looked like he wanted to talk. I explained to him that he had just as much a right to the life of his baby as anyone else! Tony admitted that he felt sort of bullied into the whole thing. He said that they weren't financially able to care for the baby at this time. I told Tony that I understood how he felt and once I had found myself in the same situation, when I put my first son up for adoption at birth. I said that it may seem like the more difficult choice now, but in the long run, I don't have to live with the guilt that I killed my son. He patiently listened to me and agreed with everything I said.
I handed him a little fetal model of a 12 week old fetus and gave him some other literature about human development. I also gave him two miraculous medals and a couple rosaries. He told me that he was a Christian and I asked him how he thought Jesus would feel about his decision. Tony looked down and I could tell the reality of the abortion was starting to sink in. He said, "Well, let me go see if I can call her and try to talk to her!" He went off with cell phone in hand and I didn't see him for a while. As I walked around, praying, I ended up on the other side of LoveJoy.
About 20 minutes later, I see Tony come to the end of the driveway, looking around for me. As I approach him, I can see the sadness in his eyes. He told me that he couldn't get to her, they had separated them, which is their normal practice, and had her turn her cell phone off. We both knew that possibly at that very moment, his baby's life was being extinguished. I stood there with him as my friend, as my brother in Christ and just let him talk to me. Tony started thanking me, he said, "I want to thank you, for making me feel that I could really live my faith, that I could really be the man God intended me to be. I wanted to ask you....would you pray for me? Would you pray to Jesus that He would forgive me?" (He had tears welling up in his eyes at this point and so did I. There's something about a man crying that always gets to me). I said, "Oh, of course I will! Would you like me to pray with you right now?" His face lit up and he said, "Yes, please!"
So....there on the sidewalk, outside the abortion clinic where a baby was losing its life as we spoke, I took Tony's hands in mine and I began to pray to Jesus. I asked Him to have mercy. I asked him to forgive Tony and his girlfriend for what they had done that day, I begged Him to give them another chance at parenthood one day, if that was His will. Then, I gave Tony a little prayer book of Catholic prayers which he joyfully took from me and said he would go read right away. I gave him a big, genuine hug and told him that he had a friend in me. I told him that no matter what he's done, Jesus still loves him...that he loves him so much He died on the cross for his sins. All he needed was true contrition for them, and they would be forgiven. I could see the grief of this man for his sins that day...it truly was a beautiful sight to behold.
I had made a friend that day, and even if I never see Tony again, I'll always remember him walking out with his girlfriend, with a huge beaming smile on his face, waving to me to the bemusement of his partner...all I could do was smile back at him and wave goodbye. A genuine, warm, familiar smile. The kind you give to someone who you've known and loved.
God bless you all and may He keep these souls close to Him forever....