The first day of spring was a great day to stand as a witness to the beauty of new life! Even though the temperature was only in the 30’s… the sun was out and there was no wind. The birds were even chirping…it felt like spring to me!
The first group to fill the vigil today came all the way from Greensburg! Four wonderful ladies from Our Lady of Grace parish lit up the sidewalk for Christ this morning! The early morning shift manager, Jeff, took this photo of them:
This was my first ever morning shift and grateful that I made it in time, and the folks from Our Lady of Grace in Greensburg were there at 7:00am to greet me. I am used to Diane Deely picking up the signs at 7pm so it was nice to see her always smiling face setting them up at 7:00am. It was a quiet morning and passed quickly, and Kathy Krchmar showed up at 9:00am so I could get to work.
Just as I was leaving, a young man named Chris from Swissvale stopped and told us that this was his first vigil, and that he was called to do it because of a plea made to him and 100 other weekend retreatants at St Paul’s Retreat Center over a month ago. He had been praying about it for a month and so here he was. I was flabbergasted!
I, too, had just completed a retreat at ST Paul’s with my dad this past weekend (ST Patricks Day) and had found the courage to stand up in front of 100 men that I had just spent the weekend with, and made my plea to THEM to support 40 Days for Life, and that this was the last week of the Lenten Vigil and to come out and stand with us.
I wouldn’t have even been there to witness this remarkable “coincidence” except that I had answered Lisa’s plea to fill in for Cathy Zuza two weeks ago and Lisa said that I could cover 7-9 on the 20th.
I just don’t know what to make of it……..
Kathy managed the vigil from 9-11am and wrote the following account of her time:
The women from Our Lady of Grace, (Kristi, Ethel and Janie)greeted me as they had been there from the earlier shift. Chris joined us and then Michael came. We had the opportunity to interact with 2 couples as they finished their cigarettes inside yellow circle. The first couple came over to talk before they entered PP. They had a small baby in a stroller. Taking a card from us for the Pregnancy Resource Center, they asked how we could help them. We told them about the services that are offered. They went into PP anyway, but then they left quickly. The second couple came over to talk but smilingly said, “I don’t know how anyone can kill a baby. I saw picture of a baby holding a doctors finger, it was amazing.” (Must have been Bob Newman’s new sign that shows the baby still in the womb reaching out to grab the doctor’s finger!) We had a very nice discussion about value of life. They didn’t realize they were standing in front of an abortion clinic.
We also gave Pregnancy Resource Center cards to 2 different girls who tried to go in the wrong doors to find PP.
When I (Nikki) got to the vigil for my 11am-3pm shift, Fr. Tim’s large group from Guardians for Life of Indiana & Westmoreland Counties were already there praying! They didn’t waste a minute of their two hours…it was constant prayer, kneeling and singing!
The Guardians for Life make such an impression on the bookstore owner that he usually comes out while they are praying to hang his famous sign, which quotes the bible verse from Matthew, which says, “Don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray in public“. One of the vigil participants felt led to write him a little note in response to his sign, telling him that Jesus said this about the Pharisees because THEY were praying in public to draw attention to THEMSELVES. But WE are praying in public to draw attention to something else…that is the injustice of abortion! Actually, I don’t think our vigil participants particularly enjoy much of the attention we get while we are at the vigil. (The bookstore owner should ask the brave souls who witnessed on Saturday if they enjoyed the attention they received from the inebriated St. Patrick’s Day “celebrants“).
The thought occurred to me that when we bring our faith to the culture so visibly, (when we kneel, pray and sing out loud), it get’s people’s attention in such a way that they almost don’t know what to think! You can see a slight confusion on some folks faces…like they have never seen anyone acting in this way before. Our culture has become so alienated from God and from Holiness…that many people have never even seen “religion” in action! It is totally foreign to them. But, I believe that our witness of faith may plant a seed of faith in people’s hearts! For instance, someone may pass by who has never had the experience of worshiping in church…was never introduced to God or to religion at all…is living a totally worldly and secular existence…but they somehow sense that they were made for more. Seeing people praying and worshiping on the sidewalk in front of an abortion clinic MAY plant a seed in their mind and heart that could grow if they allow the Holy Spirit nourish it with His Water and His Light! God is using 40 Days for Life to do more than save baby’s lives from abortion…He is using it to save eternal souls!
Here are some more photos from this afternoon:
After 1pm, when the Guardians for Life left for their two-hour drive back home, I had the blessing of spending the remaining two hours of my shift with Mary Ann and Eileen.
While the three of us were praying, quite a few notable things happened. First, just as we were beginning to feel the effects of the chilly temperature, a young man appeared holding a tray from Bruegger’s with three hot drinks! He said he bought them for us to encourage us to keep up the good work! I think his name was Eric. We really appreciated the gesture of good will, and the drinks warmed us right up!
Next, a young couple pushing a baby stroller stopped to look at my fetal model display. The woman was obviously pregnant and they asked us which fetal model was six-months. We showed them and the man picked up the model and cradled it in his arms. He said that is how far along his wife is and he can’t wait to hold his son when he is born. They said they believe abortion is wrong. In fact, they told us that they had previously taken some pro-life literature from our vigil participants and actually went into Planned Parenthood’s waiting room and left it with the magazines! What a great idea! We thanked them for sharing that with us.
Eileen then shared this amazing story with me. She said that she had previously worked as the Director of Special Education at a local public high school. One day as school was letting out, she was walking out the door to go home. As she passed a group of students, she thought she heard one teenage girl say to her friends that she was going to have an abortion. She immediately became distressed as she continued walking to her car. Immediately, she began telling herself the reasons why she could not go and talk to this girl. She does not have the gift of counseling, she told herself. She tried to call two of her friends who DID have that gift…but neither of them could be reached. So, she had no choice. She turned around and walked back into the school. Seeing the girl, she walked up to her and told her that she thought she over-heard her saying she was going to have an abortion, and gave a heartfelt plea to please let her baby be born. The girl told Eileen that she had not said anything about having an abortion…and so Eileen left her, having said what she said. She forgot all about this conversation…until one day about a year later…when she saw that girl in school again. This time, the girl had a new baby with her!!! Is it possible that her words to this young girl were all that she needed to hear to change her mind and choose life? It sounds possible to me! I just wanted to share that story to encourage you.
Barbara and Richard managed the third shift, and Building Upon Christ Ministries, provided the witness. Calvary Full Gospel Church also witnessed this evening with their youth! Barbara wrote:
The evening shift on the first day of spring, (imagine that!), was crowded with praying souls. The Building Upon Christ Ministry and Calvary Full Gospel Youth Group brought many people. Their names are: Richard, Steve, Correy, Jessica, Kristen, Tony, Tim, Mimi, Kurt with his youth group, and, Jim, Ken, Pat and Bill.
Also, some of our beloved regulars joined in.
A young man stopped to tell us that the bloody aborted baby pictures upset him because he had a younger brother die. A woman stopped to talk and say that a baby she was tempted to abort is now her son, a semi professional football player, whose support helps pay her bills.
“When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls. Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, has an unfailing prize. She is clothed with strength and dignity, and laughs at the days to come. Her children rise up and call her blessed. Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting. The woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 13: 10, 25, 28, 30.
“Chastity does not mean abstention from sexual wrong; it means something flaming, like Joan of Arc”. G.K. Chesterton
While I stand for hours in front of Planned Parenthood downtown, these quotes help me remember what I am doing here. Am I here just to say, “No!” No, that’s not good enough. I endure this vigil because I know that trying to be virtuous is a life worth living. I am not a genius. I didn’t make it up. Chesterton would say that I am standing on the shoulders of giants. I know about the 10 Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. My parents and the Catholic Church taught me. I have the chorus of saints whose witness strengthens me. I am not a saint. But I have Jesus’ company as I try for that joy.
When God blesses us, He sends out to share. A Planned Parenthood site is a natural destination for sharing the Good News. The people going in there are completely misled. They hope that contraception and abortion will help them manage the complications promiscuity ignites in a person’s love life. They hear that chastity is an icy state that locks people out of all the fun.
We know other facts of life. “God loves you right now, just as you are.” Unlock your heart. Don’t be afraid. Let’s talk.
Barbara Lewis, Shift Manager