This verse from Joel is the Epistle reading for Ash Wednesday, and it really tells us what God wants from us during this special season of Lent. He wants our whole hearts…not just a section of them. Not just a little part that we give to Him on Sunday morning. He does not want a lukewarm religiosity…he wants it all! All of US!!!
We are so weak and needy, and so un-inclined to suffer voluntarily. Even when suffering comes to us without our consent…it is our nature to complain about it, rather than to accept what God sends and to try to see His purpose in allowing it. But for 40 days, He gives us the gift of Lent. We are SUPPOSED to find ways to suffer!!! How crazy is that??? God knows that our hearts grow fat and lazy and our faith lukewarm when we forever are giving in to our own temptations and desires. He knows it is not good for us. And that is not the kind of children that He desires. He desires his kids to REALLY love Him. To love Him so much that we are willing to suffer in order to help bring those who are lost and hurting to know of His goodness and kindness.
And so…we begin. We begin to suffer. We get up earlier. We eat less. Our stomachs growl and our heads ache. We go to the sidewalk where it is cold and wet. We pray. But through it all…we grow closer to God. He is pleased. He answers our prayers.
Yesterday He answered our prayers in two very big ways! First of all, He saved a baby from abortion at Pittsburgh’s Planned Parenthood! We had just prayed the night before during the kick-off Worship and Prayer service at Pastor Joe Stump’s church…(click for pictures of this event)…and God heard our prayers! A young woman and her mother walked toward the doors of Planned Parenthood to end the life of their child/grandchild. Year-round sidewalk advocates Beth and Elsie were there to be Christ to them and lovingly offered them alternatives. They went inside anyway…but soon came back out…with their ultrasound! The grandma was so excited that her daughter had changed her mind that she couldn’t remember where she had parked!
The second way that He answered our prayers yesterday happened during our kick-off Mass and procession to Planned Parenthood. Between 500-700 people came out on a rainy Tuesday night to pack Epiphany Church (there were people standing in the aisles!)…to join with 40 PRIESTS who concelebrated the Mass with Bishop Waltersheid! Thanks to Bishop Zubik for also being there to lead the rosary and the beautiful and solemn procession around the church! It was an absolutely amazing and inspiring event! The most touching moment for me were when Bishop Waltersheid thanked the 40 priests for being there and the entire church erupted in thunderous applause that didn’t die down and ended with a standing ovation! I thought the roof was going to come down! Click HERE for pictures of this event!
Which leads me to say this to those forty priests…
I hope you can see now how much we need you to lead us in this spiritual battle against abortion! We LONG to have priests to lead us on this way of the cross in front of abortion clinics! It is not easy…we suffer. We know that you also suffer, and so we appreciate you suffering with us and for us. If the sin of abortion wasn’t legal in our nation, all of us pro-lifers could stay home and live normal lives. If sin hadn’t crept into the Church…you wouldn’t be suffering in the way that you are. But, just as we (pro-lifers) have to suffer to make up for those who unknowingly are committing the terrible sin of killing their own children…you good and faithful priests have to suffer because of the sin of some wolves that have crept into the sheepfold, disguised as shepherds. (Please offer that suffering for our intentions of ending abortion in Pittsburgh during these 40 days.)
We pray for you. Please pray for us.
Our Eucharistic Procession had to be cancelled because the Blessed Sacrament could not be brought out in the rain...but that didn’t stop a couple hundred of us who already carried the Lord in our hearts from making the procession anyway! It was a beautiful time of Christian unity as we all prayed and sang together in front of Planned Parenthood! If you see a Pittsburgh Police Officer…please tell him or her how much you appreciate their service! They were absolutely wonderful!!! We felt so safe and protected with them at our sides, guarding us as we walked and as we prayed. Our city is blessed with an amazing police force. Please show them your appreciation!
To see some videos of the event last night (both in the church and on the sidewalk, here are some links:
And to watch the ENTIRE Mass (2 1/2 hours!)…click here: https://www.facebook.com/40daysforlifepgh/videos/560747581453201/ Thanks to Pat Polachek for filming!
And now…enough of my rambling…(sorry I went on so long!)…on to the shift reports from today:
Shift Manager sub, Beth, was there on the sidewalk from 7-9 am this morning…filling in for Peg.
All went well today on the 7-9 am shift. The beautiful new posters gave an increased presence to the Vigil. It was a blessing to be there! There were more positive than negative comments from passers by. A gentleman stopped by and said a rosary. Jo and I said a Rosary and many quiet prayers. All people entering and leaving the clinic were prayed for.Beth
Cathy Z & Priscilla were the 9-11am team…Cathy writes:
Our first shift for the spring. It did feel like spring, though winter is not over yet! There were a number of women who went into the clinic this morning, some with a male companion. However not so many came out during our shift. Abortion day? It seems that way. Betty and Linda,from Flame of Life prayer group, joined for awhile by Glenn, kept the prayers going. I told Hank that some women may be coming out during his shift and to pass the message on. He made sure some Rachael’s Vineyard bro’s were at hand.
A little addition: I was talking to an African American gentleman who stopped. He knew about Margaret Sanger and her racist views and that so many black babies are killed. He is very angry that this is happening. Said he would pray for the babies but not for the abortionists – he said they will get their just dues before God. I tried to tell him we need to pray for them also but he wouldn’t hear it. I didn’t think until later (of course) that I should have reminded him that unless we forgive, we cannot be forgiven.Cathy
Hank and Judy managed the 11-1 shift. Hank writes:
Thanks be to the Lord of the Universe for good Feb weather. I pray the remainder of the shifts this day are rain free. It was a relatively quiet first day with the usual foot traffic. There were more women and couples entering PP than is usual for a Wed. in my experience. We approached as many as possible to offered literature, some accepted others not. We did distribute a good bit of materials and we received several positive comments..”God bless you, thank you” and really only one negative outburst. We were able to pray three rosaries and the Divine Mercy. Rose from Most Precious Blood and Ken From St Germaine were there for the entire shift. Jeff from St. Irenaeus spent a half an hour of his lunch time praying with us and Bryan from Grace Life joined us toward the end of the shift. We know this is the Lord’s battle, but we pray…. give us the courage to enter the fight as you call us to.Hank
Chris and John were the 1-3 manager/buddy. Chris writes:
It felt good to be back praying in front of PP, praying for the day that the clinic is closed permanently. During my shift, I was joined by Diane, Rose, Carolina, and John, plus early-arriving 3pm’ers Virginia and Mary. There didn’t seem to be as many people passing by on the sidewalk, maybe because of the drizzly weather. We received several “God Bless Yous” and only a couple of negative comments. We prayed four Rosaries together and the highlight was Carolina doing decades in Spanish. The most emotional moment of the shift happened toward the end. A man stopped and asked if he could have several of the roses that were in a bucket by our resource table. I said, “Sure”. He then went on to explain that they were for his aunt who is in the hospital due to a stroke suffered two days ago. As he hugged me tightly, we prayed an Our Father and a Hail Mary for his aunt.Chris
Jeannie and Virginia managed the 3-5 shift…here is their report:
What a great group of prayer warriors we had on the sidewalk this afternoon! Virginia does such a great job handing out literature !! Answering the call to be there when others were not were Claire, Mary and Carolyn who each “stepped up for Life”. We had several positive gestures through the raindrops —- and no negatives. Toward the end of our shift a young woman took shelter near the entrance to the bar and was looking through the raindrops at the fetal models. She told us that she was born at 25 weeks weighing 1 lb. 9 oz. !!!! She was so supportive of us being there and of people allowing these children to be born. She was a great example of why we are down there every day.
Thao and Joe K. had the 5-7 shift. Joe wrote:
Yes, a “Super Soaker” opening evening – at least it was warm – for February 🙂 Transitioned shifts with Jeannie & Virginia… One young lady stopped to tell us that she was born at 25 weeks. Another young man stopped by when he literally “kicked the bucket” – the bucket of roses, that is, that were against the wall…I was joined for the duration of my shift by my shift buddy Thao and her friend. Thao and I helped a passerby. We also admired the beautiful paintings by Nikki of the Blessed Mother that were on display – what an impactful touch! All comments this evening were warming and positive! A few folks took roses home this evening. The evening ended quietly and “sloshy” as Faithful Servants Tom and Diane came to pack up the vigil for a hopefully drier Day #2. Stay tuned in and have courage my brothers and sisters…Joe K.