Last night we gathered to thank our Good Lord for blessing and protecting us during these fall 40 Days for Life. We thanked him for the 7 lives that we believe were saved from abortion, and for many souls turning back to him as well. As we gathered on the sidewalk, candles in hand, we awaited the coming of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament. I looked down Liberty Avenue, and this is what I saw:
I had been a little concerned with the fact that our vigil ended on Halloween. Normally we try to stay clear of the sidewalk after dark on Halloween, but since yesterday was also the Feast of Christ the King (in the traditional Catholic calendar)…I took courage in the fact that we would have Christ the King present with us. Also, being the vigil of the Feast of All Saints, we had their protection and prayers as well. Our prayer time together in front of Planned Parenthood was peaceful and beautiful, as you can see from these photos:
As we began our Eucharistic Procession down Smithfield Street, our wonderful Pittsburgh Police arrived on their motorcycles and in their cars to block the streets, which allowed us to walk in the middle of the streets. We are very grateful for their help and protection! Please remember to pray for our police!
Here is a short video of the procession as we left PP:
Another short video: October 31 2021. Eucharistic Procession. – YouTube
There are not many photos from the procession because shortly after beginning, our peaceful prayer was shattered by the shrill shrieking of a young woman, who was counter-protesting us. She pushed a bicycle into the midst of our group, while screaming repeatedly, “A woman should have the choice when to be a mother!” She seemed to be trying to push the bicycle into the Bishop while he carried the Most Blessed Sacrament in the Monstrance. Thankfully, a group of men and religious sisters crowded around the bishop while he walked, to protect him from her vile attempts. We continued to pray, although it was difficult to hear each other over her angry screams. She never seemed to tire of saying the same thing, over and over again, all the way to the church. I was very grateful for Fr. Thomas More and Fr. Nathaniel Polinski for joining me at the head of the procession, one on either side of me. It was a little scary at the head of the procession all by myself, but I felt completely safe with them at my side. As the wind kept blowing our candles out as we walked, those whose candles remained lit would use theirs to re-light those whose had gone out.I thought that was a good analogy of our faith journey. With evil screaming at us, trying to intimidate us…we kept each other’s faith burning brightly. This is a lesson for our daily Christian walk; When we allow fear or discouragement to blow out the light of faith in our hearts, God sends a Christian brother or sister to encourage and lift us up (by relighting our flame using their own.)
When we arrived at Epiphany Church, we were met with a group of counter protesters, all dressed in demonic Halloween attire. They were chanting and screaming pro-abortion slogans as we processed right past them into the peace and safety of beautiful Epiphany Church. I wonder if this is a hint of the feeling we will have as we leave behind the struggles of this earthy existence when we enter into God’s presence at the end of our lives?
Here is a very short video from the Mass (1 min): Kyrie from October 31 2021 Mass closing Fall Vigil – YouTube
A second (1 min) video from the Mass: Gloria from the October 31 Mass: Tu solus Dominus, Jesu Christe – YouTube
I will close this post by telling you about the homily that Bishop Waltersheid gave. It has been on my mind all morning. He told the story of Fr. Joseph Kowalski, who was killed by the Nazis for refusing to step on a rosary when commanded to. The story is heart-wrenching but also inspiring. To read the full account, go to:
Here is a bit of it:
“We were gathered in the bathhouse, waiting our turn to be disinfected. [SS Gerhard] Palitzsch came in, the most pitiless of the executioners of Auschwitz. He noticed that Fr. Kowalski had something in his hand: ‘What do you have?’ he asked brusquely. And without waiting for an answer, he struck the hand with his whip, and a rosary fell out. ‘Step on it!’ he shouted. Fr. Joseph did not move. He was immediately separated from the group and transferred to the special discipline unit.”The events of the last day of his life, July 3, 1942, were even more tragic. Every deed and every word of those last 24 hours are clothed with a particularly important meaning. “When our work was done,” one witness tells, “his comrades led Fr. Kowalski to the block; he’d been ill treated by the officers. After his return, I spent the last moments together with him. We realized that after the slaying of our bunk mates (of five, three had already been killed), now our turn was coming. In that situation, Fr. Kowalski was concentrated in prayer. At a certain moment he turned to me and said, ‘Kneel and pray with me for all these men who are killing us.’ We both prayed until the roll-call was done, till late in the evening on the bunk. After a little bit Mitas came to us and called Fr. Kowalski, who rose from the bunk with a tranquil spirit, because he’d prepared for this call and for the death that would follow. He gave me the portion of bread he’d received for supper, saying, ‘You eat it; I won’t need it.’ After these words he went knowingly to his death.“Before the final act, which would occur early on the morning of July 4, on the 3d a sacred play was enacted, in which was revealed the heroic dignity of a genuine testimony of faith. The commanders had gone mad in their mania for killing. They enjoyed themselves immensely with the cruel spectacles they created. On this day they continued their sadistic morning’s entertainment right through their lunch break. One they would drown in the nearby cesspool, others they would hurl from the high embankment to the bottom of a great canal that was being excavated, full of muddy clay. Any victim who moaned, not yet dead, was shoved into a big barrel that was missing a bottom, which served as a kennel for the dogs. They made them imitate the baying of the dogs and then, pouring some of their soup upon the ground, they compelled the dying men to lick it from the dirt. One of the officers yelled with a raucous laugh: ‘And where’s that Catholic priest? He can bless them for their trip to eternity.’ Meanwhile other tormentors were beating Fr. Kowalski down into the mud for their amusement. Then they led him, hardly resembling a man, to the barrel. Naked, he was dragged out of a muddy pool, holding what was left of his tattered pants and dripping from head to foot with that sticky mix of mud and dung. Driven by blows, he came to the barrel where some lay dying and others dead. The executioners thrashed Fr. Kowalski, mocked him as a priest, and ordered him to climb upon the barrel and impart to the dying ‘according to the Catholic rite, the last blessing for their trip to Paradise.’“Fr. Kowalski knelt on the barrel, made the Sign of the Cross, and began loudly, as if inspired, to recite slowly the Our Father, Hail Mary, ‘We fly to thy patronage,’ and Hail, Holy Queen. The eternal words of truth contained in the divine strophes of the Lord’s Prayer deeply impressed the prisoners who from day to day, from hour to hour, expected in that place a sudden death, like that of those in the kennel who were leaving this valley of tears, so disfigured that they no longer looked like human beings. Curled up on the grass, not daring to raise our heads lest we expose ourselves to the view of the executioners, we relished Fr. Kowalski’s piercing words like material food that gave us a desired peace. Upon that ground soaked in prisoners’ blood, our tears now flowed and sank in as we assisted at the sublime mystery celebrated by Fr. Kowalski against the backdrop of that macabre scene. Nestled near me on the grass, a young student of Jaslo (Thaddeus Kokosz) whispered into my ear: ‘The world has never before heard a prayer like this. Maybe not even in the catacombs did they pray like that.’”From a careful reconstruction we learn that he was killed in the night of July 3-4, 1942. He was drowned in the camp sewer. His fellow prisoner Stephen Boratynski, who saw his completely filthy corpse left in front of the block of the so-called “punishment unit,” testified to this under oath.The decree of Fr. Kowalski’s martyrdom was published on March 26, 1999. He was beatified [with 107 other Polish victims of Nazi persecution] on June 13, 1999, by St. John Paul II [who, as a university student, had known him in the parish of St. Stanislaus Kostka in Krakow’s Debniki neighborhood].
Bishop Waltersheid reminded us that none of us knows what our fate on this earth will be. We are fighting against the same evil that killed Fr. Kowalski 80 years ago…there are so many parallels. We never give up and we never let discouragement stop us. Thanks be to God, we are on the right side of this battle. We are on the side of LIGHT. Those who oppose us are on the side of darkness. If we are willing to be martyrs of the rosary, and martyrs of the Holy Eucharist, our culture will be transformed from a culture of death, to a culture of life. Bishop Waltersheid mentioned the previous day’s Jericho March at Pitt, and how the prayers of all those who were marching buoyed him up. I felt the same way! We are blessed to have a faithful group of very devout Christians here in Pittsburgh who love the Lord and His Mother, and who are willing to suffer if necessary.
In conclusion, I want to thank everyone who made our 40 Days for Life a success! Thanks to all our wonderful team members, shift managers & buddies, Diane and Tom for delivering and picking up the sidewalk materials each day, and for all the church coordinators for signing up and helping us to fill the vigil! It is a blessing to work alongside all of you in this most abundant harvest of souls that the Lord has called us to!
40 Days for Life 365 in Pittsburgh will resume tomorrow (Tues. Nov. 2!)
Our 40 Days for Life 365 resumes tomorrow! We need prayer volunteers to continue on the sidewalk every Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 7:30 am to 4:30 pm year round! In fact, this coming Friday, we need a partner for Kim from 9-10 am and a partner for Jeannie from 1-3 pm. And on Saturday, Jason needs a partner from 1:30-3:00 and we have NO ONE from 1-1:30 (so we need two people for that half-hour slot). Please reply if you can help.
Next Sidewalk Advocate Training is on Saturday, Nov. 6!!!
If you think you may be called to do more than simply pray and witness, and would like to take the up-coming sidewalk advocate training, it is this coming Saturday, November 6th. If you would like the details for that training, please contact Greg Engelmeyer at firstname.lastname@example.org