Come Empty! B.Y.O.V.
(Bring Your Own Vessel)
This morning I was reading from 2Kings, the story of Elisha and the Widow’s Oil. In this old testament account, a poor widow was going to lose her two sons to a creditor because she could not pay her debt. When she cried to the Prophet Elisha for help, he asked her what she had of value in her house. She answered that she only had enough oil to anoint herself. Elisha then told her to borrow empty vessels from all her neighbors…as many as possible. When she had done this, she was told to shut herself up in her house, with her sons, and to pour her little bit of oil into the empty vessels, until they were all filled. Sure enough, when the last vessel was filled, and she asked her son to bring her another because the oil was still flowing, he informed her, “I have no more.” Then the oil stopped flowing. Elisha told her to sell the oil to pay her creditor, and she still had enough oil left over to live on.
When we show up on the sidewalk in front of Planned Parenthood to pray and witness, we are coming with empty vessels. Each of us brings our own vessel, all of us needing to be filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, which flows in abundance from God, into His children who are doing His Will.
This past Sunday morning I was amazed at the absolute JOY that I felt after I finished my shift on the sidewalk! It was in the upper 20’s when I arrived at 9 am, but after two hours I was surprised that I had never felt the least bit cold! I had been warmed by the prayers and faith-filled conversation and witness of my brothers and sisters in Christ who were there with me. It was also heartwarming to see the Sunday morning prayer walkers (joined by our dear Bishop Waltersheid), stop to pray with us. We really are a true family, and my vessel was filled to over-flowing from the love in Christ that we all share. So, if you are feeling empty, I recommend coming to the vigil to pray with us. Christ promises:
For where two or three are gathered together for My sake, there am I in the midst of them.Matt. 18:20
He really is there with us on the sidewalk! If we are there for His sake…and not for our own…He will be there among us! If you don’t want to be there, then go for HIS sake. If you enjoy being there because you like confrontation, or have a self-righteous attitude…then you should not come. Our prayer vigil is for repentant sinners who love the Lord and are eternally grateful for having been rescued from darkness and want to share the light of Christ with others.
Today, March 10th, is the commemoration of the 40 Holy Martyrs, killed by the emperor Licinius in the year 320 for their refusal to renounce Christ. I add this to my blog because it seems fitting to our 40 Days for Life movement to remember these 40 holy martyrs. Here is their story (copied from Wikipedia):
According to St. Basil, forty soldiers who had openly confessed themselves Christians were condemned by the prefect to be exposed naked upon a frozen pond near Sebaste on a bitterly cold night, that they might freeze to death. Among the confessors, one yielded and, leaving his companions, sought the warm baths near the lake which had been prepared for any who might prove inconstant. Upon immersion into the cauldron, the one who yielded went into shock and immediately died. One of the guards, Aglaius, was set to keep watch over the martyrs and beheld at this moment a supernatural brilliancy overshadowing them. He at once proclaimed himself a Christian, threw off his garments, and joined the remaining thirty-nine. Thus the number of forty remained complete. At daybreak, the stiffened bodies of the confessors, which still showed signs of life, were burned and the ashes cast into a river. Christians, however, collected the precious remains, and the relics were distributed throughout many cities; in this way, veneration of the Forty Martyrs became widespread, and numerous churches were erected in their honor.Wikipedia, Forty Martyrs of Sebaste
When I read about this during my prayer time this morning, at first I thought about the similarities to our fight against abortion. For God (and so also for us), 40 is a very important number. There were 40 martyrs and we have about 40 shift managers and 40 shift buddies on our team. We freeze for many of those 40 days during the Lenten campaigns. But what struck me about this story is the one martyr who gave up at the end…just as he was so close to obtaining his victory and winning his crown. It is understandable that we would give up out of weakness when things get the hardest. As the saying goes, it is always darkest just before the dawn. That is also when it is the coldest. So for me, this story of the 40 martyrs is a reminder to keep pushing on…especially when things seem the darkest and most hopeless! I am grateful for all those who went before us…all the saints and martyrs who light the path to God. I like to think of them as little lights along a dark path. They help to keep us from wandering off into the darkness.
40 Martyrs of Sebaste…pray for us!
There is a heartbreaking comment on Monday’s blog post. It was posted by a woman who went to Planned Parenthood in Pittsburgh last April, during the lock-down. She said that there was no one on the sidewalk when she had her abortion. She wished that we had been there. She is sure that if we had been there, she would have her baby right now. Her courageous comment pierced my heart deeply. I am so sorry that we weren’t there for you, dear sister! I am so sorry. But thank you for having the courage to post that comment, so that we will know that it is important for us to continue to be physically present on the sidewalk in front of Planned Parenthood! Even though we rarely come to know of someone who chooses life because of us, we trust that it happens much more than we know. And if we can help you to find help and healing from your abortion, please reach out to us! We are your sisters and brothers in Christ. May God guide you and protect you.
Now, on to the stories from today…
Peggy, Charlene & Beth 7-9
We have all heard it before. People walk past you into PP. Some say nothing, some curse, and some have to give you a reason they are entering. ” I’m getting birth control” ( but your shift is over and they have not come out). “I have an appointment with my Gynecologist “. ( I might have missed something but regular Gynecologists in PP? I doubt it). The latest ones: “I’m having a test to see if I have Cancer.” (What?!!) And the best one…”I’m here for Cancer treatment”. (So amazing). And the reason they use these bizarre reasons? They are embarrassed and don’t want to deal with us. They don’t want anyone to know they are getting an abortion…but not too embarrassed to turn around. And little do they know, we are the most receptive and understanding audience they will ever have (except God!) “Stop judging and you will not be judged Stop condemning and you will not be condemned Forgive and you will be forgiven” Luke 6:36Charlene and Peggy
Katie, Terri & Sharon 9-11
It was a pretty quiet shift today. But I talked with a woman who was there with her friend who was having an abortion. I tried to get her to see if she would come out and talk with me but she said she was already having it done. I gave her literature about abortion pill reversal and Rachel’s Vineyard, but looking back I should’ve given her pregnancy help info too so she would know that we’d be there to help her if she did decide to start the reversal process. A little while later she came out with a brown paper bag, and she started crying. Sharon and Terri went over to the car to make sure she was okay, and to encourage her to pursue abortion pill reversal. As soon as Barbara got there we started getting tons of positive comments, but I’ll let her tell you about that in her report!Katie
Barbara & Richard and Katie 11-1
Traffic has definitely picked up downtown. Unfortunately traffic in and out of Planned Parenthood was constant. Each and every time any one went in or out of those doors, Kevin would lead us in prayer for that person. We greeted passers by, “God bless you today!” and received many blessings in return. At one point a man called Michael stopped and thanked us for witnessing for life today. He led us in prayer. As Kevin said, “Michael certainly had authority as a prayer leader.” He comes from Texas and is in town for business. We were glad he shared our business time on the sidewalk. Two ladies from PICC came by with a pro-life agenda in mind. I missed what their main agenda was. They prayed mightily and we were glad to join. Prayers flowed readily and easily. It was a really amazing shift. Chris and Elsie came, each in their unique beauty. So much beauty today!Barbara
Chris & Elsie 1-3
Ah, a summer day in March… Joining me today were Megan, on the opposite street corner, Helen, from Mary Mother of God parish, and Diane from St. John Neumann. Lovingly-persistent Elsie continued her mission to provide fetal development information to every passerby. She even tried to have a conversation with a client inside PP, through their picture window. We prayed multiple Rosaries, reciting the Sorrowful Mysteries. A welcome rarity today was the absence of negative comments. More than a few passersby thanked us for being there.Chris
Claudia & Virginia 3-5
The 3-5 shift saw 2 girls leave PP with brown paper bags, they quickly cross the street, and ignore verbal invitation to talk.
Several small yellow cards were passed out, and a young security guard identified himself as a Catholic recently moved here from France, stopped briefly and spoke to Joe Krol, words of support for pro life. Dave, Claudia, Joe and myself were present, Helen Cindrich left shortly after 3 PM. Claudia and I left at 5 PM and Joe was there by himself.
The brown bag scenario seems to be more frequent than couples going into the clinic, it happens a little bit on Saturdays as well.
Joe K 5-7
Beautiful evening. Relatively quiet, but a lot of pitter-patter of all kinds-o-feet on the brick sidewalk – must’ve been the weather…
Primarily spent the shift in prayer. “Ole” Advocate Jim stopped by and we shared for a bit… Faithful Tom & Diane packed-up in record time (with help from Jim) and off into the afterglow we rode…