When there is no silver lining…no positive “spin” to put on a situation…how do I write a blog reflection to encourage you? This is how I am feeling as I sit down to write. These are just my thoughts, and maybe some of you who read this will find comfort in some strange way.
I am thinking about the LOSS that we are experiencing in our world today…mainly the loss of faith. The faith in God was what held our western society together, and we can now see how our society is rapidly deteriorating without it. It is sad to watch. Most of us have children who do not have any faith and don’t go to church. Many of us have grandchildren that aren’t even baptized or receiving any sacraments or knowledge of the faith. What sort of future do they have in store for them?
As I knelt on the street, along with hundreds of faithful Christians, in front of Planned Parenthood during our kick-off event last Tuesday, I was close enough to Fr. Mario that I could see the strain in his face as he courageously continued in his prayers while a man was screaming vulgarities and mocking him, mere inches away from him. I saw him nervously cast a glance at Fr. Chris who was kneeling in front of him, as if to gain some courage from him…which it seems he did. Our priests are not accustomed to praying in front of large groups of people while being harassed verbally by protestors. I doubt they teach that in seminary. It used to be that our society respected spiritual leaders, and publicly humiliating or berating a member of the clergy would have been unheard of! As my heart went out to Fr. Mario, a thought came into my mind. I thought of a young soldier in boot camp, being screamed at by his drill sergeant…his face inches away…saliva spraying all over the young soldier’s face. This is a common scene in movies…you can picture the scene. Usually, the drill sergeant is picking on a certain soldier because he wants to “toughen him up”. So my thought was, maybe God is allowing Satan to “toughen up” our young priests? Could it be that He wants them to be ready…to be prepared…to face persecution of Christians?
As we processed out of the doors of Epiphany Church, on our Eucharistic Procession to Planned Parenthood, we all heard the protestors screaming at us these words, “You Christians are all gonna DIE!!!” I thought to myself, rather amusingly…., “Yes, I am aware of that…and I hate to break it to you, but so are you!” I kept silent but I have to admit that tone in his voice was sort of disturbing.
On Saturday, His Excellency, Auxiliary Bishop Waltersheid had a pro-life meeting for all of us respect life leaders in the Pittsburgh Diocese. There were about 30 of us gathered. He began his talk by telling us about a family of 9 who was recently beatified by the Vatican. The Ulna family lived in Poland in the 1040’s on a small family farm. Jozef and Wiktoria had six children (8, 7, 6, 4, 3 and 2 years), and she was pregnant with their seventh. They were Catholic, and because of their faith they decided to hide three families of Jews in their attic. They hid 8 people for 18 months in a small crawlspace under their roof. One day the soldiers came to their door. They immediately found and shot the Jews in the attic, and then they shot Jozef and Wiktoria. The six children were screaming and crying as they watched the terror before them…and then the soldiers shot them also. They were buried in a shallow grave by the soldiers, but were dug up soon after by neighbors, in order to be given a proper burial. When they found Wiktoria…who had been VERY pregnant at the time she was shot…they saw that, in her duress, she had begun to deliver her child…and the boy child was found, half-delivered, between her legs.
The reason His Excellency shared this story (and the reason that I share it with you), is that we now have, for the first time, an unborn child who will be recognized as a saint! Although un-named…we can ask this unborn child of the Ulna family to pray for us from Heaven!
This is a sad story, with no silver linings, other than this fact…that we have a pre-born child as an intercessor in Heaven. Similarly, our world is looking very sad right now, and I don’t see any silver linings there either. Maybe a persecution is coming, I don’t know.
Last Thursday, before my early morning shift at PP, I found a 6:30am Mass at a church I had never been to before. It is in Lawrenceville…St. Augustine Church. When I walked into the darkened church, I was amazed at the beauty! It was such a contrast to the world outside! I felt I had stepped into the past…into a world where people believed in God, and they organized their lives around Him. They gave Him their very best when they built these churches! It is sad that churches aren’t built this beautiful anymore. The world has moved on, away from God. As I sat in awe and wonder, looking around the dimly, candle-lit Church, I recognized a certain feeling in my heart. It was a wistful feeling, like I was missing someone I had lost. A memory of my father came into my mind from years ago. I had met my biological father for the first time when I was 30. He lived very far away, near Sun Valley, Idaho…in a beautiful log home in the mountains that he built himself. I would visit with my two children as often as I could, but it was always so hard to leave and return back to my life here in Pittsburgh. I had missed out on so much time with him, that I just wanted to stay with him forever. When I would come home from the airport and unpack my suitcase, I would hold the clothes up to my face and breathe deeply the scent that still remained from his home, and I would cry…missing him. That was the feeling I had in that darkened church last Thursday. It was as if my love was gone…God is gone…faith is gone. But His fragrance still remains in the remnant of His Church.
So how can I “spin” this to encourage you to continue praying and fasting for an end to abortion at Planned Parenthood during these 40 Days for Life? I would just ask you to remember what it must have been like for Mary and John as they remained at the foot of the cross, as they watched Jesus die. How sad it must have been for them to lose Him! Where was their silver lining?
Well, we now know that there was a silver lining…it happened three days later. And I believe that we will also be rewarded if we do not give up and flee from discouragement or fear. If we remain faithful and courageous…as Fr. Mario was, as the Ulna family was…we will see God’s triumph!
I am sorry for this very long blog reflection…but I just wanted to share my heart.
Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoy today’s blog reports.
Stories from the Sidewalk
Rather quiet shift, though a few women did go in: a couple, mom & daughter?, some women alone, guys, as well as a number of workers. Anthony again led the rosary for us (Peg, Mary and myself.)Cathy
Conrad began our shift with prayers and continued to pray for the babies and their moms, dads, & grandmothers as he held the beautiful image of Our Lady and Our (hidden, unborn) Lord of Guadalupe. Mary, Peg, & Cathy stayed for awhile into our shift, partly because Mary was deep in a conversation with a passerby (Conrad assured me it was very positive!) Bill H. stopped by briefly. Sadly, there were many mothers and (hidden, unborn) babies entering through those dreaded Jaws of Death. We were able to give literature to two women as they left, and — as they didn’t seem hostile towards us — we can hope and pray with extra confidence that it may bear fruit. Please, dear God. The happiest part of the shift was an interaction with a passerby who looked familiar, so I asked if she already had our literature. She said yes and that she is actually pregnant but NOT planning to abort. I asked if she knew about Birthright, and she smiled and informed me that she is indeed already one of their clients and will be attending one of their client luncheons later this month! I’m making a wild guess that she found out about Birthright through one of YOU on the sidewalk!!! God is good!!! And this is why we give lit to passersby! Priscilla and Katie arrived early for their shift, followed closely by Joyce. A gentleman from St. Anne’s Church came to claim the honor of holding high the Guadalupe replica.Elsie
Ed with the Our Lady of Guadalupe sign
Prayer warriors Priscilla, Joyce and Arlene
Elsie and I were pleasantly surprised today to see a particular homeless friend who we had been worried about. She had been in the hospital but looks much better and her injured foot is healing. She sat on my bin for a while and as we were talking she mentioned that she needed an ace bandage, which I happened to have in my first aid kit, so she bandaged her foot and Elsie bought her some Advil, probably missing her bus in the process. I talked for a long time with a woman who was accompanying a neighbor who was there for an abortion; she was friendly but kept changing the subject from the situation at hand so I had to keep redirecting her back to the ways we could help her neighbor. As far as I know the story doesn’t have a happy ending, but we can pray. Thank you to Priscilla, Joyce, Arlene, Ed and Dan for the prayers and for being there!Katie
Kevin, Elaine, Phil, Arlene, Dottie, and Chris
Mary Jane and Sue
What a multitude of prayer warriors on the sidewalk during my shift today! For most of the shift there were 10 of us. Praying multiple Rosaries and Divine Mercy Chaplets with me were my Shift Buddy, Elaine, and Dottie, both from Our Lady of Perpetual Help; Arlene (St. Joseph the Worker), Mary Jane (St. Thomas More), Sue from Our Lady of Hope Parish, Phil from St. Aidan Parish, and Kevin from Regina Coeli Parish. Dan, from Holy Family in Steubenville, and a veteran of many campaigns, held a sign that said “Science Proves Life Begins at Conception” and showed a picture of a child in the womb. Sidewalk Advocates Katie and Judy tried to offer informational brochures to women approaching, or walking by PP.
A woman in her 20s walked past us while we prayed the Rosary. She swept the fetal models off the table with her hand. In an instant, our security guard restrained her. He asked us if we wanted to press charges. The perpetrator kept saying she was sorry and said she believed in God. The assembled prayer volunteers said it was my decision, as Shift Manager, whether to press charges. After thinking about it, I approached the woman and told her, “We forgive you” and asked her to promise not to do anything like that ever again. She promised she wouldn’t. She went on her way. Whether she was truly sorry for what she did, I think, is doubtful.Chris
Today was pretty quiet, and it may be that PP closed shop early today, as the 1:00 to 3:00 shift said they saw lots of PP employees leaving after 2:00 PM, and we don’t normally see them leaving until after 4:00 PM. The poster of Our Lady of Guadalupe was displayed for our shift.
We did have one homeless visitor who asked if he could have Rosaries and a tiny preborn baby model handout. We said yes, and then he proceeded to mount the baby on the Rosary somehow, and wore it like a necklace. He then took off a skull cap he made out of a garbage bag, brought it to me and said he made if for me. He then left without incident.
Eileen reported a story to me from last night, as she was walking in her hometown of Crafton. She came upon a young woman sitting on a curb, with nothing but a large bottle of vodka, complaining that someone had dumped her there on the street and took all her personal belongings. The woman was crying, and said she wanted to go to Wall, PA, and that she was going to kill herself after she finished her vodka. Eileen called 911, and the Police took her into custody for safe keeping.
We also had a few comments from passersby, some positive, others negative, but all comments delivered calmly. We had one young girl who asked if she could take a Stop Abortion badge. We didn’t see any women, other than a few employees, leave PP, so they may have closed early today.Larry