Just another typical Saturday. Today, I had plans to go pray in front of an abortion clinic like I normally do.
I woke up at 6:45AM this morning after a late night watching The Avengers with my parents. Got dressed. Went downstairs. Let my new puppy outside. Let her back in. Got in my car. Drove to McDonald’s to get a coffee because I really needed it. Then I drove to my parish to wait in the parking lot for others to show up to carpool over to Planned Parenthood.
I arrived at my parish at about 7:10AM and no one else was there. I decided to turn on some classical music because I didn’t feel like listening to mainstream music. 7:20AM rolls around and no one had shown up yet. I know I told people on Facebook to show up by 7:15AM. Letting my mind wander, I thought about how I’ve been pretty much consistently praying in front of an abortion clinic once a month for little over a year now. And I was satisfied with how I’m keeping up with it, although all those times I’ve prayed in front of an abortion clinic, I never saw apparent fruit from our presence in peaceful prayer.
What my parish group normally prays is the full Rosary–all 20 Mysteries, using a booklet specific for pro-life Rosary-praying. We usually try to get to Planned Parenthood by 8:00AM because that’s when most of the clients start showing up for their appointments. Since November, this particular Planned Parenthood we pray at hadn’t been doing abortions because their abortion doctor had to quit or stop working at this location because he commutes from really far away multiple times a week, and he couldn’t handle that anymore. So for a while, this Planned Parenthood couldn’t perform abortions because they hadn’t replaced the doctor. That, in itself, is a miracle. But in the past month or two, they’ve resumed. Unfortunately. This Planned Parenthood performs abortions on Saturdays, and that’s why we usually try to be present and praying on a Saturday.
This morning’s weather was awesome–beautiful, partly cloudy with a breeze. When we arrived at Planned Parenthood, I noticed that the parking lot wasn’t as full as it normally is. Usually the security guards spend more effort directing clients where to park, but not this morning. Probably because it’s Memorial Day weekend… While that can be seen as a good thing that the parking lot wasn’t as full, the same was true for us pro-lifers too. We didn’t have as many people praying on the sidewalk like we normally do because of the holiday weekend.
We started praying the Joyful Mysteries. Some sidewalk counselors show up and also another parish group. Cars pass by every now and then and usually I take a peek to see if it’s a client or just people passing through on the street. Sometimes I wave or nod. One of the guys in my group, ‘Sam,’ likes to wave at like…every car–whether client or not.
After the Joyful Mysteries, we start with the Luminous Mysteries. Halfway through that, I see ‘Sam’ at his end of the sidewalk give a funny, annoyed, “I can’t believe I just saw this” look as a car passed by. The woman in the car awkwardly paused in the street in front of us as if to go into Planned Parenthood’s parking lot, but she seemed confused and drives past us to park in the overflow lot. We keep praying, but ‘Sam’ and the sidewalk counselors head over to the woman, and unlike most clients, she chats with them for a while. I guess ‘Sam’ and the counselors told her to park where parked our cars down the street because that’s what the woman did. But we kept praying as ‘Sam’ followed the woman.
Continuing onto the Sorrowful Mysteries, I noticed ‘Sam’ brought back the woman to our group. I noticed she was holding a Rosary in her hand so I thought, “Oh, she’s one of us and maybe she was confused on where to park earlier…maybe she didn’t know she had to park a street over…But, I don’t know why ‘Sam’ reacted awkwardly when she drove in…maybe he knows her? -shrug-” So that’s cool, we gained a new prayer warrior. When we started praying the Glorious Mysteries, she even led one of the Mysteries!
So in this pro-life Rosary booklet, we normally go through a litany and other prayers after we finish the full Rosary. In the back is an examination of pro-life conscience that we never go through as a group. But this time, ‘Sam’ made us go through it because he felt the need for it. No biggie. Everyone rolled with it.
After the examination, ‘Sam’ brought us in like he normally does. Usually in thanksgiving and to remind us the importance of why we do this. But this time, he said that a miracle happened this morning. And I remember thinking, “what…? but nothing happened!” Because, from my perspective, nothing out of the ordinary happened.
But it all had to do with that woman that joined us for the Rosary, who, if you remember, was someone I thought was there to pray with the rest of us.
‘Sam’ let her explain her story to our whole group–our parish group, the other parish group, the elderly woman there on her own accord, and the sidewalk counselors. And we listened to her story. And I’m not gonna lie, I wept. A bunch of us did. Oh my gosh. We witnessed a miracle–a change of heart! And most of us didn’t even know until she told her story!
So this woman who pulled up and joined us is an African woman from Nigeria named Immaculate. Yes, Immaculate. Like, after Mary. She has several children and is a member of a local Catholic parish in the diocese. Last year, she gave birth to a premature baby daughter, whom they named Faustina (after the saint). If I remember correctly, Faustina had to be born prematurely because the pregnancy was compromising Immaculate’s health due to complications of her womb. Because Faustina was a premature baby, she had complications with her own health. I didn’t catch exactly what those complications were, but she survived for a little over six months before passing away. Understandably, losing a baby so young would cause great suffering for the parents. Immaculate told us that they had a priest baptize Faustina before she passed away. 🙁 That was towards the beginning of this year when Faustina passed away.
After losing Faustina, Immaculate wanted to find out what was wrong with her. She sought the help of her gynecologist and after tests and whatnot, the gynecologist concluded that Immaculate needed to get her tubes tied to prevent further pregnancies. And she didn’t agree with her doctor and didn’t go through with tying her tubes. Well, recently…Immaculate found out she was pregnant again. And because Faustina had to be born prematurely due to Immaculate’s own health concerns, Immaculate feared that this pregnancy would lead to another demise. There’s genuine fear here…on both Immaculate’s part and her husband’s. They couldn’t bear to lose another child again. I think…because of that fear…Immaculate’s husband told her to get an abortion. Abort the child now, before having to go through what they had already gone through with Faustina.
Earlier this week on Tuesday, Immaculate went to Planned Parenthood to seek options. And, basically…they told her to come in today, Saturday, to either take the pill or go through a surgical procedure to abort the baby. She had an appointment at 8:00AM this morning to go through with an abortion.
As she was telling us all the details mentioned above in tears, she’d say how scared she was. She was praying a Rosary and crying on her drive over to Planned Parenthood this morning. She’d been praying hard about this…but she felt like she had no other option but to go through with the abortion and obey her husband.
But then she saw us praying the Rosary when she pulled up. ‘Sam’ gave that funny look because the back of her car had a 910AM Radio bumper sticker (it’s our local Catholic radio station). Anybody reppin’ the Catholic Church shouldn’t be pulling into the parking lot of a Planned Parenthood.
Apparently, by our presence praying in front of Planned Parenthood was enough to convince her not to go through with the abortion. She was actually running late for her appointment because she was so horribly conflicted leaving her house this morning. She pulled in at like 8:30AM. Praise God ‘Sam’ and the sidewalk counselors were quick to respond to her awkward arrival.
After she told her story, one of the sidewalk counselors offered her literature and resources so that Immaculate could get the help she needs. Also, apparently Immaculate’s own parish has some pretty awesome people involved who can help her find good doctors, financial assistance, and other helpful resources to ensure her health and the health of her baby. In addition, a few of us gave Immaculate a few blessed items to help her out too. I personally gave her one of my many extra Miraculous Medals from past Youth 2000 retreats.
But…oh my gosh. How …amazing. This woman had suffered much with her last child and had been led down the path to go through with an abortion. The people she sought help from kind of led her down this path that would inevitably lead to more suffering. She was scared and conflicted. She didn’t want to do it…but she found herself at Planned Parenthood–where we were on the sidewalk praying–to go through with the abortion.
And she chose not to go through with it. She received help, materially and spiritually. She can go get second opinions on her health situation. She was so grateful that we were there. We were so grateful we were there. Our purpose in being there this morning was affirmed!
Miracle moments do happen. Life is beautiful.
Our parish group went to breakfast afterwards, and we were talking about what had happened at Planned Parenthood. While in line to order food, I was talking to our youth minister about how disappointed we were at the start of today because our group lacked nearly all of our usual youth who prays with us at abortion clinics. Actually, participation had been declining recently and we were sad about that too. Also remember what I said at the start of this post…that in my time as a regular prayerful faithful at abortion clinics, I haven’t witnessed anything visibly and immediately fruitful of our efforts. Both my youth minister and I agreed on that too. But he brought up a good point: God doesn’t need a big group of people to make a difference. He can change hearts with a few people. And that we shouldn’t be discouraged if our friends are not there to join us on the front lines. God still works even if we’re not as strong. How awesome. Though it is a shame that the others who usually join us missed out on witnessing what happened this morning. But that’s okay.
Now, for those who are on either side of the Catholic fence…it does seem odd that a Catholic couple would go through the idea of going through an abortion when our faith is very vocal and clear on the issue of abortion. For some, it does seem justifiable that Immaculate could have gone through with the abortion because her current pregnancy may jeopardize her health and/or the baby’s health. And not every Catholic knows the faith well enough to make clear decisions regarding these matters.
But realize…she’s scared and very much afraid. She doesn’t know her health situation…and she’s still suffering from the loss of her last child…She only had the opinion of her gynecologist who told her to go get sterilized and her husband wanted her to go get an abortion because he’s scared and doesn’t know what to do either. And she was so conflicted about the whole process of this abortion and nearly went through with it. Deep down she wants to have the baby. She knows it’s alive. But she felt like she had no other option but she kept trusting in God. I think Satan was truly at work here…that in Immaculate and her husband’s suffering from losing Faustina, left them vulnerable to his lies. Abortion, then, would seem like the only option to conserve Immaculate’s health and prevent having to go through the possibility of another premature birth dangerous to the baby’s life.
This is what I love about being a pro-life Catholic. The Catholic network is rather extensive and we can easily provide the resources that any woman needs to help her go through with a pregnancy. But only if she’s open to it. And if only women knew that there are other options. To be pro-life requires us to be pro-woman…to be pro-woman demands that we be pro-life. Some people tend to focus on narrow aspects of women’s health when really we should care for her holistically (body, mind, heart and soul) and not reduce her well-being to only her privacy and physical state. And not only that, a pregnant woman needs support throughout her pregnancy.
I love being Catholic because we respect the dignity of all human life, from conception to natural death. All human life is beautiful and dignified. And we need to try our best to share that with the world.
But, I hope my retelling of this morning did justice. It was a lot better in person…I assure you.
At the very least…please keep Immaculate, her husband, and their baby in your thoughts and prayers. While the choice to not abort this morning is a milestone indeed, Immaculate still has a long road ahead of her. She still needs to tell her husband that she didn’t go through with the abortion and that, I would imagine, would present some difficulty in him finding that out. Be assured though, for she has been given the support she needs to keep herself and her baby healthy and the financial resources to make it happen as well. Since ‘Sam’ gave her his contact info, I hope we’ll be able to check in with her and see how things are going down the road.
And…as for me…despite the discouraging lack-of-any-good-things-happening-while-praying-in-front-of-abortion-clinics and the lack-of-any-fellow-Catholics-praying….this totally happened this morning. And for that, I’m grateful and blessed for witnessing that. Not gonna lie…I did weep some while writing this blog post as I recalled her telling of her story.
St. Faustina, pray for us. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.
PS And I’m okay if you share this blog post with others, if you feel compelled to do so.
The issues of sterilization and contraception can be thought of while reading this blog post. I think a helpful book to read about that is Sex Au Naturel by Patrick Coffin, which I blogged about here.
There are no gray areas regarding abortion. It’s not justifiable for any reason, via any method. I think a good resource for more clarity on that is www.catholic.com which would also point to other various resources.