In Ireland, this Sunday, we celebrate the ‘Day for Life’. The bishops made their appeal in a special pastoral message which will be read and distributed in all Catholic parishes on the island this weekend and which also marks the start of a month of prayer around the theme “Choose Life!”, announced last month. Ireland’s Catholic bishops have called on “all who believe in the equal dignity and beauty of every human life” to “join us in calling on our public representatives to respect the humanity and life of children in the womb and to reject abortion.”
Throughout Canada and the US, something similar called the 40 Days for Life is currently in course. It began on the 26th of September and runs until the 4th of November. There have now been ten coordinated 40 Days for Life campaigns since 2007, mobilizing people of faith and conscience in 440 cities across the United States and Canada, plus cities in Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Belize, Denmark, England, Georgia, Germany, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Poland, Puerto Rico and Spain.
On Friday, 5th of October, a small group of students from St. Paul’s University and some others gathered to pray the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet outside the abortion clinic in Bank Street here in Ottawa. To be honest, I was slightly nervous as this was my first time to participate in any kind of public display of Pro-Life prayer. Thankfully in Ireland, abortion is still illegal and we don’t have abortion clinics or abortion mills. Before we went to Bank Street, we went to St. Patrick’s Basilicaand prayed before the Blessed Sacrament. From there onwards I was at peace. I asked the Lord to give me strength to be his instrument, silent and convinced of the precious gift of life.
We made our way down to the venue where a small group of people had already gathered to support the 40 Days for Life.One of the priests pointed out the location of the clinic as we were standing on the opposite side of the busy street. In my head I guessed that it would be a backstreet dingy and dark building but this was a shiny main street building, flanked by McDonalds and Curves. The irony is that Curves, an international chain of women’s gyms, often direct their advertisements towards women who want to get back their figure after giving birth! A glitzy Rolex jeweller shop front was the main attraction of the whole building. No-one would know that on the third floor of this same building, abortions were taking place. There was something very eerie about the normality of life around this centre of death. I wondered to myself, how many people know what goes on in there? Or if the people in the Rolex jewellers are aware of what is going on over their heads as they spend hundreds of dollars on jewellery. Again, ironically, one of the priests pointed out to me that the trees on the street are all protected by netting so they don’t get damaged. Somewhere along the way our priorities have seriously gone out of synch!
We prayed the Rosary, taking a decade each. Some people stopped and stared. Others awkwardly moved along quickly or ignored us pretending not to see us. Children waved and smiled. Life went on around us. People ate their lunch on the street benches beside us as teenagers giggled and laughed, texted and called friends. As we prayed, I offered each Hail Mary for those mothers, prayed that Mary, our Mother, would touch their hearts so as to welcome the life that God had allowed them to conceive. She knew too well what it was like to experience a pregnancy that was not expected, not planned, yet it was God’s will that she bring forth a child.
It was very fitting that we also prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy on the feast day of St. Faustina. Each invocation ‘for the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world’, reminded me also of Jesus’ words: “forgive them Father for they do not know what they are doing”. Deep down, I believe that these mothers and fathers do not know the full extent of the harm which they are doing to themselves, not to mention, their unborn baby.
This little but powerful group of prayer meets every Friday to pray whether it be sun, rain or snow. Next Friday, 12th of October, 2nd day of the Year of Faith, the students from St. Paul’s will pray at the site for the whole day from 7am to 7pm to continue the prayer for the 40 Days for Life. The Word of God will be proclaimed throughout that time too. On this day, our priests will offer Mass for this intention. Many others who cannot make it to pray on site will pray from their homes, their communities or wherever they may be. Please join with us wherever you are and pray that hope will shine through for those who see abortion as the only way out. If we create a culture where life is valued, we really will live the fullness of life which Jesus promises us (Jn 10, 10).
Sr. Mary-Louise PDDM