Teresa Shumay, Contributing Writer
Outside an abortion mill in Dallas, a sidewalk counselor approached a woman and offered her a pamphlet for a pro-life pregnancy center. The woman seemed skeptical, and, pointing to a person reading a prayer book a short distance away, asked, “What is she doing?”
The counselor replied, “She’s praying for you.”
“No one ever prays for me,” she scoffed, and entered the building.
Situations like this one would seem to indicate that the presence of people praying alongside sidewalk counselors, even if they are peaceful and devout, undermines the counselors’ work. It is assumed that people will feel alienated or uncomfortable when they see someone praying nearby. But the story of this woman isn’t finished.
Not much later, she came out with a friend, pointed to the person praying and said, “Do you see her? She’s praying. She’s praying for me.”
A few months later, her baby boy was born.
True and devout prayer is invaluable in the battle against abortion. The work of the counselors must be based in and surrounded by prayer because God alone can convert hearts. Those who come to pray at the abortion mill are the essential spiritual support for the counselors as well as a visible sign of the seriousness of abortion.
Praying anywhere other than the mill is not the same. As Catholics, we understand that where we are when we pray has significance. Even though God is present all around us, we pray in front of the tabernacle because he is especially present there. We visit and pray at the tombs of the saints and of our relatives because their bodily remains are there. We pray outside the abortion mill because the rejection, the sin, the despair and the death are there. We are physical as well as spiritual beings, and where we are when we pray matters.
Our presence in front of the mill is also a testament to the enormity of abortion. The operation that happens there is not just another medical procedure. It is a tragedy. When we stand and pray in front of the mill, people driving past wonder what is going on there. Many were unaware of the mill until they saw us praying. The women themselves have been surprised at the importance we attach to being there and have stopped to speak with us.
If we are not peaceful and prayerful, however, the work of the counselors will be undermined. In the past, I’ve seen groups of people “praying” outside of abortion mills shouting the rosary at the women entering. The women became defensive, and it was impossible for anyone to approach them and offer help.
Crusaders for Life’s Prayerful Presence is completely different. The women at the mill are expecting hostile protestors. What they see instead is a group of young people focused on prayer. The sidewalk counselors stand apart from them, ready to offer practical help and a listening ear. No shouting, no graphic signs, only prayer and loving, pro-life support.
This kind of prayer, and this kind of witness to the preciousness of unborn life, are essential to the pro-life cause. We cannot be silent or hidden. We must expose and end the evil of abortion – but we must do it in the right way. God alone has the power to touch a mother’s heart, and we must ask him to.