Be A Visible Presence

imagesJust before Holy Week, I had the great privilege of spending one morning at Aid To Women, a crisis pregnancy centre in Toronto, Canada.  I interviewed the Executive Director for an article I’m writing for the print edition of Catholic Insight Magazine.

ATW in Toronto is one of a group of ATW centres in North America that offers compassionate counseling and support to women and couples in unplanned crisis pregnancies.  Located at a busy downtown intersection, it is right next door to one of the city’s busy abortion clinics.

I had never been to a crisis pregnancy centre before and didn’t know what to expect.  I was greeted warmly by the Executive Director who radiated genuine warmth.  The centre itself is decorated in simple but inviting decor, complete with big comfy, leather couches.  Over mugs of steamy green tea, we talked about the important work of Aid To Women.

Because of its unique and providential location next door to an abortion mill, one of the aspects of their work is on the sidewalk, trying to talk to the young women before they enter the abortion clinic.  Day in, day out, good or inclement weather, there is at least one counselor trying to rescue moms and babies from the horror of abortion.  The work can be exhausting and at times, discouraging.

Along with the counselors, there is always at least one prayer warrior holding up a pro-life sign while praying quietly.  These volunteers stand behind the 60 feet injunction zone mandated by the city.  ATW considers the prayer volunteers to be absolutely crucial to their life-saving work.  It’s certainly not a glamorous position as the volunteers, like the counselors, are often subjected to insults, rude gestures or are completely ignored; but they are still a very visible presence – and that’s what counts.

“It’s not enough for people to pray in their homes,” explained the Executive Director.  “Pregnant women considering abortion need to see a strong, personal, public declaration of belief [in the sanctity of life].”

Those are challenging words, to be sure.  Prayer is excellent, but a witness presence is even more so.  Visible prayer that gives testimony to the light of Christ in the midst of today’s abortive mentality is a powerful and counter-cultural thing.

I’ve heard many people say that they’re just not suited to and not built for standing on a sidewalk with a pro-life sign.  They prefer to pray in the comfort of their homes and churches.  I think that’s wonderful.

But I think you know where I’m going with this.

It’s the Year of Faith, a time to “open wide the doors to Christ” as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said.  Pope Francis is taking that message to heart in his very visible love for the marginalized, the vulnerable and the poor.

How about us?  Can we do more?  Can we “open wide the doors” in a more corporeal way?  Can we step outside of ourselves and do something radical and different; something that we wouldn’t normally do?

Any time I and/or my family has participated in a pro-life prayer vigil we have encountered jeers, rudeness, anger.  Whenever that happens, I think of Christ’s passion and the insults and abuse He bore for us.  I also think of the little babies who will never be born.  I can’t always shield my youngest children from unkind remarks and gestures but with continuous dialogue about the purpose and importance of what we’re doing, they’ve learned to deal with the jeers – with silence and continuous prayer.

I’m confident that in most towns and cities, there is at least one pro-life organization that would welcome a prayer warrior’s presence for an hour, a day, whatever you can give.  The Executive Director at Toronto’s ATW said that a one-time commitment or a more regular commitment are both appreciated.

“Jesus teaches us another way.  Go out.  Go out and share your testimony, go out and interact with your brothers, go out and share, go out and ask.  Become the Word in body as well as spirit.” (Pope Francis)

We’re all busy, I know.  But I also know that with a little bit of planning and a whole lot of self-sacrifice, there is a stretch of sidewalk and a pro-life sign somewhere not too far away waiting just for us.

Deo Gratias

Linking this up to Catholic Bloggers Network Monthly Link-up for April

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10 Responses to Be A Visible Presence

  1. I remember being a young man in 1978, when John Paul II first spoke to the world. “Open wide the doors to Christ!” he told us. I was so impressed with his confidence and optimism. I shall always associate those words with him.

    I believe that whenever you pray for those who are preparing to be born you automatically pray for their mothers.

    Peace,

    Paul

  2. Ryan M. says:

    My wife used to work for a crisis pregnancy center. These organizations are doing such vital work to save mothers and babies from this evil, and I think we all need to support them in whatever tangible ways we can.

  3. abcinsc says:

    “visible love”… that’s the key – and Pope Francis is leading the way.

  4. SR says:

    I love this post 8 kids. You are so right we need to be “visible” when it comes to this issue. I will truly say I have been one of those praying “at home.” I heard on EWTN last night where a waste truck comes to the “abortion mills” and they throw all of these dead babies in it to haul off! It made me absolutely sick!!! I thought, “I do not even do my dogs this way when they die!” Your post really made me think and thanks for sharing it. God Bless, SR

  5. Just the business, if we don’t respond and bare witness to what we believe and show solidarity, what’s the point?

  6. reinkat says:

    We do need to make ourselves visible in this and in all issues, from the politically “hot” to the everyday witness of how to live our lives with meaning. In a world where it is grounds for being fired for talking about one’s faith, we need to do all we can to let our “lights shine” steadily and lovingly.

  7. You are very inspirational. Thank you for this post.

  8. Me says:

    I have been wanting to pray the rosary outside of PP for a long time. However, I know my boys will not sit with me during that.
    What horrifies me now is that Plan B is soon to be available w/o prescription. I see this as a huge problem. That means anyone can get it…a controlling/abusive partner, etc. In college I knew a girl who took it and she was so very sick from it. No one in any news source has brought up how that much hormone effects a body. They are suggesting it for 11 year old girls for “emergencies.” If a 19 year old girl had a hard time with it, I cannot even imagine an 11 year old. This is not that I approve the pill at all, I wish it never existed. It is another “easy way out” that can now be abused in so many ways.

  9. lilyboat says:

    “We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.”(Acts 4:20) I read your post a day late, and what a great timing because it goes so perfectly with today’s reading. Different kind of witnessing, but I am so grateful and thankful for God to make me a witness of His great Love for all humanity. I thanked Him in my prayer for that very gift at the Adoration and have been contemplating about our roles as the followers of Christ. We are His witnesses and that says it all.

    Thank you for yet another necessary post inspired by the Holy Spirit!

  10. Teresa Rice says:

    Awesome post Terry!! You really spoke to my heart. One thing that I regret not doing while I attended Franciscan Univ. is getting up early one Saturday morning going to the Pittsburgh abortion mill and praying. I think I will make it a priority to meet the students at the Pittsburgh abortion mill at least a couple times per month. Thanks so much for this heartfelt call to live out the faith in actions, be witnesses for the pro-life movement, instead of simply praying. God Bless.

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