Letter From the Zone #3 is my weekly reflection after praying outside Hobart’s abortion centre, within the 150 metre exclusion zone.
The focus of this week’s post is on the benefits of praying directly outside an abortion centre.
It is inevitable that there will be found Christians who believe it is wrong to pray in public. Matthew 6:5 is often cited:
And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have their reward.
But it would be superficial to dismiss people praying outside abortion providers as hypocrites who are seeking only to draw attention to themselves. Without resorting to a back and forth of scripture quotes, I’ll give one of my favourites which sums up my reason for holding vigil outside our local mill.
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is a shame even to speak of the things that they do in secret; but when anything is exposed by the light it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Eph 5:11-13
When Chris and I pray in Victoria Street, there is no fanfare, there are no signs, and I’m sure many people rush by us without noticing our reason for being there. Many do take a second glance when they catch a glimpse of our rosaries, but keep on walking, as you would expect.
Last week, we were surprised when a man came up and asked if we were praying outside an abortion centre. When I told him that we were, he said to keep up the good work and not to stop. I asked him to join us, but he then told me that he was from out of town and had to catch his flight back to the mainland. This was a nice bit of support and showed that a prayer vigil, however small, does expose the evil of abortion and gets people thinking. Those thoughts may not be particularly charitable, unlike those of the gentleman we met, but that doesn’t matter. Every effort made to expose abortion will bear fruit in some way, at some time.
When the police allowed us to pray within the exclusion zone, they made several requests, one of which was that we don’t gather on the day the abortion centre is open. To do so would be in direct violation of the Tasmanian Reproductive Health Act, by “intimidating” women who enter the centre. I’m happy to comply with this, since I have no wish to be arrested, due to my family commitments.
Praying on days other than opening day is a grey area, and one that abortion advocates seem reluctant to have tested in court. A test case of this gross violation of freedom of speech is unlikely to end well for them, and would be lengthy and costly. With the likelihood that those praying would be given an order to move along before an arrest was made, we are happy to commit this simple act of civil disobedience in order to expose evil, and also to invoke Mary’s powerful intercession around the abortuary.
The following was taken from the Helpers of God’s Precious Children website, and answers the question “Why pray outside an abortion provider?” The answer is quite beautiful and details the spiritual and corporal benefits of prayer vigils. (There is a lot of information about prayer vigils and sidewalk counselling on this website, and also a page of free downloads which you may want to check out here.)
That we might be faithful and pleasing to God by saving the physical lives of God’s precious infants through the spiritual conversion of their mothers.
That we might grow closer to God by experiencing the mystery of His Cross. By denying ourselves comfort in the morning, we will better find out what Calvary is like.
That we might more clearly realise Christ’s personal love for each one of us, and know the joy of having responded to His call.
That we might learn to pray, offer penances, abandon the results of our labors to God, and recognize that it is God’s power and love which will overcome the evil of abortion and soften the hearts of those who participate
Another example of the Church’s sanctioning of public prayer include prayers for the dead at a cemetery. Prayers certainly could and should be said at home or at Mass for loved ones and souls in purgatory, but there are indulgences available for those said at the graveside. In a similar way, an indulgence is given for a Mass attended on a feast day of a parochial Church, whereas attending in a different church brings the usual graces obtained from Holy Mass, but no indulgence. Read more about the indulgences here.
Jesus Himself gave us the example of praying publicly when He was dying on the Cross and even in death, no privacy was afforded Him: every bloody torture that was inflicted on His Sacred Body was witnessed by soldiers, jeering crowds, compassionate women or fearful disciples. Surely His example of praying in public is worthy of imitation, when done in a humble way.
While researching this article, I came across a fascinating article on Monsignor O’Reilly, founder of the Helpers, about his experience on the day the World Trade Centre in New York City was attacked.
Monsignor O’Reilly had a vision while praying the Rosary at Ground Zero on the night after the 9/11 attacks. He saw a profound connection between the terrible destruction of the Twin Towers and the abortion holocaust. You can read the entire account here at Life Site News.
The holy Monsignor ends his account with these remarks, “it became absolutely clear to me that Ground Zero is ongoing. Be not afraid then to go Golgotha, to the abortion clinic, to Ground Zero near you, to rescue the unborn children.”
My next post will be on civil disobedience, especially as it relates to the evil of abortion.