Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Praying for our President

Alright, guys, sorry for the silence this past week. I've been working on this really long post. I hope you enjoy it!

I've mentioned before that sometimes I spend time praying outside abortion clinics. I want to talk about that a little bit, and explain why I do it.

A lot of people think that people who pray outside abortion clinics are crazies. In all honesty, praying outside of abortion clinics is not an easy thing to do. In fact, I would say it's the hardest thing I've ever done in my (fairly easy, comfortable) life. When you pray outside an abortion clinic, people walking past give you all kinds of odd looks. Sometimes they make nasty comments, but mostly they just glare at you - and I mean serious death-stares, the kind that make a sensitive person like me shake with embarrassment.

I adore making friends, you see. In general, I want every new person I meet to like me. But when I pray outside abortion clinics, the truth is that most people walking past are not going to be feeling very friendly to me. It takes a lot of courage for a fun-loving social butterfly like me to do something so, well, unpopular.

So why do I do it? Why do I subject myself to mean looks, and rude comments, and the judgment and condemnation of passersby?

Well, for one thing, I started doing it at a fairly young age, as I described in this post. I was lucky to have my parents and especially my mom as an example. She is a sweet, shy, and similarly sensitive person, so I knew that if she could do it, so could I.

I do it, first of all, because I really believe in this cause. I believe in protesting the terrible tragedy of abortion - what some even call "the abortion holocaust." I believe in witnessing to the beauty and the dignity of every human life. I believe that the innocent children being killed deserve to have a voice speaking up for them. If I don't provide that voice, who will?

I do it, too, because I believe in the power of prayer. I believe that God hears my intercessions on behalf of the unborn. Even if no one reacts favorably to what I am doing there, God is listening to my prayers, and in the economy of grace He will use my prayers in the best way possible - even if I don't see results at the time.

Most of all, I believe in the strength of a silent witness on the spot. Whether people like what I'm doing or not, they can see me, a happy, normal, 22-year-old woman, protesting against something our culture has decided is acceptable. But it is manifestly not acceptable, and that point can not be made often enough. Of course, we can pray for an end to abortion from the safety of our homes. But our presence, however controversial, is the most powerful witness we can give. When I pray at those clinics, I believe my presence there might affect someone - a scared young woman considering abortion, a person walking by on the street, or even an abortionist. It might make them reconsider the validity of being "pro-choice." If even one heart is changed by my witness, it will be worth it.

So ideologically speaking, I think it's incredibly important to pray in front of abortion clinics. But practically speaking, I really struggle with it. Those mean comments and angry glares are tough to take.

Last fall, I signed up for 40 Days for Life with my friend Cori. We prayed outside a DC clinic for an hour every Friday morning. It really was one of the hardest things I've ever done. That hour took a huge emotional and psychological toll every week. I believed so strongly in what we were doing, but putting it into practice was incredibly draining.

A few weeks ago, Cori sent me a Facebook message asking me if I wanted to sign up for Forty Days again. And guys, I'm not proud of this, but I chickened out. I wrote back that I couldn't do it. It was so recent since our last bout of exhausting weekly vigil. I can do this again in a year, I thought. But not so soon.

But God had His own plans and He was not going to let me off so easily. After I said no to Cori, my conscience bothered me. I felt like I was talking the talk but not walking the walk. I toyed with the idea of writing back to her that I had changed my mind. And just when I was on the verge of doing so, God dropped the opportunity in my lap. My friend Meg sent me a Facebook message: "Have you ever prayed at the [abortion clinic] on [x] st? My friend Ashley and I are planning on going after work tomorrow. Would you be interested in joining us?"

The clinic she named is the same one at which Cori and I used to pray. It was the perfect chance. I wrote back that I could go, and on Tuesday evening, I found myself standing in front of the busy clinic again, with a Rosary in hand.

At first, everything proceeded as I expected it would. I began praying the Rosary with Ashley, Meg and our friend Dave. Meg held a handmade sign that said, "Choose Life." But gradually, we noticed that no cars were going by. This street, which is normally so busy, was deserted.

The street had been closed to traffic, we realized. Police blockades stood at every intersection with sirens blaring. A man walking past us joked, "I hope all of this isn't just for you!" We laughed nervously, but we too were wondering what was going on.

As yet another policeman rode past on a motorcycle, Dave put it together.

"There's a motorcade coming through," he said. "I think it's the president!"

The clinic is only a few blocks away from the White House, you see. It stands directly on the president's route home. As soon as he said it, I wondered why I hadn't thought of that right away. It made perfect sense. The police were preparing for the president to drive home.

I felt awed by the opportunity we had before us - to witness to life before the president of the United States himself. Especially before a president who, if I may say so, is in desperate need of that witness.

Sure enough, black SUVs with small American flags affixed to their hoods began coming towards us. We moved to the curb and Meg held her sign high. As the SUVs got closer, Ashley whispered, "Everyone ask President Obama's guardian angel to make him look over here!"

Dave's guess was correct. It was the president alright. Ashley and I both saw him. I saw his profile, looking exactly like it does in the newspaper pictures, in the back seat of an SUV as it passed. I don't know if he saw us. I couldn't tell.

When the motorcade was gone, we returned to our places in front of the clinic, where we had been before. We finished our Rosary and waited for the next shift to come. I was amazed at what had just happened. I had been afraid to come to the clinic, afraid to be a witness for life, and God had taken this opportunity to show me how very important that witness is.

We went to a restaurant for dinner after that and talked about fun things - a girl Dave is dating, Meg's new boyfriend. We also shared our worries about the future of the Church in America. Especially with the furor surrounding the HHS mandate, these are scary days to be a Catholic. A lot of people think that even darker days lie ahead.

I texted my mom and a few friends about what happened, and my mom wrote back, "Wow maybe you moved his heart." While I sincerely hope that's the case, I kind of doubt it. Our president's mind is deeply mired in the ideology of the pro-choice movement. A few young people he passes on his way home are unlikely to change his mind.

But what will change his mind, I believe, is prayer. I don't know what God has planned for him, but praying for him can't hurt and can only help. I think sometimes it's easy to get so caught up in political disagreement and to forget about Christian charity. Our president may have radically anti-life views, but he is a human being, a child of God, and he is still deserving of our prayers. In fact, he is even more deserving of them because he is, I think, so much in need of them. If you have time today, please spare a prayer for him.

As for me, I'm going back to that clinic to pray tonight. I know that the hour I'm about to face is going to be a tough one. It won't be easy, but I know now, more than ever, that my witness is needed. Please keep me and my friends in your prayers as we keep vigil there tonight.

One last thing - please keep another president in your prayers: Father Jenkins of Notre Dame. Some courageous Catholic institutions are preparing to stand up to the HHS mandate in civil disobedience and I have a wild dream that Notre Dame will be one of them. Father Jenkins will need all the prayers he can get in order to take this stand, as some alumni are asking him to do.

Thank you for reading!


  1. I'll say some extra prayers for your and your friends. I doubt I would have the courage to stand outside the abortion clinics and pray, even though I believe abortion is wrong. I admire you and your friends for the good work you are doing.

  2. Wow, I know how hard that can be (in fact, I believe I have even prayed outside the exact same clinic of which you are speaking). You start to wonder, as you watch the women walking past, and not even look at you, if you are even doing any good. But you never know what life you make actually touch or what effect your prayers are having on one life. And what an incredible chance to be able to witness to the highest power in this country. I say good for you, especially doing something that was difficult for you!
    By the way, I just recently found your blog and I love it :)

  3. No pain, no gain, Sweetheart! No guts, no glory! Continue to be courageous and do not fear to stand up for what you believe in! Do not forget that you have the entire heavenly court and the Communion of Saints at your side.

  4. Thank you so much for the kind words of encouragement, ladies!