The time spent on retreat with Monsignor Reilly in New York has had a profound effect on both my spiritual life and the way I perceive life issues such as abortion and contraception. Here I will try to share the message that I was privileged to receive. Those of us who were blessed to attend had our eyes opened to the culture of death which now engulfs our society and were instructed on our role as followers of Christ in spreading a counter-culture of life. I could write a whole edition of LifeLines on what I have learnt but to stick to the limit, I would like to focus on three aspects that struck me the most during the retreat. These include: taking the love of God to the mothers, the importance of praying in public and the mission we each have in promoting a culture of life.
On the train to Old Bethpage for a family barbeque, three of us retreatants decided to speak to a couple of girls who appeared to have just attended the gay pride parade held to “celebrate” the legislation of same sex marriage. We had no idea what we were going to say but thought we would go along with whatever came up. As I sat down next to one of the girls, I noticed that her friend, Rachel, who sat across from me, was wearing a shirt with an image of our Lady. Rachel was herself heterosexual but was accompanying her lesbian friend to the parade and the image on her shirt was no ordinary image of Mary but rather Our Lady of Guadalupe – the very reason for our whole trip! Was it a mere coincidence or was it Providence? After a lengthy conversation, which occupied the entire one hour train ride, we found out that she was a Catholic but had stopped going to church because of the hypocrisy she felt she saw there. She later found a local Baptist church which she believed accepted her the way she was. So who was she?
At twelve, Rachel was watching her parents drink alcohol and do drugs with many of their friends. At fourteen, her parents were divorced and she began using drugs herself. At fifteen, she had left home and was living with a friend (who, thank God, was asleep next to me or we wouldn’t have gotten this far in the conversation). Rachel could just as easily have been one of the girls going into an abortion clinic and I realised what my purpose was at that moment. Jesus loves this girl just as much as He loves you and me but the distractions and disasters of her world put up a smoke screen preventing her from seeing that. It is our mission given to us by God to take this love that, by the grace of God we have been able to see, to people such as Rachel. We are to show them this Divine love both before and after an abortion. As Monsignor Reilly stressed to us, God never stops loving the mothers who have had an abortion but rather it is they who stop loving Him. We as pro-lifers have to make this known to them and invite them to come back to loving God and find that peace that was lost in their abortion.
To be pro-life, we must be concerned with saving the souls of everybody involved and that includes the abortionists. This must be portrayed in the way we pray and the way we speak. To be angry and resentful towards those involved is to be consumed by the culture of death; but to respond with the love of God is to be witness to the Gospel of Life.
One of the commonest objections people raise about the prayer vigils is the fact that we pray on the sidewalks rather than in a church or the privacy of our own homes. I must admit that, initially, this thought ran through my mind as I woke at 6.30 on a Saturday morning to make the journey to the vigil. When we pray on the street we should appear prayerful and not be seen to be looking around and talking. In this way we don’t pray at the people walking past or into the clinic but to God Who will answer our prayers. In being prayerful, we become witnesses such that when people see us they think about God and about the victims, mothers and children, and of their worth. Here I would like to stress that our purpose is not to be seen but simply to pray – the benefit that God will bring about from our prayerful presence is what you might call an added bonus! I guess it’s also worth adding that many of us would not spend over an hour praying for the unborn and their mothers if we weren’t on the sidewalks (I would be the first to admit this!).
This last aspect stemmed from my reflection on Monsignor and the work that he does. As St Paul says, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ”. Jesus has given each of us our own unique mission in spreading His Gospel of Life and some have a bigger part to play than others. Not everyone is called to be a Monsignor Reilly. But we must profess our belief through our words and actions, towards the people that God places in our path – whether that is showing them love and kindness or perhaps correcting them when they glorify promiscuity and lust. If each of us accepts the seemingly small tasks given to us by God and does them well, then we will be doing His will and as one body united to Christ we allow Him to work through us and achieve His will on earth. So pray and reflect to discern God’s will in your everyday life and do every act with love.
As I have been encouraged, I would like to encourage others not to be afraid and to be witnesses to Life in their own lives, even if it means making sacrifices. And most of all to do it with love!
My sincere thanks go to FLI and the generous supporters who made my journey to New York possible