Should I pray before an abortion clinic?

Had an email exchange with a reader who calls herself Owl in the Ruins, and given that we both feel like we’re being nudged to “do more,” I reprint much of it here, with her kind permission:

Dear Anchoress,
I just saw you on In the Area talking about blogs. … I think it’s sweet that Fr. K has so much faith in the fact checking mechanisms in newspapers.

I am considering doing something tomorrow that I think I’m supposed to do, but, if I could get a clear message not to, I would be happy. A little background:

Once upon a time, I was pro-choice. It took a long time–even after I returned to Christian faith after a period of agnosticism–for me to begin to see the horror of abortion. But when my eyes were finally opened, I saw that it was butchery, plain and simple. Once the Episcopal Church formally affiliated with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Rights, I knew my time as an Episcopalian was limited. I walked through my process of leaving the Episcopal Church with [a friend and blogger]. She also knew that she would have to leave the Episcopal Church. I became an Anglican in a church under the oversight of Archbishop Venables of Argentina. Anne was received into the Roman Catholic Church on Easter.

We met for coffee yesterday and she told me, that, much to her surprise, she is spending two hours every Friday morning praying on a sidewalk in front of an abortion clinic. … As I understand it, there is nothing confrontational, just the Rosary, perhaps a few Our Fathers, and other prayers. As soon as Anne told me about it, I had this terrible feeling that I needed to join the people who are praying.

At first, I thought my husband would object … But he said, “If you need to do this, then you should do this.” I guess I’m still looking for someone to tell me a good reason not to go. What do you think?

Dear Owly;

Oh, O…I’m sorry I can’t be that person. I have done this, myself – stood across from abortion shops and simply prayed, and it is a very good thing, indeed.

Since Obama’s election, what I have noticed is that pro-lifers are feeling called to put their prayers and actions where their mouths are, to the point where even “I” am feeling pushed into an activism that is completely foreign to me, to volunteer some time at a local pregnancy assistance center. I haven’t made the move, yet, but I’m quite sure I’m going to be ending up there, just as I ended up In the Arena without really ever thinking I would.

We’re all going to be In the Arena, so to speak, before long; I have never been more certain that we are in a real battle, over many things but ultimately between light and darkness. As Chesterton said before he died, “The issue is clear; it is a battle between darkness and light, and everyone must choose.”

I can’t tell you what to do, only God (and your heart) can do that. But what are you afraid of about it? Are you afraid that you’ll hate doing it and feel bad about yourself, as though you were a failure? If you are striking out in faith, you can never be that! Or are you afraid you’ll like it too much and become an unbearable Jane-one-note? ;-)

This struck me today, when I read it – I thought it was a truly excellent observation on what we are really praying for when we are praying for guidance – it’s about Mary Ann Glendon, written by her daughter:

Professor Glendon has spent a month thinking, consulting, and given her deep faith, praying about this decision. (This, for those of you who don’t know, means asking God to help one put aside one’s own personal concerns and act in the way that will produce the greatest good). (Emphasis mine)

That’s a “wicked good” and succinct definition of what prayer is really about, when it is mature, and God-centered.

I don’t know if that helps, but I’ll leave you with one more thought. When [your husband] was sick, you came to understand the power of praying for others when you are yourself in need, and the graces and wisdom it brought. If you stand outside an abortion mill and peacefully pray for everyone inside, the abortionists and their aides, the troubled women choosing to enter, the babies – you are truly moving outside of your own concerns, your own ego, and growing in knowledge of generosity and detachment. Will you save a few lives? Perhaps, if God wills it.

But perhaps the point of your calling is two-fold; to affect the lives of others in a positive way, yes, but also to affect your own life, if you are open and trusting enough to allow yourself to be instructed and changed, as I know you will be.

I am convinced that the abortion issue itself is meant to be the long, protracted, painful, divisive and enduring struggle it is, because it is a challenge to the entire age.

The Torah says, “who saves a life saves the world entire.” Our common-wisdom will sometimes say – over new laws, or new restrictions or new requirements – “well, but if it saves a single life, it’s worth it.” We do know the value of human life, we know it instinctively and intrinsically, because our own DNA shouts out “I am good; I am important and I want to live” with every breath we take, every heartbeat pumped and every new blood cell created. But some of us work against that knowledge, for a variety of reasons. Some of it is self-loathing. Some of it is faux enlightenment. Some of it is simple, stubborn, adolescent contrariness, writ large.

Still, the day is coming when we’re all going to have to give account for the things we believe and fight for. We’re going to have to say, “I believe abortion is a right, and this is why…” or “I believe that any individual life has a right to live and that supersedes all other rights, and this is why.” And we’re going to have to face arenas and lions for our arguments. And we’re going to have to grapple some more, and we’ll make mistakes. We all do, all the time.

I tend to think, and I am a former “pro-choicer” like you, that those who err on the side of allowing life to live are less apt, in the end, to be mistaken. Rhetoric and political resolve and ethical “enlightenment” can dance all day and all night, and never tire, because they are the fascinating products of our own reasoning and we love the fact that we can reason, as well we should. Reason is, after all, the beautiful gift that makes mankind unique in all creation; reason even assists in creation.

Unfortunately, reason also assists in destruction. And perhaps that is the most fundamental argument that faith -though despised by some and onerous to others- needs to continue to place itself at the forefront of this most-urgent of debates. We need the messy, surprises of faith to balance the sometimes terrifying sterility of reason.

I will keep you in my prayers!

Dear Anchoress,

I am not a courageous person. And I think that’s my issue about tomorrow. If you don’t mind, call me Owl in the Ruins. It’s an image from the Psalms that I come across over and over in the Daily Office I read in the Book of Common Prayer. In this case, it’s not a wise owl, but a small, frightened owl left to wander in the desolation. To me, it’s the image of what has become of my church heritage.

I have prayed about what God wants me to do about life and abortion. Having read what you wrote, I have great clarity. This is really, really hard. There are many people close to me that I will not be able to tell that I’m doing this: my sister, my daughter, a number of friends. They simply will not understand, and as I said, I am not a courageous person.

I will go tomorrow and I will tell you about it afterwards. Thank you for your prayers.

And so tomorrow, perhaps, we will know how Owl fared. But I wonder if y’all would be so generous as to pray for her, as she steps out in faith -more courageous than she realizes- to take part in the battle. God bless, Owl I will especially recommend you to Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Unborn, and St. Michael the Archangel, the great defender!

Related: Abortion is a Blessing!

WinteryKnight says prayer is all well and good but…. I maintain that one supports the other and both are necessary.

Nice Deb: thinks Obama thinks Cardinal George is a chump.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Mimsy

    Bless her!

  • Maggie45

    Dear Owl, oh how I can relate!! You DO have courage. Courage is NOT the absence of fear. it is doing what is right DESPITE being afraid. Oh, I will be praying for you tomorrow, you brave, brave servant of God.

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  • jltshea

    This is the time when the truth about abortion “rights” is being laid bare. I always thought that science would settle the issue by proving that a life is a life in the womb from conception on. That was a delusion. We now have a President who agrees with NARAL that a woman has the right to abort a child at any point during a pregnancy. Some good Catholics are resorting to diversionary and false arguments such as the “Church approves of the death penalty” or “the Church did not speak out against unjust war (i.e. Iraq) even though a serious person knows that both statements are nonsense and have nothing to do with abortion.

    The Owl in the Ruins is a courageouds woman and I am confident that she will have plenty of company at the clinic (s)very soon.

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  • kelleybee

    I will pray for you, Owl in the Ruins, as I hope you include all of us in your prayer tomorrow. I have done this-and plan to again-it is scary…you are courageous.
    My hubby and I also support a pro life home on a monthly basis.

  • Bender B. Rodriguez

    “reason and evidence are better”?

    As if the rest of us prolifers who have been in this war for the last 36 years haven’t thought of reason and evidence and debate and argument before. Frankly, a lot of folks have reasoned and proved and argued until they are blue in the face.

    The problem is that reason and evidence will not work until the pro-choice/pro-abort person you are dealing with is open to reason and evidence, which is usually not very much. Before they are willing to be open in the head on abortion, they need to be converted in the heart. And fostering such conversion of the heart is a matter of prayer.

    I only have one request — prayer at an abortion clinic means prayer. It does not mean protesting, it does not mean picketing, it does not mean leafleting, even if they are peaceful, respectful, and quiet. That tactic tends to be the favorite of some of the more “zealous” types, but it is rarely effective given its adversarial nature. Prayer means prayer. And such prayer, being an act of charity, is something that someone in a “crisis” situation is more likely to be responsive to and appreciative of.

    Heavenly Father, Your love is eternal. In Your ocean of love You saved the world through Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Now look at Your Son on the Cross who is constantly bleeding for love of His people and forgive Your world.

    Lord Jesus Christ, You took our human nature upon Yourself. You shared our life and death, our childhood and adulthood. You also shared our time in the womb. Lord, we ask You to bless and protect the children who today are in their mothers’ womb. Save them from the danger of abortion. Give their mothers the grace to see the inherent worth of their children. Help all people to recognize in the unborn child a brother, a sister, saved by You, our Redeemer in the womb.

    Lord Jesus, purify those innocent children who are aborted with the Precious Blood and Water from Your sacred side. May they, through Your wounds, be healed and through Your Precious Blood be freed, to gain everlasting life and be received by the Holy Innocents in heaven and there to rejoice with all the saints.

    Lord and giver of all life, help us to value each person, inspired with life in love by You. In Your mercy, guide and assist our efforts to promote the dignity and value of all human life, born and unborn. Amen.

  • dmd25

    I hope dear Owl will give you a report. She has been in my prayers. Many blessings on her.

  • tim maguire

    I have to side with Wintery Knight Blog. When you accept the truth of abortion, you must oppose it any way you can, just as you would any other system of murder. If I thought praying at abortion clinics were an effective approach, I would be in full support. But the truth is that anyone who will be swayed by public prayer or overtly religious arguments already opposes abortion.

    At this point, the only way to use religion to convert is through conversion itself–to take a non-believer and help her believe. Then opposing abortion is only one part of a larger acceptance.

    I believe that public prayer against abortion, far from leading people to change their minds, will serve to isolate the pro-lifers, make them easy to dismiss as religious nuts divorced from reality. I disagree with Bender that prayer is now the only fall back position after reason failed to sway the unreasonable. Many are unreasonable, that is true and will always be true, but it is not true that reason has been thoroughly tried.

  • alexandrag

    To Dear Owl, God bless you. I will pray for you, and will try to keep you at the forefront of my prayers today. Prayer is a mystery. Pray everywhere, and pray without ceasing, we are told. I must believe that that is true. Lots of folks feel they are living in the ruins, but of what? We are living in the present in the Light of the Resurrection of Christ. And that is everything.

  • Newguy40

    Thank you for that powerful story and thread.

    The comments are a good example of the conflict between those who feel the need for direct action, those who feel prayer is the best response and those who are in between.

    I feel a strong need to challenge those who believe abortion is acceptable. I have felt the same need to speak out for traditional marriage. I live in a very liberal area of central CA. My inability to articulate my arguments well and the level of irrational hate that I have observed and received, make it very difficult for me to respond and I seek consolation and refuge in prayer and worship. I pray for courage and patience.

    I too will add Owl to my prayers. It is helpful to read of such folks.