I took the decision not to attend the pro-life vigil in Bedford Square this evening. Robin is on call and so it would have entailed a return train journey between London and Brighton together with 3 children, two in a double buggy and an eight-year-old. Though I was desperate to be there, having supported 40daysforlife spiritually and certainly since the inception of this blog, if not always physically, it simply would not have been fair on anyone. The counter-40 days for life demonstration had the potential to turn unpleasant and I did not want to expose a sensitive 8 year old to potentially graphic slogans and a confrontational crowd.
I am also very torn about whether or not to explain the concept of abortion to my daughter. Robin feels very much that she is of an age to understand, an American priest friend of mine told me how he was taken to these types of vigils every weekend from a very early age, however no matter how sensitively I explain the issue, there is an intuitive part of me that wants to protect my children from the horrors of the adult world, until I feel that they are able to emotionally cope with them. I think my daughter could cope if I’m honest, I think she’d be quite shocked, but I also think she would be compassionate, as she understands that being pregnant is very hard for some ladies like mummy and she knows that life is going to be very demanding for us, come August, with 3 children under the age of 3 and not much in the way of practical support or childcare.
So we stayed home and prayed together as a family instead. Fortunately, it all seems to have passed off rather peaceably, although no official reports have been filed as yet. Madeleine Teahan from the Catholic Herald was live-tweeting, as were a few other Catholics and the impression that I got was that though outnumbered – there were approximately 300 vigil participants to 700 pro-choice demonstrators, thankfully no actual violence took place. It seems that the pro-choicers did get a bit too close for comfort to those on the vigil and were predictably quite disrespectful to those who were praying, they attempted to drown out Soul of My Saviour with 10 green bottles and generally chanted and shouted some derogatory slogans at those who were trying to pray, but that was to be expected.
The instructions for those attending the vigil were not to speak to or engage in any way with the protestors and to make as little noise as possible. The vigil was to be a silent, peaceful and prayerful affair, and this is largely what seems to have happened, the peaceful, gentle nature of the 40daysforlife participants, providing a stark contrast with the brash noisy jangling chants of the protestors. Here is the statement of Bishop Alan Hopes, the auxiliary Bishop of Westminster who was leading the prayer vigil.
One always knows that one is doing something right, when one receives flack from all sides and certainly I had much sympathy for Bishop Alan who seemed to be coming in for rather a lot of harsh and unfair criticism over the vigil. The abortion industry had the gall to call him immoral, the irony of that statement obviously bypassing them and a tiny minority of pro-lifers who don’t think that 40daysforlife is a politically wise venture, similarly criticised him, for stirring up trouble. As I said last week, Pro-life for Catholics, should consider of politics, prayer, PR and of course, positive action to help mothers with crisis pregnancies, not just in terms of short term measures but working for changes in society. As Catholics, we should never underestimate the power of prayer, our faith is empty without it, so it was profoundly depressing to see a Bishop being criticised, for what is his job, or more accurately vocation, in terms of leading his flock in prayer. As Christians we believe God is everywhere, not confined to the linear space of a Church and we must not be afraid to carry our faith with us wherever we go. 40daysforlife is not intended as a substitute for decent political activism but rather as a compliment. It has certainly been successful in raising awareness of the issues, but I agree with Megan Moore’s commentary that the pro-life “movement” such as it is, must ensure that it is not only associated with vigils. The Catholic Bishops in England and Wales often attract criticism from the Catholic blogosphere as do clergy who are often not perceived to be doing enough in terms of pro-life work. Therefore we have to give credit where credit is due, it’s a rum do if a Catholic Bishop can’t lead his flock in support of key teachings of the Church. To be fair to the Bishop, I don’t think he anticipated that there could have been a backlash, the counter protest was only arranged after he had announced his presence. Rumour has it that Laurence England was present as well as the stalwart Clare, so it will be very interesting to see their accounts of what happened as well as read Madeleine’s official account in the Catholic Herald.
On the subject of Laurence, his moving blogpost from a few days ago, detailed the case of a woman who had been a victim of rape, who didn’t really want an abortion but felt she had no other choice. I decided to go and offer 40daysforlife in Brighton my support earlier today. There were only 4 supporters, not particularly frightening, standing next to a banner stating “We are here to help you” in the late evening sunshine. They confirmed that this lady is currently staying at their house, literally having nowhere else to go, she is homeless, needs help on a detoxification programme, is under pressure from her GP and Social Services to abort the baby, who she would really like to keep. When I tweeted about this, I was overwhelmed by the offer of help from an incredibly kind pro-life tweep who has offered to pay for a private health subscription for her. Though hackneyed, I’ve literally been crying tears of joy that someone could be moved to be so astonishingly generous. When we decided that it wouldn’t be a good idea for me to take the children to Bedford Square this evening, Robin pointed out that there would be plenty of other opportunities and that prayer at home could be just as productive and certainly safer for us.
The Holy Spirit certainly knows what he is doing. Had I attended Bedford Square then I would not have attended the Brighton clinic, made plans to support them over the weekend and I would not have tweeted about this brave woman who deserves all the support and help that she can get. God always answers our prayers, but never in the way that we might expect. What a providential end to the day. Deo Gratias.