40 Days for Life: A Transformation Process

During the 40 Days for Life efforts over the years, our Knights of Columbus Council provides 24-hour shifts outside an abortion clinic where we say Rosaries and other prayers for a continuing 24-hour vigil during the 40 days. This year, as is usually the case, I pulled an early morning hour shift (4:00 am). Being alone in the dark of night can be a time of reflection on what the 40 days are all about and I caught myself asking this question – What are the effects of what we are doing particularly at “0 dark thirty’ in the morning?

What Kind of Difference?

The most basic question is that of what kind of a difference do we think we are making?  The most immediate effect we hope for is, of course, the saving of unborn children. To that end whether it be one child or 50 it is worth the effort. Another effect which is related directly to the first is that of changing the hearts of the expectant mothers. In turn, as has happened in the past, we can hope that the abortion center staff start to question what they are doing and leave their jobs. Finally, for want of a better term, we are making a statement. It is a statement of faith and values that are seldom seen in our secular culture. The act of standing on a street corner with a sign or of actively praying is a powerful testimony to life and the dignity of the human person.

These kinds of direct effects can be visibly achieved during the daytime hours when the pregnant mothers and workers show up at the abortion clinic. But what about the effects of saying prayers at 4: 00 am in the morning or anytime during the night time shifts? There is nobody to demonstrate in front of, there is no one to see the signs or hear our prayers, there is no nobody to provide sidewalk counseling – it’s just one or two people willing to stand out in the dark often in the cold and rain to say prayers. This is where I had to put some real thought into searching for an answer.

Prayer For Life

Specifically, from the Pro-life perspective, we believe that prayer can be a powerful tool that does have an effect, especially from praying the Rosary. We pray to end abortion, we pray for the pregnant mothers who are considering abortion, we pray for the unborn children and we pray for the abortion workers to “see the light” about protecting life. Saying prayers at 4:00 in the morning may have untold effects which we may never see. To a certain respect, the prayer vigil can also be seen as a concrete expression of our faith and belief not just to others but to ourselves.

As Catholics, we believe in prayer as a means of communication with God and the Saints. Regardless of the intentions, it does us good to have a prayer life. It can be likened to calling up your kids and grandkids on a weekly or daily basis to share our experiences with each other. So, our effort in front of an abortion clinic is a continuation of us practicing a needed pray life.

Transforming Ourselves

Finally, there is the impact the act of praying in front of the abortion clinic can have on us. While the focus of the 40 Days for Life is on “the other” there is always an effect on us as individuals. That effect is something we don’t often think about, but hopefully, perceive.

We often hear and read of the transforming effect of Christ. By practicing our belief in him, by trying to follow his model for our behavior and by following his commandments we are participants in an ongoing transformation process. While there are several passages from Sacred Scripture that illustrate this transformation there are two that sums up the process:

Psalm 51:10

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

       Romans 12:2

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

From this perspective, the results of our Pro-life actions are in terms of the effects they have on us. The continuing actions we undertake for Pro-Life can be viewed as an enabling process to aid this transformation. For want of a better term it can “bring out our better angels”.  Monsignor Alfred Newman Gilbey, the one-time Catholic chaplain to Cambridge had a quote attributed to him that highlights another aspect of this transformation process.

“We are not led to undo the work of creation or to rectify the Fall. The duty of the Christian is not to leave the world a better place. His duty is to leave this world a better man.”

So, in conclusion, a significant effect of saying our prayers outside an abortion clinic regardless of the potential effects on preventing abortions is that it helps to make us better men and women. I think that is a transformational difference that we should all strive for.