What were your thoughts beforehand about praying with Catholic Men For Life in front of Planned Parenthood today?
The first time I prayed in front of Planned Parenthood last year, I felt very nervous and scared. But today, I knew where to go, I knew where to park, I knew to fast and abstain so I wouldn’t have to use the bathroom. But I’m sure some men may have felt uneasy beforehand if they hadn’t done anything like this before. Because there were so many men there, no one was a stranger and everyone was so helpful with getting situated. I was very excited to not only support the cause but to support the guys like David Syzdek, Beav Deering, and the priests who had put so much time and effort into this.
What did you hear about the Mass this morning? What did it mean to you that the day began with Mass?
The Mass had to be held in a back parking lot, fairly secluded. There was a great turnout at the Mass, with a lot of families. Fr. Paul Raftery, OP celebrated. While I wasn't able to be there, to know that the day began with Christ Himself being elevated, as though a light shining on Planned Parenthood, meant everything.
What did it mean to you that the clergy had a visible presence there throughout the day?
The shepherds were there supporting their flock. Of course we all have the same views on abortion, but not only do they send us out at the end of Mass every day to share the Gospel; for them to actually show up there supports us in our efforts to live the Gospel of Life and is a great encouragement.
What did you see when you arrived at the site of the gathering in front of Planned Parenthood?
There were probably about 40 men gathered on the sidewalk, which stayed consistent even with people coming and going. I have never seen such peaceful and beautiful signs. The signs had icons, stained glass images, and were very spiritual. At times when I’ve prayed in front of Planned Parenthood in the past, I’ve wanted to distance myself from some of the really disturbing signs. Our goal was to be peaceful and non-confrontational. The signs were very compassionate. They said with this beauty and serenity, “We are here because we love you. We care.” There were prayer mats and cardboard for men to use to pray on their knees on the snow. Father Paul Raftery was there from the beginning until I left four hours later. As far as I know, he was planning to stay all day. Fr. Augustine Hilander, O.P. and Fr. Tom Lilly (a diocesan priest) were there. The Dominicans wore their habits. The Archbishop arrived in his clerical collar and his prayer book and led all of us in prayer.
What was it like having the Archbishop pray with you and impart his blessing during this time?
He led a prayer for the children entering Planned Parenthood, and also for the efforts of the Apostolate. After he greeted people, we all huddled around him as a group, 40 men surrounding him in silence and listening to his prayer. Then, in the middle of his prayer, a car drove by with a woman screaming at us, “Go home! Go home!” The Archbishop had a small smile on his face at that point. He paused until she was done, and then continued.
Did you have any particularly profound moments during prayer? What was the prayer like?
Since there were so many of us, there were several small groups praying the Rosary simultaneously. During the four hours I was there, we prayed four full Rosaries of the Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysteries. At several points, I was profoundly moved by the Mysteries in a whole new way. While pondering the Joyful Mysteries, the Annunciation was especially meaningful, imagining that joyful news that a life has been created and the joy of being a parent. There is a reason it is called “a bundle of joy.” It is so amazing. And with the Visitation, how Mary, who now is pregnant not only with a baby but the Word Made Flesh incarnate in her womb, drops everything to go help her and possibly be a midwife to her cousin who was once barren and now is also carrying new life. I was wishing these women who were going to Planned Parenthood had that type of support and compassion, and if they do have it, to be able to receive it. All of the Mysteries were profound.
Probably the most powerful point of prayer was during the Sorrowful Mysteries and especially during the Scourging at the Pillar, remembering how Mary was the first woman to ever walk the Stations of the Cross. I remembered reading in The Dolorous Passion of Jesus Christ how Mary wiped up the Precious Blood of Jesus with linens as his skin and muscles were ripped apart by the soldiers’ whips. I thought about her wiping up the blood of children and her deep sorrow at their innocent blood being spilled. Even though the doors were closed at Planned Parenthood today, there are still the remains of children in there, awaiting disposal.
What are your hopes for this Apostolate?
My prayer is that this will continue. We all have such great hopes because of the amazing turnout and to see how many guys really do care about this issue. Also, the Knights of Columbus and other people were incredibly helpful and generous with provisions while we were there. And although many of us have been involved in this issue, and with 40 Days for Life, we as fathers are the protectors and the guardians of our families. We need to speak up for other families, not just our own.
|Archbishop Roger Schwietz, OMI (right) of Anchorage, Alaska leads the men in prayer.|