This past weekend was the seminary's monthly free weekend for September. A lot of the guys drove home to visit their families. Some stayed behind and did homework. I ended up among those recruited to help out with various events at the home diocese. After driving up to Duluth on Friday, I took a four hour shift from 2am to 6am outside the Building for Women as part of the massive pro-life campaign 40 Days for Life.
From now through November 2, people in 179 cities in 47 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa and two Canadian provinces are taking part in 40 days of prayer and fasting, constant vigil and community outreach!
This is the first time Christians in Duluth have participated in the campaign. About 600 abortions are performed in the Building for Women in downtown Duluth each year. In the wake of past campaigns, clinics around the country have seen dramatic declines in business. A couple have even closed.
The man I shared those four hours with is on his way to discern with the Franciscan Brothers of Peace here in the Cities. Until November 2nd, this vigil will be his full time job with 50-70 hours a week of the night shift. Those are the hours the drunkards are finding their way home. Things were pretty quiet. The only notable incident of the night came with a couple of young military guys heckling us over the references to fasting on our signs. They asked us whether we knew why had we had the right to be standing there. I gave them the stock response. Flattered or humbled, they turned back and apologized. One of them told us that his girlfriend had gotten two abortions without telling him in that very clinic. The other was pro-choice. We talked with them a bit, but they mostly argued with each other. They were vulgar, dismissive, and drunk, yet the only thing that shocked me was their apparent lack of hope. The memories of Iraq they related were full of hatred and the relationships with women they described were void of love. These men were twenty something years old and already broken by life. As they left, my partner said, "God Bless." The weary reply came back, "I wish He would."
Some people don't know what it is to be loved. Being reminded of that ought to be a source of fierce determination. Let's realize the gravity of our mission.