It’s OK to cry a little.
I felt self-conscious about my tears but then decided if you can’t cry a little in front of an abortion clinic while reading scripture then maybe there’s something wrong with your heart. I just allowed myself to let my heart feel, in a prayerful way, where I was and what I was participating in without becoming a distraction to myself or to anyone else. The other people had loving gentle expressions and as I met their eyes I realized we were all weighed down by the tragedy of what happens in that bland building across the street, and yet we had joy in God’s merciful love.
Forgive me a sinner.
Praying at the vigil, even among a gentle group of Christians, with no confrontations with anyone at the clinic, was more arduous than I expected. It was spiritually exhausting. By the time my hour at the vigil was over, I felt an almost Lenten bright sadness. There was a part of me that felt a sense of healing, of growth after the hurt of struggle.
When I described this to my husband, he related it to the part of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by CS Lewis when Eustace, a boy who has been turned into a dragon (the dragon body sort of physically symbolizes Eustace’s sins) tries to scrub off his scales as part of his process of becoming a boy again. Eustace was able to get off some scales, but all that itching and rubbing was frustrating and painful. Aslan, the Christ figure in the book, helped him. This was how it felt to pray in front of the clinic-- like a really good scale scrub. Lent is a beautiful time to scrub off the scales.
Bring the Word of God.
A friend came with me when I returned to the abortion clinic prayer vigil the next week. Margarita, the woman who organizes our local vigils, told me the most important part is prayer- prayer and being loving. My friend and I prayed by reading the Psalter. Hearing those beautiful words while standing across the street from a place of such despair pierced my heart in places I can’t describe.
It’s wiser to go with a group.
Going with a group protects you. The group will know where to stand- in our case, we must stand in front of the no trespassing signs. They’ll give you resources in case someone changes their mind and needs help. They’ll pray with and for you. 40 Days for Life holds peaceful prayer vigils which are a great fit for Orthodox people.
Margarita said they’d love to see more Orthodox come out. She said I was the first one she knew of at our vigil and they’ve been doing it for years. I felt ashamed and didn’t know what to say. Praying at vigils is what we do, isn’t it?
My seventeen-year-old son Andrew came with me to the vigil the third time I went. Andrew suggested that we pray a Paraklesis to St. Stylianos. Here is an excerpt: