I did my shift at Ground Zero from 1AM-5AM earlier this morning as part of my parish (St. Maurice) committment day for the 40 Days for Life. It’s 6:15AM right now. I haven’t gone to sleep yet. I have to go to work in a couple of hours so it’ll end up being an all-nighter. I’ve been feeling rather guilty since I have not been down at Ground Zero more than a few hours thusfar, largely due to family and excessive work committments. So this stretch of a few hours makes me feel that I’ve caught up somewhat. If people only knew the kind of dedication of some of the vigilers and the early morning hours they keep and sacrifice for, they would really be impressed. I can tell you that I’m impressed with them as I see their registrations every day.
So, anyhow, I thought this particular early morning vigil was going to be a lot like the ones I did during the last campaign. Lots of silence and not a heck of a lot of action. This time, however, would be different.
About 2AM or so, a young man was walking down the street with his friend. It was cold but he didn’t have a jacket on. In fact, he just had a T-shirt. He crossed the street to get a better look at us and what we were doing (Frances Wilkinson and another lady named Frances were with me at the time). As he came closer he passed by us and read our signs. Didn’t say much, if anything at all. He crossed back over to the other side of the street and was about to enter McDonald’s when he yelled something at us. It wasn’t exactly positive. Just another kid with an attitude, I thought. I thought that would have been the end of it, but 20 minutes later he came out and started walking towards me. I braced myself and asked God for the grace to say what needed to be said. He started out by asking me what I thought of the situation where the Birth Control Pill failed as a result of the Pharmacist not filling out the proper prescription dossage, and that it wasn’t the couple’s fault that they had gotten pregnant, but the doctor’s fault. I said that there were two issues here. First, that he was naturally presuming that pro-lifers want to “punish” the parents by refusing them the abortion because normally it would be “their fault”. I explained to him that we were not there to assign blame or condemn anyone, only to witness to the humanity of the unborn. We were not there to blame a woman or a man who were simply careless, either. That answer seemed to put him at ease somewhat, judging by the expression on his face. Then I asked him how the situation surrounding the conception of the child changes the biological reality of the unborn baby. He saw that point as well and didn’t argue it.
He then proceeded to bring up his objections to explicit abortion pictures that some pro-lifers use. In the course of his outburst, he admitted that he and his girlfriend had had an abortion. It quickly became clear to me that the scenario he presented earlier was his own scenario. Over the course of the next 30 minutes or so, he would blurt out how his girlfriend would sometimes cry when she saw a baby carriage. I could see the pain and hurt in his face in short bursts of regret. I saw the humanity and desperation of this kid. He must have been no older than 22 or so. I told him that what he had done was wrong. He didn’t contest it. He knew. I talked to him about his lost fatherhood and that I had 4 daughters and that human life is beautiful. I said, “I want to speak to you as one father to another.” He said that he wasn’t a dad anymore, referring to the abortion. I told him that he still was and that he could be united with his child forever in eternity. That what he did was very wrong, but that he could be forgiven because God loved Him. Right here and right now. It sounded cheesy, I thought, as I uttered those words, but the Holy Spirit was taking over now and I was merely going with the flow…I could see that he had never heard words of hope or consolation before. (Why would he? He certainly wouldn’t hear it from the culture of death. Since it does not recognize the pain of abortion, it can’t offer the consolation that it denies is needed.)
I then asked him for his name. He hesitated somewhat, but then told me his name was “Joe”. I told him that we all make very bad mistakes in life sometimes. That I myself had made mistakes. He then got somewhat emotional and asked me if I had ever been involved in an abortion. I told him that I hadn’t. He said then how could I feel what he was feeling? I said I couldn’t. But that I was here to help him. That I care. That I’ll pray for him…That I love him. I said that I was out here at 2AM in the morning for him. “Joe, bud, I gotta go to work in a few hours and I’m out here like a crazy man waiting for someone like you to come around. How many of your friends would do this for you because they cared about you? See those women over there? Well there’s a whole bunch of crazies just like us standing out here 40 days in a row, 24 hours a day in the freezing cold most nights so we can pray for you and try to help you before you go into that abortion mill and when you come out.” He fell silent and I could feel the Holy Spirit moving within him. I told him about the scam of the Pill and all contraception and how it was one big lie and showed him how he got into the mess in the first place because of it. I told him that sex was supposed to be natural and that it was wrong to pump his girlfriend with synthetic hormonal chemicals. I told him that for every surgical abortion, the Birth Contol Pill aborts two babies. Amazingly, although he wasn’t totally there yet, he listened and seemed to agree with what I was saying.
I told him about his need for healing and forgiveness that only God can give him so that he can live a happy and productive life. That God can heal the division and sorrow and pain between him and his girlfriend; that He can help them overcome it. I told him the help that is available for her and him through Rachel’s Vineyard. I told him it was OK to feel bad about the abortion, but there was help for guys like him. It was not wrong to mourn or weep as a guy. He just stood there motionless but open and receptive, contemplating what I was saying to him. I told him about Jesus’ mercy. That was probably what impacted him the most. His face broke for just a moment, and I could see that mercy had never been offered to him. It was like a huge weight had been lifted off his shoulders, although he said nothing, his face said everything. (When someone goes through an abortion, they need to defend it at all costs because they cannot bring themselves to admit the horror of it. So all of the rationalizations and poor arguments are marshalled in order to defend their actions. They do this because they have no “out” of the situation. It’s history. They killed their unborn child. The only out is Jesus and His mercy. That’s why they need to hear it. It’s their escape from desperation and despair).
As we finished our conversation, I told him, “Joe, man, you might not be ready to hear this right now…I understand…but one day you might need the hope and consolation that I am offering you. If you remember nothing else from our conversation, just remember that, OK? Remember – hope and mercy.” He said that he would and walked away.
I then spent the next two hours standing in the cold darkness, thankful that I had kept my pyjamas on underneath my jeans.
– John Pacheco