From Rescue to Rosary

Joe asked me to meet Msgr.Reilly and every time we’re together at the sidewalk at Manhattan he insists that I’d love to meet him and I would fake an interest in my face and give some excuse. This has been going on for a couple of months. What’s so interesting about an 80 yr old priest and what more possibly he could teach me i thought. an astounding arrogance incarnate I am! However fate paved way that I had to think about my country ‘India’ which performs approximately 6 million abortions every year. I knocked the doors of well known Pro Life leaders asking for help for my country. Since i posses neither money nor reputation nothing about me or my request interested them. And just as I got used to call every Pro Life leader with the weird request to help INDIA or leave a message only to never hear back, one day I receive a call from a feeble old man whose voice or tone I never understood. After much difficulty I deciphered that he’d like to see me in person to discuss about ‘INDIA’.  And  that’s the beginning of the drastic change in the sidewalk counseling journey- from Rescue to Rosary.

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I decided to meet the owner of this fragile broken voice. Brooklyn- Uh not the kind of place like Manhattan. Old monastery building and rusty gates. I ring the doorbell and enter into a small room which is the visiting room of Monsignor. Old creaky fan, half ripped wall paper, old fashioned lights, not so fancy chairs, worn out table with piles of paper and on top of it is a letter from Fr.Frank Pavone the  Director of Priests for Life requesting Monsignor to review his book, Oh I know Fr. Pavone ! I try to make myself comfortable in one of those antique chairs waiting to see the owner of the broken voice. And behind me I hear a feeble voice trying to speak hard “Hello “. There he is, Monsignor. He introduces himself and asks how can I help. I was pretty straight forward. “My country needs help, I want to start a Pro life movement there and don’t know how or when and nothing more but my country needs help.” He smiled at me and asked do i know anything about Helpers and their work. My reaction pretty much conveyed him that I don’t. So he patiently introduces himself.

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Monsignor Philip J Reilly, the founder and Director of Helpers of God’s Precious Infants whose movement has spread from 4 person group in Brooklyn to Australia, Taiwan, Latvia, Yugoslavia, Austria, Capetown South Africa, Seoul South Korea, Bogota Columbia, South America and Central America. Shortly, Helpers are in all continents of the world. And here is the man who founded it sitting right in front of me and not bothered by the fact that I did not know about him or his movement. Incredible! The work of this Man whose seeds keep reaping the incalculable benefit of “LIFE” itself in remote corners of the universe: families saved, Doctors conversion, clinic closures, spooky tales of saying Mass inside abortion clinics with the equipment still there, vigils with overflowing crowd, death threats, million dollar lawsuits, cardinals and bishops heading the vigils, clinics turning to life centers on and on and on. What is behind all this? How did he do it? What made a simple movement of 4 people go trans continental? Well it’s definitely not technology, technique or tithe. The answer is a transformational journey from Rescue to Rosary!

I was taught to get out of my shell, to approach people, and to talk. I was taught various counter arguments to keep myself equipped to defend life, I was taught to stand for life without being ashamed and in fact with courage, I was taught how to start a conversation, hook people into it, i was taught to show videos, get deep into subjects, I was taught to divert people from getting into clinic and taking them to Crisis Pregnancy Centers, I was taught to handle arguments with contraception very delicately, i was taught not to talk about God at first in fear of putting off people, I was taught to be humorous, cool, relaxed all of which is perfectly fine. Yes! it has saved lives. But I had to unlearn what I learnt even though this is the famous methodology followed by the majority in the Pro Life circle.

I went to do sidewalk counseling with Monsignor Reilly to know what he had been doing and still doing with such perseverance for almost 50 years. He gave a bunch of Rosaries in my hand with brochures containing information for Women who are abortion minded, who already had abortion as well as those taking contraceptive pills and asked me to give in front of the largest Ambulatory Abortion clinic in Brooklyn where children are killed up to 6 months. All I have to do is to be there with the attitude of being at the foot of the Cross with Prayer and Fasting handing out the Rosary and brochure to the women going in as well as to those coming out of the clinic.

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This, I followed with reluctance for few months now. Hard to distrust our human intentions, skills and actions and completely leave the ground to God. No place for thinking of oneself as savior, no chance for accumulation of pride, no vain chatting, no relying on one’s own capacity and skills, no room for winning arguments or prove oneself, even no room for taking a sip of water, no pushing people to make decisions. Looks foolish from outside isn’t it?  Wait a min. Within few months of doing this even with nowhere near perfection the clinic in Elizabeth, NJ announces shifting to smaller office and downsizing the business. How about that? The place is going to be sold, they’re moving and so are we following them until they join us. Conversion! Monsignor says “God loves the woman before and after abortion. He wants their salvation. He wants the mother to be with Him in Eternity, and so the Abortionist and those involved. He died for them. He died for the soldier who would pierce his side with lance, blood and water gushed and this blind soldier was healed and saved. That’s the same with the abortionist.”It’s about saving the immortal souls.

But there’s more to this transcendence from Rescue to Rosary. Monsignor himself admits how he used to do things in wrong way, the rescue way: save the babies ! stop the abortion! until he learned his lessons the hard way. It’s about fighting the Culture of death. That’s way more in depth than one can assume. To fight this we must know the roots of the Culture of Death and  how did it start, where things went wrong. Pope John Paul ii explains clearly in Evangelium Vitae. Abortion is demonic. Attack against the human being created in the image and likeness of God is an attack on God himself. And to me it is stupid to think that we mortal humans can fight this battle by ourselves. This is supernatural. And realizing this truth with humility is the intelligence behind Monsignor’s approach.

 The spirituality of the Helpers is to be present at the Modern Day Calvary in Prayer with the children who are crucified like Jesus with the humility and meekness of Blessed Mother completely absorbed in passion experiencing both suffering and joy. Because after crucifixion and  death did take place Redemption and  Resurrection.

The battle is not between us versus them. It’s between Heaven and Hell!

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Where is Christ truly?

I remember during my first year of post graduation I felt helpless in an argument with a classmate on the existence of God and Jesus as a person and could do nothing but lose myself in the inability to prove my faith. I felt so beaten up with each question that was thrown against me by my own best friend who almost made me weak and pathetic and made me feel like some mindless, sick, superstitious, primitive  who believes in something for no reason. But deep down in my heart I couldn’t just give in to the fact that life is meaningless and we all came from apes and we go nowhere. I searched for God. Even with all catechism and Mass and Sacraments I never felt this need met. Isn’t this a universal search? May be the need to meet God, to know Him personally are disguised or misled into a search for things and people? Are those unquenchable desire for possessions, honor, attention and everything are some kind of misplaced affection?  Because I look at my overflowing wardrobe and feel is this the result of some misplaced affection? The Catechism of the Catholic Church says The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for.” And this search is the essence of today’s liturgical celebration.

I should confess I stole the title from Aletia whose article also discusses on the same question: Where is Christ?  The essence of Epiphany is this question revolving around the entire event of man going in search of God who indeed came for man and the nature of this search. Well the search doesn’t seem all comfy and exciting. The very first thing that the wise men face in this search for God is the call to make an unexpected journey into a foreign space. God cannot be found amidst comfort. The opportunity to encounter Him often comes disguised in the toughest situations- like an invitation to spend New Year with in-laws or in front of abortion clinics or the job situations where you are stuck between office politics and loving the neighbor or in the subway. The chance to encounter Him comes with a challenge. Most often unrecognizable often to be missed. In the places you don’t expect and don’t want to. But it’s up to us to say yes or no. Say yes, face the pain and move on like the Magi or say no and take no risk at all. But the Epiphany proves the risk is worth it. St Augustine says “To fall in love with God is the greatest romance; to seek Him the greatest adventure; to find Him, the greatest human achievement.”

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So where do we begin this search for Christ in this modern world? Again another challenge,another disguise. You can never find him if you are going to go around looking for Him with a picture in your head. The Magi were expecting to see a royal child because they were in search of a King. They almost lost Him however they found the star once they left King Herod. An unexpected twist and further journey into the unknown. Yet they kept going. They did lose track and had to get back in. They had moments of great confusion because nobody in Jerusalem understood who they were searching for. The wise men were really wise men which had them risk being misunderstood too. They stood out from crowd. Going to go in search of a personal encounter with God? then be ready to feel lonely, threatened, confused, tired, even giving-up, and risk losing everything.

The truth is, you might find Him in the most unlikely places but most of all in the most unlikely persons. It could be the drunkard in the road, the man who begs in subway, or your friend who is pro-choice or the child who’s inside mothers womb begging to live or even the Mother herself. It could be even those with whom you try to keep yourself far away. Those hurt, wounded, bandaged relationships that are so fragile to handle, those whom we consider major annoyance, those who might get into our nerves, those we like to forget or even want to intimidate, those who try to put us down. It could be any one of them or even all of them.

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St.Francis of Assisi disliked lepers however one day when he overcame his fears and hugged one of them and walked away, it turned out to be Jesus. St.Martin had found a beggar in street and when he shared his cloak that night Jesus came in his dreams wearing the same cloak and thanked him for it. Even on the road to Emmaus the disciples did not recognize Jesus because they were holding a different picture of resurrection in their mind. Break the mental images and we can recognize Him wherever He manifests.

Ultimately the truth is “Everyone you meet is Jesus in disguise.”(Bl.Mother Teresa ) and the Epiphany is about undertaking the journey into unknown of recognizing Him. The event has a happy ending. The next time you think you don’t like someone or want to avoid something think twice. It could be an Epiphany.

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The Love Note

noteThe temperature is  dropping down to 50 F ,however it feels well below 50. Even with a minimum of three layer clothing one could feel the chill. Not because of the dropping temperature but because being in the most coldest place in the planet. The eerie place of all where the value of human life has no meaning except for the dollars it can gain, provided the body parts of the innocent dead fetus’ are intact.

Standing there I wait for a chance to speak to women getting into the abortion facility. This is the toughest endeavor of my life, because this is a place where compassion reigns over skills and kindness over techniques. There’s literally 20-40 seconds to approach a women and make her feel comfortable to stop and get a pamphlet. But what’s even more challenging is that to get her to stop for a minute for additional conversation. These are the few seconds you have to communicate acceptance, understanding, kindness and to gain trust. I hear you guys, a real challenge right. May be just for me. I bet there are many others who have a natural charisma to handle these situations very well. Like one of the sidewalk counselor I work with. I researched on how to approach these women and found testimonies about personal notes being helpful in reaching out to them.

Gift bags with 10 week old baby models for women vulnerable to abortion
Gift bags with 10 week old baby models for women vulnerable to abortion

So the day before Sidewalk Counseling I sit down to write personal notes and stuck them to every single pamphlet I was going to give. I worked on 20 pamphlets and I handed almost 16 of them in 2 days. I wondered why I didn’t get a call or a text and was fighting back discouragement. I wrote additional notes and prepared myself for next week. Still no answer. Another 3 weeks passes by and still nothing. Probably I was made to wait in order to learn to be unconditional. As. Bl.Mother Teresa of Calcutta says, “God does not require that we be successful, only that we be faithful”. I pray that during times of discouragement, annoyance and shame I still stick on to this to learn to love these vulnerable women and their innocent martyrs no matter what. No matter they agree to take the pamphlet or decide to throw it on my face (uh  uh… not so fun on the spot), no matter they call or choose not to, no matter they agree to talk about additional options or go on with abortion. I’ll have to still keep writing these love notes to them, because this is the only way I can communicate God’s unconditional love for them.

I would very much give a big hug to each and every sidewalk counselor who faces sun and storm, wind and cold, curse and blessing to be at the sidewalk who does little things, make little sacrifices, takes minor annoyances because, the sidewalk has taught me that

“A little thing is a little thing, but FAITHFULNESS in little things is a great thing”

                 – James Hudson Taylor

What do pro choice women really want

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In response to the Planned Parenthood scandal a nationwide protest was organized in various locations in front of Planned Parenthood, calling governments to investigate and de-fund the criminal organization. The nationwide #ProtestPP event was organized even in Manhattan, NYC in the International Margret Sanger Center, the nation’s abortion capital where I happened to take part. In response to this event a counter protest was organized by the Stop Patriarchy group around the same time and location. Almost 50 pro choice people signed up to attend the event. On the day of the event myself along with three other sidewalk counselors were busy trying to speak to women about alternative options as crowd started to gather around each side with growing hostility. Planned parenthood did not halt the abortions irrespective of the protest outside. We witnessed roughly 20- 25 women getting into the clinic for whatever services including abortion.

As the clock struck 9 there was considerable crowd in bleecker street with cops giving instructions and placing railings and by standers stopping by curious to know what’s happening. Almost 100 pro-life people were already there with various signs and I turned around to look at the crowd gathered in the spot assigned for pro-choice people and chuckled because there wasn’t even 10 by then. I had a sense of relief but more than that a sense of mischievous happiness in witnessing the ‘good’ being stronger than ‘evil’. Around 9.30 am two women marched across the street towards the side where pro-life people were assigned a space to protest and started shouting the infamous slogans. I was immersed in observing their behavior, looks, campaigning tactics, catchphrase and the overall response to more than 150 pro life people who out number them by 10:150 ratio.

Let me give a glimpse of the pro choice counter protest

There were not even 20 protesters to counter the massive 150+ pro-life protesters. The pro-choice group was seen asking passersby to stop and stand for a while to support them, which is a cheap tactic for a notable organization like Stop Patriarchy. However that did not surprise me. There was only 2 strong women that tirelessly kept shouting at the top of their voice and the others looked like they were ashamed to belong to such a minority group and did not bother to shout as much as these two activists. Their slogans were aimed at church, patriarchy, women enslavement, rape and incest, women’s rights but nothing about the actual problem which is Planned Parenthood using illegal partial birth abortions and selling the parts of babies to make profit. It was clear indeed that these women were looking to pick a fight. Their anger was evident and true. They were not bothered about the abortion pictures show cased by pro-life group. My husband was astonished at the ferocity of these women and unable to comprehend their true mentality came up to ask me “why are these women so violent, so angry…what do they want?”

My answer was LOVE

With all my observations poured into the context of answering my husband I was surprised at the answer myself. The answer actually began with a series of questions :

  1. Would a child raised in a loving environment under the care of a devoted father and a mother grow up to scream “women are not your incubators” and sex is not for children?
  2. Would a girl who has met a trust worthy boy friend who has a great respect for her mind, body and soul will scream pro-life is women enslavement?
  3. Would a woman whose husband fights for her dignity, is an unfailing and responsible protector, stand there and blame pro-life men as anti women.

I would normally say ‘no’. These women and girls, so called feminists fighting against patriarchy are ‘wounded souls’. They are those whose trust in men has been betrayed. They are those whose father, brother, boy friend or husband had done something at some point in their lives that has broken their hearts, these girls are those whose family has betrayed them. Altogether they are those who haven’t experienced LOVE . While discussing about them a friend of ours shared his opinion which was indeed wonderful. These women have to be appreciated for one thing: they are cold. They are not those lukewarm indifferent people. They are like Saul waiting to meet Jesus for a dramatic transformation into Paul, to become a fervent soldier for Christ.

These women need to experience the sacrificial love of someone: especially a man, through whom they should be healed off of their disappointment and heart breaks. Even Abby Johnson the former Director of Planned Parenthood, the abortion giant claims that the unconditional love of her husband who was pro-life back then when she was pro-choice was a catalyst to her conversion. In the same way these women are yet to meet that someone who will mirror Christ through whom their trust should be restored, that they realize that in giving they will not lose themselves rather gain life. And ours is a great responsibility here: to get on our knees and to pray for this to happen.

“It is the duty of every man to uphold the dignity of every woman.”

– St.John Paul II