by MICHAEL LORETZ

On Palm Sunday evening, nearly 350 people gathered on Auckland’s Dominion Rd to pray the final hour of what has been a prayer marathon for the unborn, their mothers and all who are hurt or wounded by the tragedy of abortion in our community.

Every day in New Zealand more than a classroom full of preborn children are lost to abortion — more than a half a million young New Zealanders killed in the womb since 1973 — more than 10 per cent of the entire current population. Often the women who turn up to the abortion facilities for abortions are under enormous pressure and face many very real problems which leave them trapped and cornered into sacrificing the lives of their precious babies in the misguided belief that this will solve their dilemmas. The unfortunate reality is that grief, regret and anger often follow and new and more difficult problems tend to eventuate.

40 Days for Life is one way in which ordinary people can say, “We Care, we will pray for you and we are prepared to help!” From Ash Wednesday to Palm Sunday, small groups of prayer volunteers from Catholic parishes and Christian denominations around Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch came to the abortion places in their communities and stood in quiet prayer, giving this tragic and complex situation to God in the sure hope that he can heal, that he can restore and rebuild a culture of life.

In Auckland alone, more than 2400 volunteer hours were prayed and hundreds of encounters and conversations were had, each a chance for conversion of hearts and minds, each a precious fruit of the graces flowing from this work of God in our community.

While sometimes the presence of the prayer volunteers sparks emotional or angry responses from people passing by, on the whole most who take the time to talk very quickly learn that there is very real support and help on offer. Not only do the pre-born, their mothers, the abortion workers and the wider community benefit from the prayers that are being sent to heaven, but practical help is also made available wherever it is needed.

40 Days for Life in Auckland and Wellington is sponsored by Family Life International, an independent Catholic charitable organisation which makes a pledge to any woman contemplating abortion that they will be helped through the problems they face, for as long as they need, so that nothing will be in the way of them choosing life for their precious babies. This pledge of love extends also to those who have gone through with abortions and who may be suffering from its wounds — that they will be helped to recover from the harm of their past abortions and to find peace and healing.

During this campaign in Auckland, two women that we know of turned away from their abortion appointments at AMAC and have chosen to continue with their pregnancies and give life to their babies. These two little babies’ lives have been spared as a direct result of the prayers and presence of people at the 40 Days for Life vigils.

In addition, during this 40 Days effort in Auckland, a woman who had been pregnant this time last year and had then sought an abortion at AMAC, approached some of the prayer volunteers and recounted her story. She told the volunteers that when she was six weeks pregnant in March, 2017, she had arrived at the abortion facility door and upon noticing the prayer vigil on the other side of the road, she walked across and stood quietly listening to the prayers for a few minutes. She reported that in those brief moments a year ago, right there on the street, her heart changed and she knew that she had to go home, sort herself out and keep her baby. Today she has a happy healthy 3-month-old baby boy. She told the volunteers she couldn’t be more happy and grateful that those prayers were said for her that day.

The final hour itself brought with it special graces. It so happens that some of the staff at Family Life International had just completed a novena to St Therese of Lisieux. The very next morning, the final day of the 40 Days vigil, one of the prayer volunteers contacted myself offering a basket of roses and rose petals for use at the final hour event. I decided that the basket would be prepared as a gift to the abortion facility staff with a card and a letter from FLI Director Michelle Kaufman inviting them to reject the violence of abortion and instead work to preserve life. During the final hour event, the basket of roses and some candles were processed across the road and left in the doorway of the abortion facility for their staff to find in the morning. Some hours later, as myself and my family were preparing to leave for the evening, a couple passing by saw the flowers. The man became very angry and tried to grab the basket to destroy it, prompting me to step in. A conversation followed. It turned out that the man’s girlfriend had had an abortion at AMAC three months prior.

I was able to explain to the couple how 40 Days for Life is not about judgement in any way shape or form, but about offering prayer and support to all who need it. At that, the girlfriend admitted her need for prayer. She accepted a solitary rose from the basket and asked for myself and the others to pray for her — in particular she asked for prayers that her fertility be preserved and that the next time she conceived that her situation would be better.

While the basket had disappeared from the door before the morning arrived, I believe that God’s purpose for those roses was to touch that woman in an encounter that could very well be the start of her own personal healing process.

These and many more stories are the fruits of 40 Days for Life. Worldwide, more than 14,500 babies’ lives have been saved, 172 abortion workers have quit their jobs and nearly 100 abortion centres have closed their doors for good — all as a direct result of the prayers and presence of more than 750,000 ordinary people willing to put themselves into an extraordinary situation on the streets of their local communities. They pray — they pray for mercy, they pray for healing, they pray for life.

Michael Loretz is the 40 Days for Life Auckland coordinator.

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