St Francis in the centre of Maidstone had a Funeral Mass today at 12.30pm so we started the vigil a little late. We began with the Angelus, the Prayer to St Michael (my suggestion) and Pope John Paul's Prayer for Life, said before the picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the porch of the Church. Beginning the Rosary, we had a short procession, led by the picture of Our Lady, just a couple of minutes' walk to the Marie Stopes Centre. We stood on the edge of the pavement opposite the Centre and said 20 decades of the Rosary, including the Mysteries of Light. That takes up the hour of the vigil which concluded with us saying the Divine Mercy chaplet as we processed back to the Church. The vigil finished with singing the Salve Regina.
While we were praying, Michael did the work of pavement counsellor and I have to say that I was most impressed. There was only one woman who did not stop to talk to him. Several stayed and chatted for at least five minutes, sometimes laughing and never looking as though they were trying to get away. It was amusing that one who was just walking by the clinic stayed talking even though her friend was shouting at her from the bottom of the street to get a move on.
Michael said that is was all down to prayer. I am sure that is true; however, I think he also brings great human gifts to this apostolate. Basically, he was offering a free Rosary and Miraculous Medal, together with small leaflets as appropriate. One of them advertised the services of the Good Counsel Network for post-abortion retreats, for example. In some cases, the women he was talking to had been in for a scan and were due to return so we may pray that some will change their mind.
As I said before, this work is absolutely peaceful and non-confrontational. Of course, some people assume that we are there to "condemn" women in difficulty. Such is the power of the media which subtly conveys this impression at every possible opportunity.
Apparently there is usually some vocal opposition from an office opposite the "Centre" and from some passers by. However today there was virtually none of that. Perhaps the office is already closed for Christmas.
Mgr Reilly describes these vigils as going in spirit to Calvary. It was a bit penitential today and I realised that I should have worn some warmer shoes. With the temperature at 2 degrees above freezing, 10 decades in and your feet might as well have spent half an hour in the fridge. Bill Bryson would have been proud of us as we repaired afterwards to a Christian Bookshop with an upstairs café where we had "a nice cup of tea." And it was just the ticket, actually.
If there are any priests in the London area who would be interested in leading the prayers at such vigils from time to time, please contact me. There are various venues (the next is in Brixton) but the Maidstone one needs one or two more volunteers. It's an easy drive down the M20.