It wasn’t the usual scene when we walked up to the abortion facility Downtown Fargo that day. Yes, there were the regular escorts and the prayer advocates as always, but something was different – a woman I didn’t recognize.
She was on her knees but rather than pointed toward the street, she was facing the facility, holding up her Rosary in prayer, the crucifix extended intentionally.
This called to mind the Wailing Wall in Israel, and those who come with such firm intention to place their cares before God.
But she also caught my attention because I didn’t recognize her. She’d come alone, or so it seemed, and I know the courage that takes. Her stance also was one of humility. She exuded faith.
Those of us in the usual prayer circle went about our rounds of Hail Mary’s, and Divine Mercy chaplet recitations, all while aware of the presence of the escorts, who’d turned up their music, drowning out our prayers.
At some point, apparently finished, the kneeling woman rose, approached us and introduced herself. Curious about her story, I asked about her motivation for coming, and the two of us talked a while.
“I have a daughter with Down syndrome,” she shared, noting that at the time of her pregnancy, she was not close to God at all. “In fact, I was as far away from God as you could get.”
She hadn’t known of her daughter’s diagnosis during the pregnancy, she revealed. “If I had, I probably would have aborted her.”
But she didn’t, and eventually, that little girl coaxed her back to God, her faith and the Church, she revealed. “Well, that and the prayers of my mother.”
Carol had come all the way from Newtown, N.D., she shared, nearly six hours from Fargo. It wasn’t her first time at the abortion facility; she often comes when in town visiting another daughter, who also mothers a special-needs child.
That child, too, had narrowly escaped death when he quit breathing as an infant, and doctors suggested he wouldn’t make it, Carol explained, all but giving up on him. But not his mother. “She fought for his life,” she recounted.
It occurred to me then that Carol’s own motherly affection had likely had a huge influence on her daughter’s deep love for her own child, Carol’s grandchild. Love works that way; it’s contagious.
Despite her strong faith, Carol admitted that whenever she approaches the abortion facility, she feels fear, to the point of being physically shaken in seeing the building. But then she remembers that she’s spiritually flanked, with Jesus on one side, and his mother on the other. “I know I’m not alone.”
Carol’s witness certain had impressed me. How many times had I been afraid to come alone, or even grumbled about traveling across town to pray, yet she’d driven all this way, and after a wearying trip, made a point to come here on bended knee, alone.
It touched me to learn everything she’d come through, and to be reminded of how love really does win – as evidenced in her child’s ability to bring her to the Lord, and her own mother’s steadfast prayers during the years her own young faith had wavered.
At Mass later that day, we heard words from Isaiah 49:15: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child in her womb?”
It seemed perfect for what we’d just witnessed – a mother’s love for her child leading her to God; her mother’s love for God keeping her steady through rough times; and our spiritual mother, Mary, always keeping us in her sights, like her precious son, who constantly brings us life.
Carol’s story made a mark on my heart. We might not have stopped anyone from entering the facility. But I believe that the sight of this woman on her knees, holding her crucifixion in a way that proclaimed her faith in a good God, made a difference that day, and for days to come.
And I believe that someday, God will reveal to her, and us, just what her prayers and her steadfast heart accomplished.
To me, she’s an example of the salt of the earth Jesus holds especially close, a quiet but astounding witness to life. There’s no doubt in my mind that the heavens rejoice at her stance and heart.
Thank you, dear Carol. May God bless you and your family in abundance.
[Note: I write about my experiences on the sidewalk Downtown Fargo on Wednesday, the day abortions happen at our state’s only abortion facility, for New Earth magazine — the official news publication of the Fargo Diocese. I hope you find “Sidewalk Stories” helpful in understanding the truth about abortion and how it plays out tragically each week here in Fargo, N.D. The preceding ran in New Earth’s May 2017 issue.]