Thorns and Bonbons

Not too long ago, a priest-friend of mine was giving a talk in which he mentioned (as he often does) something that stuck in my mind. He was speaking about the trials and sufferings we all must go through in our earthly lives, and how Jesus, through His Most Holy Mother, consoles us during such times.

“The Blessed Mother lets us smell the roses — to prepare us for the thorns. She gives us ‘bonbons’ as consolation,” the priest said. “But we still have to weather the storm.”

Indeed. We all have our share of “thorns” and “bonbons.” And, oftentimes, the former greatly overshadow the latter. Human nature, one could say. But it is nice to take notice of the (spiritual) bonbons, because they are most significant.

Consider the pro-life movement. Pro-lifers are often severely persecuted by those who either don’t know any better or who are simply evil. The thorns are many. But so are the “bonbons.” Like the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that gave longtime activist Joe Scheidler a victory over the rabidly anti-life National Organization for Women. For 17 years the case dragged on, casting a dark and ominous cloud over the entire movement. But, to my pleasant surprise (I’m an admitted pessimist), the court — not exactly a friend of the unborn — lifted that cloud.

As Joe himself would say, “Well, wonders never cease.”

Then there’s the ministry of sidewalk counseling. Like its sister-ministry, pregnancy center counseling, it has to be one of the most difficult, albeit deeply rewarding, aspects of the pro-life movement. I greatly admire those who do it. Though often subjected to abuse and hostility, the sidewalk counselors do receive numerous “bonbons” from our Lord.

The following account, written by Ana Torres Esquivel, assistant director of the Chicago Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, an organization whose main focus is the sidewalk counseling ministry, illustrates as much (excerpted from The Vineyard, the organization’s newsletter, winter 2003.)

“It was 7 a.m. on a bitterly cold winter day…. Despite this, ten Chicago Helpers of God’s Precious Infants gathered, as they faithfully did every Saturday, to pray outside of Dr. Jan Barton’s American Women’s Medical Center late-term abortion facility.

“…Two women drove into the parking lot, got out of their car, and began walking toward the abortion center’s doors. Just as they were about to enter, they paused long enough for me to tell them about the lawsuits against the [American Women’s Medical Center]. One of the women listened but then went inside. However, the other woman, Carmen, came over to me and took the information. I asked her if she knew that abortion was a serious sin against God and the unborn child. She replied, ‘Yes, but my sister has no choice, she was raped by someone we know. She does not want anyone to find out about it.’

“I answered that she and her sister were right to feel that this was a very painful situation. I hoped that they would understand when I said, ‘Your sister’s abortion will make this situation much worse because there is a child in her womb right now. Please consider that this fragile person is her own flesh and blood; her own baby.’

“We spoke this way for a while longer, then Carmen agreed to go inside [the abortion facility] to talk to her sister Anita….

“So we all prayed and waited… but Carmen did not come out with her sister. I went over to the prayer group and told them they were not coming out. In reply these faithful souls just said, ‘Do not worry, we’ll pray harder.’ And they did. Every time I looked at them, the words from Holy Mass came to me:

‘Do not look upon the sins of your people, but upon their faith.’ Therefore, I started praying harder too.

“It was about 11:30 a.m. when Carmen came out of the abortion clinic and directly over to me. She said, ‘I showed my sister Anita the photo you gave me of what an aborted baby looks like. She looked at it for a long time. Then, she said to me, “I could not do to the baby what I see in this picture.” Anita will give birth to her baby.’

“I was very happy to hear this news, but I wondered why Anita was still inside. I worried that it was all too good to be true and perhaps she was having the abortion after all. So I asked Carmen, ‘Why did you take so long to come out, and where is Anita now?’

“The answer she gave me was completely unexpected. She said, ‘My sister and I have been speaking with another woman inside who is also scheduled for an abortion. Her name is Lourdes. As you helped us change our minds about abortion, we are helping her… . She too will give her baby life.’

“Then Carmen went back inside and returned with Anita and their newfound friend, Lourdes. All three were smiling with a quiet joy. Anita said, ‘I overcame the fear and shame of rape when I saw the photo of the aborted baby. I would be worse than my attacker if I carried out an abortion.’

“I marveled at God’s goodness. These three [women] came to the abortion clinic with the intention of destroying two unborn children. Instead, Anita turned away from abortion with the help of her sister Carmen. Then Lourdes turned from abortion with the help of the newly converted Anita. . . .

“Anita’s baby girl, Sara, was born in August, 2002. Anita said, ‘I am very happy that I did not have the abortion. The rape was a difficult experience, but, thanks to you [Ana Torres Esquivel], I have received all the help that I need to love and to care for my baby’.”

Ah, I guess one could call that story the “bonbon of all bonbons”!

(For information about the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, click here; for more information on sidewalk counseling, visit the Pro-Life Action League’s website.)

Matt C. Abbott is the former executive director of the Illinois Right to Life Committee and the former director of public affairs for the Chicago-based Pro-life Action League, respectively. He is also a contributor to The Wanderer Catholic newspaper

(This article originally appeared in The Wanderer and is reprinted with permission. To subscribe call 651-224-5733.)

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