The weather could not have been better last night In Ottawa as about 150 people gathered at the base of the steps leading to the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, to inaugurate the fifth 40 Days for Life vigil in our nation's capital.
Under a clear sky, warm temps, and a gentle breeze, coordinator Paul Lauzon greeted the eclectic crowd – priests and laity, of all ages including families with their spirited children.
Mr. Lauzon pointed out how appropriate it was that we were gathered under flags flying at half mast. He was not alluding to the death of Jack Layton, leader of the federal opposition party, for whom the flags were adjusted, but rather to the innocents who have had their lives shortened by the dearth of compassion in our country.
This absence of compassion was brought forward when Ms. Doris Gagnon, the first of the evening’s speakers, addressed to the crowd. She referred to the sentencing comments of the judge out in Alberta who had given a suspended sentence just last week to the mother who had murdered her new born upon delivering it in 2005. Ms. Gagnon leads a group who silently prays outside the Bank Street abortion mill in downtown Ottawa.
The next speaker, Ms. Ruth Lobo, staffer at the Canadian Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, expressed sentiments that many pro-lifers could identify with – that she would rather not be there. The former head of the Carleton University pro-life group Carleton Lifeline elaborated; she was present last night with all of us because abortion is still present in Canada. Her discourse focussed upon the political climate in Canada permitting this.
After both women had spoken, I found it odd that neither had brought up the plight of the woman. I do not want to lessen the tragedy of the death of the unborn but it is important not to overlook the plight of the woman, either prior to and after the abortion. As the Elliott Institute documents quite well, many women are coerced into aborting their children; where is the choice in these instances. Further, more and more the harmful after-effects of abortions are recorded and compiled, effects that are both physical and psychological. Both speakers failed to note that we must be sensitive to these needs so compassion can take root in our societies.
This basis of compassion is found in the charity that has been given to us by our Heavenly Father. Appropriately to any inauguration, Mr. Lauzon then turned the mic over to Mr. Marcel Dion who led the crowd in evening prayer and worship and gratitude. Psalms and the Magnificat were chanted.
At the prayers’ conclusion and after the distribution of tappers, I was struck by two spiritually powerful incidents. The first was during the lighting of the tappers. At this time, divisions melted away as the crowd became one so as to either pass on or receive the flame. This desire for the light or to spread the light crumbled whatever barriers may have existed.
The second incident occurred during the procession to the abortuary. Participants had assembled in twos behind the Centennial Flame on the Hill and proceeded on to Wellington Street and then down towards Bank Street where the vigil location is located. I was particularly awed by the string of people walking silently in pairs along the poorly illuminated Wellington Street, tappers in hand aglow in their translucent blue cups, orderly stopping at the intersections to await the walk signals.
The evening came to a close, once again in silence, at the vigil location; here, the pilgrims stood and prayed, each leaving when done.