On Friday evening I attended the prayer vigil outside the BPAS clinic in Bedford Square, organised by 40 Days for Life. It was a peaceful liturgy consisting mainly of the rosary and the stations of the cross. There were hundreds of Catholics present - many of them young and many of them women. The aim was to quietly and prayerfully witness to the sanctity of human life - the unborn who have no voice - and also to pray for the women who find themselves in difficult situations. Practical help is offered to those who decide to continue with their pregnancy. When such women become aware of the alternatives they often change their mind and babies are given the chance of a life.
I knew that a certain ammount of opposition to the vigils had been whipped up over the last few weeks. However gentle one is - and everyone I have met in the campaign has been utterly sensitive in their approach to this issue - simply voicing an opinion which goes against conventional thinking seems to stir up an enormous ammount of anger. As a result, the group who had gathered there to quietly pray, were subjected to the most appalling verbal abuse from an angry mob of pro-abortion activists. For most of the evening I couldn't hear a word that was being said, apart from being shouted at and told to keep my religion at home. Much of the chanting and shouting was deeply offensive and blasphemous. It got worse when anyone fell to their knees. Never in my life have I been screamed and yelled at for expressing my religious belief in public.
Interestingly enough, the crowd seemed to get exceptionally irate whenever the Passion of Our Lord was mentioned or Our Lady. The sight of Christians falling to their knees or crossing themeselves produced howls of ridicule.
Such behaviour seems completely irrational and for want of a better word rather un-British. We used to pride ourselves on being a tolerant nation, and yet certain views are now not just opposed but stiffled. Despite this I felt proud to be part of a group of people who quietly and faithfully got on with what they were there to do. The contrast between the silent Catholics and the jeering crowd was deeply poignant. It reminded me of what Jesus faced as he began that last journey through Holy Week. In a way it brought me closer to Him. It has certainly encouraged me to try and be more faithful as His follower.
Most of the people who attended the vigil felt genuinely sorry for the group on the opposite side. I'm sure many prayers have been offered for them. Friday evening was a vivid reminder of the spiritual battle we are now facing.