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The gentle art of sidewalk counseling

Almost from the very beginning, the problem facing history and humanity has been fragmentation. Immediately after disobeying God’s command, Adam and Eve’s relationship fragmented under the blow of blame and guilt. That fragmentation then spread to their offspring, as brother murdered brother. Ultimately, we find the whole human community suffering from the inability to connect, to relate, to understand each other. Man’s efforts to communicate with others became mere babel. The ultimate answer to this babel is, of course, in Pentecost—that is, in the communion of the Church, our relatedness in the Body of Christ. For those who step out of this community, however, there can be only isolation.

I don’t think sinful man’s isolation can be seen any more clearly than at the abortion mill. One of the clearest reflections of the community of the Triune Godhead, we know, is the Trinitarian community of the family. That community, however, is badly wounded, perhaps destroyed, at the abortuary. When the man puts the woman in the car to take her there, he tells her he didn’t really intend the message of self-gift he spoke at the moment of physical intimacy. He says he wants the incarnation of their union—the child—to be torn apart. The woman says she doesn’t trust the man. She says there’s no such thing as sacrifice, no such thing as love, no such thing as communion. For the woman, elective abortion is total despair.

However, even at that moment of despair, even at the very door of the abortuary, miraculous moments have occurred—moments in which a mother recognizes the reality of another soul and her connection to that soul, moments in which a man recognizes his responsibility to the woman he has brought to that dark place. These moments are often witnessed and, in some ways, facilitated by the pro-life movement’s frontline activists: sidewalk counselors. The methods used by sidewalk counselors to help bring about these moments vary from region to region, and even from facility to facility. Nevertheless, there are a few universals that, I believe, all sidewalk counselors can and should observe. Following are the general guidelines* employed by the Guadalupe Partners (see sidebar) who sidewalk counsel in the Detroit metropolitan area.

General guidelines

When I present sidewalk counseling workshops (see sidebar), usually I’m asked, “What do you say to a woman who’s going in for an abortion?” Unfortunately, there’s no script for sidewalk counseling. The sidewalk counselor, like Saint Paul, has to be “all things to all people.” He must be able to adapt himself to where he is and to whom he is speaking.

Read more at Celebrate Life Magazine. 

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