One final account is from the gal referenced earlier today, the one who was left behind in the rotunda encircled by protestors.
On Friday, July 12, 2013 I had the opportunity to head down to the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas with my brother, sister-in-law, and a friend. We knew we would be meeting others who were pro-life (and wearing blue shirts) down there, along with many who were pro-choice (wearing orange shirts). In the past 24 hours there had been an influx of posts from the pro-choice side about how they were going to “take actions into their own hands” and had no concern about getting arrested. Credible sources had warned us about potential acts of violence towards the Senate representatives and all of us “blue shirts”. I had read pro-abortionists facebook posts about how they were going to bring jars of menstrual blood, feces, and urine to throw on others. It was clear that safety was a primary concern and even with a heightened awareness, someone may still get hurt.
As we parked and were walking to the Capitol my brother said that people feel like we were going into battle. I asked him if he felt that way and he didn’t. In a way I felt like I was entering the battleground but also like I was already victorious, not in regards to the bill passing but in the fact that my King has already won the war. The night before when I was in prayer I saw an image of the Capitol. It was almost dusk and I was looking at the building from the south steps. Even though there was still plenty of light outside, there was a cloud of darkness directly above the dome. As I looked closer I realized that the cloud was composed of hundreds of evil spirits flying around and swooping down towards the Capitol. I could tell that this was not because the Capitol was evil or even filled with evil people, but that each spirit was feeding off of the anger and hatred of those inside. Just above the cloud of darkness I saw a thin layer of light. The light was made up of several angels, no more than 20, who were present for those in need and directly in response to those who had called upon them. Though the angels were few and their layer of light was thin, it was clear that they did not need an immensity of numbers because at the snap of a finger they could allow the true glory of God to burst forth through them and in a mere moment the radiation of His light would overpower all of the darkness, causing its existence to cease. It was almost as if the angels were there as protectors, yet allowing the free will of humanity to be expressed at the same time. I wasn’t sure what all this meant and even questioned if my own mind had conjured up the images. By the time I was leaving the Capitol early Saturday morning, what I experienced had made it very clear that the image was directly from the Lord.
We entered the Capitol at about 6:30 p.m. and there were several orange shirts in the center of the rotunda yelling and chanting. We headed directly to the West hallway and started waiting in line to get a seat in the gallery and observe the Senate. We knew the media would heavily be covering the activities in the rotunda but we weren’t there to get noticed or make the news. We needed as many blue shirts as possible in the Senate gallery to show those who would be voting to approve or deny the bill that the people desired for this bill to be passed.
Shortly after getting in line we received word that someone was outside with bottled water to pass out. Since security would only allow us to bring in 1-2 bottles at a time, I began running water back and forth. I would get a bottle or two and then run up several flights of stair to those who had been standing in line for hours to get in the gallery and see if they were thirsty. People at the top had been in line for more than four hours.
After running water for almost two hours I was pretty tired as I ran into a group from my parish who was just coming through security. I stepped off to the side and updated them on what had been going on. A message had gone out on Facebook earlier about needing more blue in the rotunda and shortly after several pro-lifers showed up and began praying together in the rotunda. Throughout the Capitol you could immediately tell the difference because everything became quiet. You see, the pro-choicers would continually be chanting and whenever they got tired of the chant, they would just yell and scream as loud as they could for as long as they could. Unfortunately, soon after the pro-lifers had entered the center of the rotunda, the president of Planned Parenthood entered the building and heading to the rotunda which instantly increased their numbers and their noise.
Despite the oppositions increased numbers, I knew that there were still a handful of pro-lifers praying in the rotunda and surrounded by hundreds of angry orange shirts. I knew they needed backup, but also knew I shouldn’t go in alone. Mentioning this to those who had just arrived, a group of us decided to go in. The orange shirts were packed so closely together that it was near impossible to get through. Honestly, from the ground floor you couldn’t even see any of the pro-lifers in the middle, but I knew they were still there and on occasion I could see a sign that had a pro-life motto on it. I told the group that if they wanted to go in I would lead the way and to simply grab onto the back of my shirt and not let anyone separate us. With two women behind me I methodically worked my way into the center of the group. I will never forget what I experienced in the center of that piercingly-loud, hate-filled circle.
I had one person who was pro-life to my right and two or three that I could see were across from me, but otherwise I was completely surrounded by pro-choicers. It took me a few moments to take in all in and do a self-check.
I began asking myself, why was I here?
Why did I come into the center of this mob?
What good can I do?
What is the purpose of my presence here?
My heart kept pressing into me, “The strongest emotion is love. The strongest emotion is love.” I started to evaluate myself. Am I angry? No. Am I afraid? No. It took some time to determine the emotion that I was feeling since it is not one very common to me. Joy. In the midst of all of this, I was experiencing joy.
I wanted to share this joy with others. A pro-choicer to my right held and orange sign that said, “God bless Texas Women.” I leaned over and yelled that I liked her sign. She smiled and then saw I was wearing a blue shirt and her smile quickly faded. “That’s okay,” I thought, “I still love her and so does God. I pray He does bless her.” I asked short, inquisitive questions to a couple of orange shirts around me asking what was written on their arms or if they were streaming a live video feed. Most of their faces would soften as they offered a short, curt responses and then immediately an expression of anger would wash over their face as they returned to chanting.
One young woman in particular had my attention. She had a focus, almost a fascination on aiming all of her yelling, screaming, and hate-filled chanting efforts towards one pro-life person at a time. As a woman held a sign stating “It’s not about your womanhood, it’s about a CHILD WITH A SOUL in your womb who has a RIGHT TO LIVE!” the young lady in orange would get inches from her face, screaming the chants at her or simply yelling in her face. At times, the woman holding the sign would lower it directly in front of her face which forced the young woman screaming at her to back up a bit. At one point the pro-life man next to the woman started yelling, “God’s choice!” in response to their chant that asked, “Who’s choice?” (Mind you, it was so loud that you had to yell just to hear your own thoughts.) When he did this, several young women (including the most hostile one) began yelling in his face. Most yelled their response to the chant at him, except for the woman who had already gained my attention who screamed at him, “F…. you!” over and over and over again.
She had my attention because all of her actions had an expression of hate rising up from within her. I could see in her bodily expression how much anger she had towards us and how everything in her yearned to make us feel and experience that anger and hatred. But she retained my focus because, in the brief seconds between chants and deafening screaming, she would have a wicked expression wash over her face and an evil smile was appear as she sought to stare-down the person she had aimed her screaming and chants at. It was that evil smile repeatedly washing over her face that truly caught my attention. She was taking joy in this! She was truly having a good time in her plight seeking to break down, harm, and hinder all those who were not in-line and supportive of her beliefs.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that everyone who is pro-choice is evil or that yelling and chanting things are evil. But the way this young woman was acting truly was not natural. And the way in which she would be yelling and screaming with a feeling of hatred resonating from her body and then having that quickly morph into a morbid joy with a creepy smile. It was clear to me that there was definitely something spiritual going on, particularly with her. I witness several others who exuded this time of hatred but did not see a single who had the eerie smile or expressed the same wicked joy that she repeatedly showed. Later I decided to take a picture of her so I could remember to pray for her. I was amazed at how it turned out. In this picture I feel that her soul is expressed in her facial expression, because at no time is this an expression that I saw come across her face.
It’s had to describe what it really was like in the rotunda. Imagine being closely surrounded by hundreds of people who hate you and despise your beliefs, and everyone is only inches away from each other. Then imagine 200 of their “closest friends” circling where y’all are like sharks (those on the outer ring of the circle weren’t allowed to stand due to it being a fire hazard, so they marched along the outside yelling, screaming, and chanting). Now add three circular balconies directly above you that are also filled with more of their closest friends yelling, screaming and chanting. Finally, add the acoustics of the Capitol which cause the voice of a single person talking to resonate and echo. The temperature was easily over 100 degrees in the center of the group, where I was, due to the body heat and energy being exerted. Their nonsensical yelling, and even their chanting, was so loud that others wearing orange shirts were plugging their ears, people in the wings of the Capitol had to talk loud or yell to hear each other, and earplugs were passed out to all of the Law Enforcement to prevent hearing damage. (Two days later my eardrums still feel like I just walked out of a concert where I had seats next to the speaker.)
During my time there I was praying. Praying for so many things and so many people, mostly those whom I was surrounded by. Praying for those who were hurting so intensely. Praying that the Lord would use my sufferings for good. And often, just standing in a prayerful presence, lacking words to express anything to my Father. At times I would look up to the balconies above and see that I was surrounded by others in orange shirts, row-after-row. But then I would see one or maybe two people wearing blue, overlooking the rotunda, often with rosary in hand or a piece of red-tape with “LIFE” written on it over their mouth or on their shirt. This brought me such joy and such hope. I knew that I was not alone. It was almost as though I was looking into the heavens and seeing the saints interceding for me. I would point to them and wave as a huge smile broke across my face, but they never saw me. They have no idea how much their presence brought me strength.
Sometimes I would lift up a pro-life cardboard sign that someone had given me and I would turn it around so others could see before holding it flat above my head so those along the balconies could read it. I knew that the balconies had the highest traffic so my hope was that someone in the opposition might see my sign and it would cause them to think twice about supporting abortion or, by the grace of God, bring about a conversion of heart.
I was constantly aware of my surroundings, due to the safety concerns, and kept an eye on the most aggressive and enraged pro-choice protesters along with where the other pro-lifers were nearest me and where the nearest State Patrolman was (constantly within 20 feet of me). My brother tried to join me in the rotunda, as had more pro-lifers from my Church, but the law enforcement had closed off the doorways and refused to allow anyone else entrance. Soon, the other pro-lifers got word that something was up and we should leave the rotunda. Having been in several highly populated situations and experienced massacres and other traumatic events, I had learned to not trust rumors or unverified threats. I decided that I would leave the center if: 1) I learned of a specific and direct threat, 2) if an officer notified me that I should leave for my own safety, or 3) if my family was fearing for my safety. “Besides,” I thought, “There’s other pro-lifers here who are staying.”
As they left and I entered back into prayer I still experience an abundance of peace. Someone of the opposition began a debate with me about the adoption rate in Texas, the sign I held said “Adoption NOT Abortion”, and how a baby in the womb isn’t alive and isn’t a baby. I found it ironic that twice during our conversation (which consisted of us yelling at each other at the top of our lungs just so we could make out the words the other was saying) other women in orange shirts came up and told her to stop talking to me or that it wasn’t worth it. Obviously, I couldn’t hear what they said, but I thought it was funny that they were trying to get her to stop talking to me. I told her that I don’t understand their concern, even though it looks like we’re yelling I feel that we’re having a respectful discussion. She nodded her head in agreement before yelling her next question.
As we finished and she went back to chanting I looked over at my fellow pro-lifers. I saw a few orange shirts where they had been standing and thought they might have just gotten pushed back. I looked around for their signs in the air and saw none. And that’s when I realized: I was by myself in the midst of a angry mob of 400-500 pro-choicers with another 100+ circling around us. This could turn very bad, very quickly. I immediately recognized the seriousness of the situation, but I was not afraid. I have always had the mindset that when God is ready for me, He’ll come and get me. Or, even better, when I have finished my mission of spreading God’s love on earth, then He will take me Home. If I was to die at the hands of a pro-choice mob, what a way to go! Hopefully that would be considered martyrdom and God would grant me the blessing to go directly to heaven. However, none of this was at the forefront of my mind.
As a lone soul in the midst of hundreds chanting against my beliefs, fighting against what I know is right, I looked up to the balconies. I was searching for my one or two blue shirts that brought me hope…and I found none. I did a full 360, turning around to adequately get my bearings. Here I was in the middle of hundreds of people in orange shirts, yelling and screaming at me, many turning and chanting directly in my face, in my ear, at my back. Above me the balconies were lined with more people in orange shirts joining in the chants and deafening yells. Very few times in my life have I experienced spiritual warfare and seen evil manifested in such a tangible, physical way as I did during my time in the center of the rotunda.
Though I was by myself in the midst of a sea of orange, I knew that I was not alone. This would have been an apt time to despair, to give in to fear and run out of the rotunda; but that was not what God was calling me to. I knew there were hundreds of pro-lifers in the Senate Gallery. I knew there were hundreds more in line and even more in overflow rooms in the basement. What truly gave me courage was when I thought of all of those who were praying for us tonight. Christians throughout Texas who were unable to be at the Capitol. Christians throughout the nation who were lifting us up in prayer during this great battle. Their prayers were my strength. Though I was surrounded by opposition and could not even hear my own thoughts, a grin spread across my face because I knew I was not alone. The other day someone called me Joan of Arc because of these actions. I now have a much stronger grasp on the graces Joan of Arc must have received in order to live our her faith the way she did. None of this was on my own accord, it was completely rooted in our Lord.
I continued to pray as I watched the expressions of those around me. Their cheers were so loud that I could barely hear my own thoughts. I would silently pray Hail Mary’s, Our Father’s, Memorare’s, and St. Michael’s Prayer but would rarely finish the prayer, getting distracted partway through. Then Scriptures began flowing through my mind. “Yay, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall fear no evil, for the Lord is with me.” (Psalm 23:4) I looked up and couldn’t help but think of how Jesus said we would be persecuted, hated, and insulted because of Him; and doing all of this for the sake of the Lord just increased my joy. Only later did I learn that the Gospel reading for that day was Matthew 10:16-23. “Jesus said to his Apostles:
“Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves. But beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to another. Amen, I say to you, you will not finish the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”
As I continued to peacefully pray in the midst of vile and hate-filled yelling I received a text from my brother expressing a concern for my safety. At that point I decided to leave since I did not want to worry my family. I easily made my wade out of the sea of orange and up a couple flights of stairs where my group was still waiting in line to get in the gallery. I arrived as they were beginning the second decade of the Rosary, meditating on the sorrowful mysteries.
As we continued to pray rumors began to spread about the pro-choicers planning to riot or attack pro-lifers soon and several moved to the basement of the Capitol and locked themselves in overflow rooms or Senators offices for their safety. We did not have any confirmed reports of violence and none of the officers expressed a specific concern for our safety so we decided to hold the line and continue to be a prayerful presence, though we knew it wasn’t likely we would get into the Senate Gallery before the vote. The numbers of our group slowly began to grow as a smaller groups of pro-lifers began to join ours which set them at peace to have strength in numbers. In the midst of all this tension I couldn’t but think that the evil one may have been using it to distract us from why we were there and what was important. But I had a plan of action.
I reached into my backpack and took out a bag full of Starbursts. I began walking around the third floor rotunda offering Starbursts to everyone. Several pro-lifers would give a “thank you” smile and take a couple, without ever interrupting their prayer. Some pro-choicers faces would light up when I offered and then they would look down and see my shirt color before declining. My favorite reaction was when a young man in his twenties who was pro-choice expressed his surprise that I was offering him Starbursts despite his shirt color. I told him, “Hey, Starbursts don’t discriminate and neither do it.” Then I paused and looked in the bag before adding, “But I don’t see any blue in here!” It gave us a good laugh and was great to see some people smile and relax a bit in the midst of this chaos.
As we neared midnight we knew that the time to vote had arrived. We were just around the corner from the Senate doors at the one spot where I was unable to get Wifi so I could stream the Senate’s live feed. So I went with a friend to stand by the stairs right outside the Senate doors. Just before midnight several people wearing orange walked out the doors. We were anxious to hear what was happening but no one would talk to us. Eventually we overheard that they had not yet voted. About five minutes later the doors opened again and many people in blue and orange were leaving. I walked up to the first woman who came out, an older woman in navy blue who looked exhausted, and asked her, “Did they vote?!” She slowly nodded her head. “Well?!” I eagerly asked. She turned her head and looked at me. “Did it pass?!” I inquired. Quietly she said, “It passed.” I asked her again to confirm and she slowly nodded her head.
An eruption of excitement burst forth from my body. I turned towards the hundred people waiting by the staircase and I yelled, “IT PASSED!” Instantly my feet were taking me towards my brother and friends praying by the balcony and, catching my brothers eyes, I yelled, “IT PASSED!” As I came upon the balcony I looked around and expected people to have already known the news, but it was clear they hadn’t. So at the top of my lungs I screamed, “IT PASSED!!! IT PASSED!!! IT PASSED!!!” Almost instantaneously pro-choicers began booing which made it impossible for those across the rotunda balcony to hear me. So as I continued to yell, I threw a giant thumbs up sign in the air and began catching the eye contact of all those in line. I truly felt like Paul Revere.
I wish I was able to videotape and take pictures of what I saw in those moments so I could show you. I will never forget the expressions that overcame peoples faces that night. As I made eye contact with those waiting in line for the gallery and they understood what I was saying, it was like watching a wave of joy pour over all of those pro-lifers who had been praying and fighting so hard for this moment. Their prayerful expressions turned into wide, joy-filled, rejoicing smiles as they threw their hands in the air and gave me a “thumbs up” sign. It was clear that they weren’t joyful because we had “won” but because this would save lives of unborn children who aren’t able to speak for themselves. I looked back to my group of friends and I saw people hugging, crying, patting each others backs, and saying prayers of thanksgiving to the Lord. As people continued to flow out from the Senate Gallery we stayed in line and thanked all those who represented us and held their seat for so many hours, showing the Senate our support for this bill.
As we walked out of the Capitol I snapped a quick picture of the rotunda. Instead of a pro-choice mob filled with angry protesters, there were only a couple of dozen orange shirts left in there and they looked confused and utterly deflated in their loss.
The Prayer Warrior Upstairs
Throughout several hours of the night there was one man on the top balcony of the rotunda who was living out the actions of a saint. He stood on the north side of the rotunda and during the entire night, every time I looked up there he had his eyes closed and his arms outstretched prayer over all those who were present. I don’t know who he is, what he was praying, or where he is from but on behalf of my group and myself, I want to say,
Thank you for being a prayerful presence.
Thank you for being a sign of hope and peace.
Thank you for being consistently in prayer despite the continued chaos.
Thank you for allowing your actions to speak louder than words.
Thank you for expressing the love of Christ to all those who saw you.
Thank you for giving me somewhere to look that would bolster my Christ-centered courage.
Thank you for repeatedly giving my group a visual reference of joy and hope.