May 15, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – She’s the “Rosa Parks” of the Canadian pro-life movement. She has been a political prisoner of conscience, having served almost a decade of jail time for ignoring abortion clinic “bubble zone” ordinances in her commitment to offer abortion-bound women an alternative choice.
She’s a prayer warrior who never defends herself in court, remaining completely silent, like the children in the womb who cannot speak for themselves. She’s a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal recipient for furthering “justice for pre-born children” with her “peaceful civil disobedience”.
She’s a pro-life heroine, a role model of following one’s convictions, and an inspiration to all eager for the day when Canada will no longer allow the destruction of its youngest and most innocent members in the name of choice, rights, or equality.
Linda Gibbons is also the most humble, simple, and unassuming, woman you will ever see, if you happen to notice her in a crowd at all.
The 65-year-old grandmother attended the National March for Life this year in Ottawa, doing what she has done for the past 20 years, namely, being a silent, peaceful, unobtrusive, yet effective witness to the value and dignity of the youngest members of the human family.
I first noticed Gibbons while trying to take a photo of Marcel Damphousse, the newly ordained bishop of Alexandria-Cornwall, who celebrated a pro-life mass Thursday morning at St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Parish. Damphousse was at the back of the church prior to Mass starting. Trying to get the right angle for the shot, I noticed with some annoyance an elderly woman approach the bishop with a card, asking him to sign it.
Then I took a second look. Wasn’t I surprised to discover Linda Gibbons herself, the pro-life heroine who has challenged the Canadian legal system on abortion.
And what was this card she was asking the good bishop to sign? It was a card to Mary Wagner, who is now in a prison in Ontario for peacefully entering abortion facilities in Toronto, presenting women in the waiting room with a rose and offering them pro-life counseling. You may remember Wagner’s case creating a splash last March when an angry Ontario Court of Justice judge erupted in a lengthy, angry tirade against the pro-life activist, saying at one point: “You’re wrong and your God’s wrong.”
Good-hearted Gibbons was collecting signatures to send to her dear imprisoned friend Mary as a piece of encouragement. The bishop and I both signed the card.
I next encountered Gibbons during the march through the streets of Ottawa. She had placed herself on the wrong side of the barricade in front of the clandestine Morgentaler abortion clinic at 65 Bank Street. She silently held a sign that read on one side: “Justice for the Unborn”. On the other side was a picture of a baby and a Canadian flag with a caption that read: “Abortion: Canada’s Holocaust”.
Gibbons’ unpretentious demeanor was starkly contrasted by the four police officers who stood with scowling faces, formidably guarding the entrance of the abortion clinic. They wore dark sunglasses. Pistols were slung on their belts. Their arms were crossed.
As tens of thousands of pro-lifers marched past the abortion clinic where Gibbons held her sign high, probably most failed to recognize the pro-life giant who stood there keeping vigil for the unborn. Probably most would not have guessed that it was this very kind of activity at other abortion clinics in nearby Toronto that resulted in Gibbons losing her freedom time and time again over the past 20 years. Probably most did not recognize that at that moment on 65 Bank Street a “Rosa Parks” was, in her prayerful silence, speaking poignantly on behalf of the unborn, championing their right to be born.
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For Gibbons, making such a stand that could land her in jail is uncomplicated: “I’ve been in prison for 10 years and I’m willing to spend another 10 years behind bars. I have a moral responsibility not to obey an unjust law. I am not asking to be arrested for the exercising of my free speech,” she told a reporter last year.
“The real question is, What is the value of life? And what am I willing to do to protect the unborn?”
I next encountered Gibbons at the Youth Conference the day after the march. She came over to our LifeSiteNews (LSN) table in the conference hallway where LSN reporters where furiously pounding their keyboards to keep the pro-life news going.
Earlier that morning Fr. Paul Burchat had delivered a rip-roaring homily that let the young people know what they were up against in the fight against abortion and what they could do to make a difference.
He could have been speaking about Gibbons when he said: “You have a right to be heard in the public square and don’t let anybody tell you that you don’t. You have a right to do exactly what you did yesterday [during the march] and to keep on doing it and to not allow anyone to silence you.”
He also could have been speaking of Gibbons when he said that the world will be changed when enough people begin to live well a “simple good life”.
“You have no idea of how staying faithful … has power far beyond your own life to effect the world, to build the Kingdom of God,” he said. “Don’t ever underestimate the value of what you do just by living your faith well, simply every day. You probably won’t see many results of it in this life. You will see it in the next life.”
Gibbons spoke to me of her concern for Mary Wagner and of her hope that Mary’s case would serve as an occasion to challenge the status quo of abortion in Canada, which currently exists in a legal vacuum where abortions can be performed for any reason during all nine months of pregnancy. She told stories about how Mary is bringing the women in her jail to Christ. She said that she was hoping to get some reading material to Mary because she knows what it is like to have nothing to read for long periods of time in jail. Gibbons never once mentioned herself, her own merits, or her own accomplishment. Her only concern was to help Mary and to help the unborn.
After Gibbons wandered away from the table, I found myself thinking: “Why is Gibbons so great? No one would say they were captivated by her appearance. No one would call her a motivational or inspirational speaker. She does not have some complex strategy to win the fight against abortion. She does not have some five-year plan that will turn the tide in favor of life. What is so great about her?”
Words of Fr. Burchat’s homily came into my head: “So don’t underestimate the value of a life lived well, whatever little simple things you might be doing to live your faith well today, tomorrow, or the next day. This has immense value and power in God’s kingdom to stay his hand and to save other people.”
Then I realized that Gibbons’ greatness is her faithfulness, her unwillingness to compromise on her convictions that life is sacred, bubble zone or not. She is great because of her simplicity. She is great because, in making nothing of herself, she gives her “all” to the cause for life. In Gibbons’ worldview, giving her “all” may mean going to prison, and she is fine with that, because going to prison has “immense value and power in God’s kingdom to stay his hand and to save other people,” as Fr. Burchat said.
Gibbons responded to a reporter last year when she was asked if she enjoyed going to prison: “I can think of other things I’d rather be doing. But on a more serious note I am showing the abuse of the unborn children. If I was to stop picketing at the doors of abortion clinics [rather than staying 150 metres away as ordered] that would be moral cowardice. I don’t want the authorities to tell me to stop protecting life.”
Gibbons is great because she will not let anything stop her from drawing a hard line in the sand when it comes to protecting life. Her example reveals that one doesn’t have to be good looking, an exceptional speaker, or a know-it-all to make a real difference for the pro-life cause. One only has to be faithful in small things, live simply, and never surrender.