“Hilarious” that’s the adjective used to describe the pro-aborts’ signs in front of a local abortion mill. A couple has made it their weekend chore to mock Christian pro-lifers and chronicle their efforts on a blog. Their dedication to confrontation merited them some viral exposure from a writer who found the couple’s signs (that state things like “I like turtles” and ‘Hail Santa”) to be side-achingly hysterical. The coverage inspired a fellow parishioner to post the article on facebook along with a call to offer a counter-balance to the situation.
Having been a while since the kids and I stood in defense of life and with the calendar providentially clear, I heeded the call and arranged the details to transport my crew bright and early this Saturday morning.
Our big, white, pro-life-stickered van rolled into a parking spot around 10:15am just in time to meet a fellow parishioner. Together we rounded the corner and took up our positions in the prayer line next to a dozen or so other advocates for the unborn. We stood shoulder to shoulder across the busy road from the clinic and immediately jumped into the rosary.
Noise from the constant flow of traffic competed against the gentle voices reciting those well-known words of Hail Marys, Our Fathers and Glory Be’s. I was thankfully to have that familiar pattern to follow so that my mind and heart were never far from the source of true peace. Indeed standing there, with so many rosary beads dangling, my mind continually beckoned me with the words, “Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing steal away your peace.” Vigilantly we held our positions in that prayer formation for the next hour.
On the opposing side of the street the scene was something quite different. A group of twenty-something pro-aborts jockeyed for attention (at times working hard to stir up a disturbance). Intermittently they cranked up the volume on a radio and busted a few moves while flipping from one nonsensical sign to the next. From the young woman clothed in her bath robe and pj’s to the low-pants donning male, those on the opposite side shifted positions like preschoolers after they’ve suckled a bottle of Mountain Dew.
Life versus death. Good versus evil. Light versus darkness. The stark contrast between our missions on either side of the road this Saturday morning was palpable. You could quite literally feel the contrast in your bones.
Our group managed all 20 mysteries before the permit time ran short. By that time, I’d stepped back behind my crew because I was swaying my toddler and monitoring a couple of little warriors who’d found some dirt to kick. Our priest, who was wearing his traditional full-length cassock (as always), had stepped into the center of the line when my attention was momentarily adverted. Turning my focus back again, I was awestruck. Father seemed (to my eyes) to have grown bigger than life. Inexplicably, he appeared to physically tower over the young men who flanked him and his black draped shoulders seemed broader than I’d ever noticed them to be before that moment. As he led us in the chaplet of Divine Mercy, I couldn’t shake this curious vision and I wondered if he’d always been this size.
After completing the chaplet, Father spun around and gave us his final blessings and then he quickly departed. Watching him leave, I calculated that while he is indeed tall, my brief perception of him was something truly supernatural.
Following in Father’s footsteps, the rest of our group disbanded. Across the street things were still lively as another church group had arrived to take up the pro-life torch and the opposition was still rambling about. I considered staying longer because it felt like there was more to do. I wanted to drop to my knees and beg some more intercession, to show that I was still in the fight. Instead I listened to that still, small voice that told me it was enough.
On the way back to the van, we circle-chatted with those friends who’d inspired our participation. They, too, were battling the internal struggle to stay longer, to outlast our sign-wielding contenders. It was pride, my wise friend noted, that was egging us on. Another friend reminded us that we weren’t engaged in a competition here. God hadn’t called us each here on this clear Saturday morning to outdo one another in some show of bravado. No, He called us here to witness to Truth and to pray for peace for the babies whose lives were being lost inside that building as well as for mercy for their misguided parents.
Real power resided in the prayers we’d prayed. No one could see it, but God. And no one, but God, needed to.
For the remainder of my afternoon, I ruminated on the morning’s event, on that internal whisper to remain undisturbed, on Father’s temporarily unnatural stature and on that prompting to trust that my meager offering was enough. Turning to God’s Word, I searched out the daily reading and here’s what it told me:
Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. After he placed his hands on them, he went away (Matthew 19: 13-15).
Christ asked us on this day to bring the children to Him. Our prayers were the channels through which they were delivered from the horrors taking place yards in front of us. Jesus wanted us to be docile vehicles for the Holy Spirit, so that He may work through us. Our pride sought to be in control like the disciples wanted todirect the crowd. Surely, I wanted to rebuke a few people this morning, but that was not my job.
I think my vision of Father was a gift that was meant to remind me that I must follow his example of persevering peace, constant striving for holiness, and docility. Virtues, I fail to achieve often. My priest is not a demanding man (of others, although I think he is of himself). He doesn’t spit out hell-fire and brimstone nor does he cater doctrine to garner money in the coffers. He is a shepherd who, no doubt, carries a great deal of weight on those arching shoulders without much complaint. Even more so, I think that vision was meant to represent the Church and my role within Her.
The gospel said that after Jesus had placed His hands on them, he went away. He didn’t stay longer than was necessary. He gave the blessing and moved on, just like Father did today. To have stayed and continued on would have been about my will in this situation.
The Battle of Lepanto also came to mind today. I imagined the maritime warriors were well trained in the art of war, but they ultimately recognized that the power of victory was wrapped around their fingers. How utterly absurd it would seem to the non-believer that a fight could be won by surrendering their human strategies and taking up the arms of the rosary. However, history is proof that the docility of those men to faith was rewarded with victory.
I realized, my coming before God with child-like abandon and following His gentle directives is what will ultimately win the struggle. Some day, that abortion mill will close down just like the other one across town did (of that I am confident). Some day, every abortion facility will be remade or left as an empty shell. The win won’t be because of any clever signs or showy protests. Because the real fight isn’t between pro-lifers and pro-aborts, it is within each of us, you and me. When we first learn to lay down our selves and adopt a spirit of docility, then God will claim His victory person by person, heart by heart until eventually the whole world will experience unending peace.