At the same time that New York State governor Andrew Cuomo, a Catholic, was signing into law a repeal of legal protection for babies who survive an abortion, a baby wailed. We were at a Mass of reparation for the Roe v. Wade anniversary, organized by the Sisters of Life and the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.
We were at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the middle of everything in New York, just after normal working hours. The church was packed both for a Eucharistic adoration holy hour and Mass. And the baby seemed to command as much of a presence as our Lord.
One of the Sisters of Life had, early on, taken the baby for a walk around the Church so that his mother could pray. The Sisters of Life lives are dedicated to making life possible, plausible, better — full of grace is their charism for life. With the Sisters of Life, you see that a woman can give up natural motherhood for a supernatural motherhood that is a real motherhood to all.
Sister Mary Gabriel had to actually tell some media that the baby was not her own, as paparazzi, of the church sort, descended on the irresistible photo. I’m suspecting they knew that already. But, in truth, the baby was/is hers: because she held him in her arms as if he were her own, because he is. She adores the Lord when she looks at him, because she sees him. She looks at the baby, too, with the eyes of the heart of her spouse, Jesus Christ. She looks at me that way. She’d look at you that way.
The Covington Catholic madness was ongoing, too, as this Mass was happening. And I couldn’t help but associate the wailing with that, too. I wanted to rewind and protect those boys from what was to come — I’m fairly certain that at the point when you’re reading this maybe the full story will still not be clear, because we never know what is in the human heart. Certainly, I would have suggested no MAGA hats, in the hopes of stretching hearts and minds to an openness to the pro-life cause.
I wanted everyone, including myself, to pause and not comment until more was clear. And as the week went on and news broke that the man with the drum and his associates had tried to disrupt Mass at one of the churches where I’ve probably easily spent years of my life, the wailing seemed like it needed to be a soundtrack to our lives. The two things we need the most: our Lord and the weak have become matters for declarations of radical autonomy and just something else to protest.
I also remember all the talk about a “smirk.” I’m not sure what look the high schooler gave the instigator or what was in his heart. But oh my goodness the onslaught for this young man who was in the nation’s capital giving voice to the most fundamental human rights issue of our time. I only know that it was a real poverty for America that we came to yell about this on all media for days instead of seeing the gazes of love that were a part of that March. The women regretting their abortions, trusting in the mercy of God. The heroes make the trip to Washington even as their lives are the ultimate protest to evil.
If I had put pen to paper, so to speak, a few days earlier, I would have told you all about the actual March for Life — the reason those students from Kentucky were in Washington, D.C. in the first place. I would have told you about the confident joy on display, the smiles in the crowd. In the midst of great evil, the Resurrection was in sight. It’s not a religious march, but it was a witness to hope.
When one returned to the world of social media after Mass on the evening of the 22nd, the celebratory cheers in the statehouse could be heard on a video that made the pro-life rounds. I understood the wailing of the baby during the consecration to be an underscoring of Heaven and Hell meeting.
I was far from the only New Yorker who was devastated by Andrew Cuomo getting what he had long been campaigning for, abortion expansion in the state. That’s not because it was a surprise. For years, pro-life activists knew in their hearts they were only holding it back, save for a sea change in politics in the state where Hillary Clinton won the last presidential election.
But it was spiritual warfare, out in the open. We’ve seen it in more than a few news stories lately that leave many of us feeling ill. I know I’m not alone in, while appreciating what Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh potentially means for jurisprudence on these kinds of life and death issues, not being able to be happy about how it all came about. That coarseness in our social media and real media — fake news or not — is at root because of evils in our midst that we all too often refuse to confront using all of the tools available to us.
As I was walking into St. Patrick’s Cathedral that night, I nearly fell into the doors, which seemed to me arms of welcome. I needed Jesus in the Eucharist. A few Sisters of Life friends were his arms with hugs. I rhetorically asked a few: Could we just take over the church for the night? I think a guard heard me and kept me in view for the rest of the night. But where are all our churches with vigils, and all year long? Where is our daily penance and reparation?
This evil of abortion did not start yesterday and it will not end tomorrow. We are Christians called to battle. And our mission is love. In the midst of it. If you’re noticing an uptick in anger, hate, fury, even, what are you going to do about it? Don’t join it, meet it with love. Radically and totally. With that time you make for prayer for the sacrileges we call laws, come up with action items for more service to the cause of a civilization of love, which is nothing less or more than Christianity itself. Combat the culture of death with the Beatitudes.
Clarity will flow from the witness. Love disarms. I see it with the Sisters of Life all the time. By their mere presence, they change the conversation about abortion. It becomes about life, because they are living life and making it possible, as instruments of their spouse, our God.
Don’t be content to join the noise. We can all do more to be the solution by the way we live our lives with love. Life is about more than politics. Life is about giving our weakness to the Lord and unreservedly loving the vulnerable in our vulnerability that is made radiant by the Savior of the World.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is a contributing editor to Angelus, and editor-at-large of the National Review Online. She is also a Senior Fellow at the National Review Institute and a nationally syndicated columnist with United Media’s Newspaper Enterprise Association. Her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York Post, The Human Life Review, First Things and elsewhere.
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