Last evening, sometime after 7:30, I was sitting in a dark, very loud concert hall listening to a Christian rock artist, watching a sea of young folks sing along and wave--it's a technological world--their smartphones instead of bic lighters in the dark. Here were kids from all over the country coming together as strangers and community, with all the marks of community:shared passion, shared experiences, shared rituals. And while I felt very much an outsider in some ways, it was, after all, my Catholic family and I felt right at home. I even enjoyed the music though if it ever shows up at mass (other than the dreaded Life-Teen mass) I'd feel compelled to thrash the music minister, if not actually the priest.
But there was great joy and great energy that bursts through in that music and in those young folks, still able to jump to their feet, scream and sway even when the older, wiser and more exhausted of us were ready for lights-out. At the risk of seeming every one of my 62 years, it did bring back memories, and smiles. Thank God for that kind of brashness and enthusiasm; without such energy and passion, feeling and charging without so much stopping to count the cost--aren't we all called to be such for God?
It reminded me that this is very much a March FOR Life, not just a March AGAINST Death, though they are very much two sides of the same coin. My gift, honed by a lifetime of work, is to see the holes in things--I'm a fixer, or want to be. But sometimes those of us gifted with hole-vision forget the beautiful cloth that surrounds the hole, the reason for wanting to fix that gap in the first place, the unspeakably beautiful tapestry of the fabric that makes up our world.
There's a lot to do to fix that hole in the tapestry of life. One obvious goal is to end the evil of abortion--not in law only but in fact, to eliminate the brokenness of the human heart that causes it to exist in the first place and that happens only in community, in personal relationship with each other and God.
These kids have grown up with the reality of abortion on demand, ith the reality of divorce and division, with contraception and recreational sex. I didn't. I remember well coming of age when abortion wasn't even an option and contraception both primitive and still suspect. I remember the high-profile anguish of thalidomide mothers, and one very prominent newswoman who left the US to procure an abortion of her exposed--and it turns out, deformed-child. And it reminded me of all the other threads that need to be woven together to fill that hole.
I am convinced that abortion is more often the result of fear than of unadulterated selfishness, fear and loneliness. The fear that one hasn't enough resources, personal or economic or social--to raise the child that is coming along. Fear that the child will change life in unbearable ways. The fear that one is not strong enough. The fear of embarassment, of not being as perfect and in-control as one thought. We manage fear first by faith, and then by community. These days, community has long since disappeared from most lives. Families are fractures and dispersed. Churches have lost their importance. People try to substitute all manner of artificial community, built on sandy foundations of like interests or temporary proximity, and when the floods of crisis come, the foundations crumble, the community fails and the weakest and most vulnerable suffer: first the baby, but also the parents, and then the rest of us.
The sister of a friend just gave birth to a baby whose limbs failed to grow much in the manner of the thalidomide babies. Abortion was never an option for this devout Catholic family and it has been interesting to watch at one remove how this tiny life has played out in his new environs. A year later, there's an abundance of pain and challenge--there must be for the heart of any parent who sees a child with struggles large or small--but there is great joy and love. It is because this child had the great blessing to be born into a true family, nuclear and extended, who accepted that, whatever the pain and whatever the challenge, there was blessing in the gift.
That is the challenge of the people of God: to be the family for those who act out of fear and lack of faith. To lend our faith, our resources, our time, our very selves. I wonder whether that high profile mother of the 60s might have kept her baby had she known that there were people who would stand by to hold her and dry her tears when people laughed at her child, to support her when she chose child instead of career, because the one was a living gift from God, to share burdens as well as blessings.
One of the problems we as moderns face is that we have squandered our resources on an acceptance of the modern lifestyle and we see ourselves as having so little to give when those circumstances arise. It's hard to find time to spell a single mother struggling to make ends meet when we are driving our own brood from one event to another, evening after evening. I am reminded of an old adage: he whom the Devil cannot make evil, he at least makes busy. If we are to be the family we are meant to be, I think it's time to take a hard look at time as well as money in the way we live our lives, to make sure we have resources available for God's emergencies as ell as our own. We are too busy for our own good, too busy with the things of the world to be ready for the needs of the people of God when they arrive--as they always do--at unexpected and inconvenient times. Like at the visit of an angel.
One of the speakers started out the concert last night by reminding us all that we are here because of a mother's yes to an unplanned pregnancy, asked us all to say yes in our own ways. It brought tears to my eyes, when I remembered about thirty years ago when, presented with an extremely premature baby with unknown (but, as it turns out, not insubstantial) problems, needed a home. Two teenagers were standing firm against the wishes of one set of parents who wanted an abortion, the other who wanted them to keep a child they knew they were in no position to raise. These children--that baby--were looking for a yes. And in one of those all-too-rare moments when the tiny tug of God could be felt, my groom and I said yes. It's been the adventure of a lifetime and a gift beyond all telling, tears, smiles and all.
This is a march of people who say yes. Yes to life and all it entails. Let us not forget the details....