The first Saturday of October this year was a close encounter with how thin the veil is between us and not only heaven, but hell, too. The morning Mass I went to had protesters. It was the 10th anniversary of a monthly Witness to Life Mass at Old Saint Patrick’s in lower Manhattan. Monthly, people gather for Mass and peacefully process afterward toward the Planned Parenthood at Margaret Sanger Place a few blocks away.
As it happened, this was also the day Judge Brett Kavanaugh was expected to get his confirmation vote. There was no doubt that was exacerbating the hostility on the streets.
Before Mass, protesters were already outside the church with their mostly homemade signs. Once Mass began, “Free abortion on demand” became one of the chants we could hear, even with the doors of the church closed. It was quite the contrast to the message Father Fidelis Moscinski, a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal, was conveying in his homily. Gently, he talked about the need to “reach out to women with the love of Christ.”
There was even a light note to his homily. Having been outside seeing the protesters before Mass, and having talked to the police who were trying to keep everyone safe, he urged a no-confrontation and no-arrest morning. This was funny, because he confessed he is not always a good model of this — he’s chosen civil disobedience on occasion, praying inside abortion clinics.
The power of showing up and sometimes making such a choice is clear in the testimony of Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood director who writes in her book “Unplanned” about how the sight of a religious sister weeping outside her clinic one day affected those inside the clinic. What was it they were doing that would cause this woman such pain? Still, not this day.
But the clash-between-heaven-and-hell-moment seemed to be when we were receiving Jesus in the Eucharist. As I approached the altar, I was standing behind a number of Sisters of Life. Theirs is a community of women religious who were founded in New York by Cardinal O’Connor two decades ago as a continual witness to life. He said, if you are a pregnant woman in need, come to the Catholic Church. The religious sisters run a maternity home and provide both material and spiritual support for women, children and men who need help before, during and after the birth or death of a child. Theirs is a charism for building a culture of life and civilization of love.
It all may seem impossible, leaving people to believe that there will always be a need for legal abortion. But these women show something different. Knowing that, the substance of the ever-louder and clearer and angrier and accusatory shouts were especially disturbing. “Pro-life is a lie, they don’t care if women die!” These sisters live their lives for women who have been hurt by our culture of death, because they see Christ in them. They see the Blessed Mother in them. They bring the very love of the Incarnation to the people they serve.
Around the same time, the protesters were chanting “Get up. Get down. New York is a pro-choice town.” Not with the Sisters of Life around. Not with the Blessed Sacrament so close to the Planned Parenthood.
These days, we have plenty of reminders of the spiritual warfare we face daily and including in what ought to be the holiest of places with the most Christlike of people. Every day must be an encounter with the power of Christ in the Mass. He’s the winning side. And we had better be showing the world his love. It needs it. It’s the only honest way for us to live.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review and co-author of “How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice” (OSV, $17.95).