Saturday night: After two peaceful early hours Saturday morning, I went back in the evening for what proved to be a significant contrast.
I usually pray on the drive to the vigil, and I did so especially this time, in thinking about the time of the week and what I might encounter. I started at 9 o’clock (the last Saturday night rush at the liquor store across the street) and stayed until 11. Also, I remembered too late that I forgot to bring a bottle of holy water, which is part of my small standard list of “accessories.” I was anxious, expecting an eventful night, which it proved to be, and what I received in prayer on the drive was simply that I must remember the dignity of every person I encountered.
One thing that has come up a couple of times this 40 Days is people who have issues with women, by which I mean not those participating in the “pro-woman, pro-life” vigil but people passing by who are generally supportive but don’t quite recognize the full reach of human dignity.
Early on, a young man had some unpleasant names for girlfriends who had abortions. And Saturday night, a tough looking guy, let’s call him J, came across the street and wanted to see our signs, asking us about rape. I answered his question with a story of a local child conceived that way, and to my surprise, I gathered he also was conceived in this way. J said he had a problem with alcohol (I said “no judgment here”) and as he walked away, he proceeded to condemn as lazy and selfish women who have had abortions.
Our next encounter was with a couple, who walked by shortly after the liquor store closed. Walking on the other side of the street, they were right in each other’s faces, screaming profanities at each other. I made the mistake of looking, just a quick glance, and the man caught it and came across the street. He asked us from God’s point of view who was right. They were arguing, as best I could tell, about who should have eaten first. When we stood there dumbfounded, they continued on, for at least another block, now standing on opposite sides of the street screaming f-bombs at each other.
Some time later, J came back. He expressed his gratitude for how kindly we had treated him and wanted to stay and talk. We made friends. However, as he leeringly poured compliments on every woman who walked by, he and I eventually got into a conversation about sex. He seemed to approach it strictly in terms of his own pleasure, and to think that’s why God had made it. I pointed out that eating is pleasurable too, and that yet if you treat pleasure as the purpose of eating, you end up looking like, well, me. That seemed to capture his attention, and I was able, eventually, to talk him through the biblical image of marriage as a sign pointing to the self-giving, sacrificial love of Christ for the Church, and one which particularly calls husbands to lay down their lives in Christ-like service and love for their wives.
J seemed very attentive to all this, and we had a good talk. I would appreciate prayers for him as he works to straighten out his life. Another good prayer intention would be for all men to recognize the dignity of women. As we see over and over again, it is often that very lack of respect that leads to abortion, whether it is through selfish sexual exploitation by men who have no intention of being husbands and fathers or by pressure or by men who are just absent.
There’s (at least) one more weird twist to the story. You remember what I got in prayer on the drive down? I thought of that while talking to J, and for the most part lived it. I enjoyed talking to him and getting to see the good in him, which is considerable, and I hope to get to know him better still. But while I tried (and I hope succeeded) not to show this on the outside, there was also a part of me that was annoyed that he “interrupted” me for more than an hour when I was there to pray. When I got home and started thinking about it, I recalled the passage of Scripture which says men have entertained angels unaware. Now, some of J’s behavior was hardly angelic, as I have mentioned. But Blessed Mother Teresa called the poorest of the poor “Christ in distressing disguise.” What I did unto His least, I did unto Him. So it occurred to me that God was teaching me something important in that funny, hidden way of His. Next time, I should not be impatient in my heart, either.
Sunday night: The next night, the wind picked up, with a bite to it, and with a few hard drops of rain too. I had tried to recruit a few members of my chant schola, and three of us were there. Due to a mix-up, another person had also showed up to keep me company, and a fifth guy, another regular at the vigil, was there too. So we had five of us, all praying evening prayer while the three breviaries among us got a little wet. On the bright side, that beautiful, practically brand-new book now looks a little more used.
Another blog: I want to direct your attention, too, to a blog a friend of mine is doing about his 40 Days experiences. Some of the most beautiful moments of my experience at last year’s vigil were with Roger (see the mentions of Scott, Shalynn and chanting the Divine Mercy Chaplet here) and plan to spend several hours there with him this fall.