In preparation for the holidays I went shopping at Costco on a Friday afternoon. It was a madhouse! As I walked around the store filling my basket I looked, really looked, at the faces of the other shoppers, the staff working the sample stations and cash registers, and folks lined up at the food counter. One elderly gentleman had such a large nose, I thought, “My, he could easily play Cyrano de Bergerac without a fake nose.” A solemn couple stood in line waiting for service and I wondered what they were thinking. A young mom sat at a table with three small children including a little boy about five who was crying his eyes out. “Somebody’s tired,” I commiserated with the mom. But no, he was crying because his two siblings were eating ice cream and he didn’t get one because he refused to get his hair cut. What a brave mom to make her little one deal with the consequences of his disobedience instead of caving in to his tearful blackmail. I wish I had told the little one. “Oops, next time listen to Mommy; she’s the boss.” Instead I smiled and told the mom I remember those challenging days and that I’d pray for her. And I did as I headed for the exit.
It occurred to me as I really looked at everyone around me, that all these people were touching my life, and I was touching theirs. I said a Hail Mary for them all and thought about so many people woven into the fabric of my life.
Some, family and close friends, are the large swatches and bold threads that make up the pattern: all my pro-life friends: fellow rescuers who shared paddy wagons and jail cells; my fellow prisoners for 24 days at the Spring of Life in Buffalo and the guard I spoke to on the roof; the little group of helpers who collated, folded, and put mailing labels on this newsletter for so many years: the parents, teachers, and staff at my children’s schools; fellow parishioners especially those on the pro-life committee at St. Louis, the pro-abort deathscorts at the abortion mills like Jim, the retired postman, who loved his dog Pumpkin, but had no heart for unborn babies; the young man Dan who screamed at me during a rescue, but ended up telling me his name so I could pray for him; the man with the dreadlocks in Times Square carrying a sign advertising an XXX adult bookstore who laughed when I said, “What would your mother say?” I carry them all in my heart and commend them to my guardian angel and theirs.
And then the countless others, the myriad of brief encounters too insignificant to remember: strangers passing on the street, the drivers who honk or wave or make obscene gestures when we witness at the Life Chain and other pro-life events year after year; all my fellow demonstrators at the many March for Life events; the horde of screaming harpies at the 1986 Women’s March who circled the snow fence protecting the cemetery of the innocents where a friend and I knelt in prayer; another pro-abortion Women’s March where we shook baby rattles to “rattle their consciences.” Friend or foe, for good or evil, we are all joined in the dance of life. And I pray for them all often when I ask the Lord to remember everyone whose life has touched mine whether working for good or working for evil. I want to meet them all merrily in heaven.
That, of course, is not likely. Free will allows each of us the choice to take God’s hand through union with the God-Man Jesus or to shake our fists at heaven and slink after Satan embracing his false promises. Those who say we can have a “reasonable hope that all are saved” can’t be paying attention.
Was Jesus a liar? Was our Blessed Mother? Were the saints? Why would they devote so much attention to hell if there were no real danger of going there? It is good to fast and pray for the conversion of all, but, realistically, that is not going to happen. The greatest charity we can do for others is to pray and sacrifice for them. We are more likely to do that if we really look at people, try to make a connection, even if it’s just a smile, and give them into the care and protection of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. We need to do that especially for those we find difficult. Only God knows how much good little things can do.