We got to campus early, but missed the turn for the designated parking area. This turned out to be a really good thing— I asked one of the ubiquitous policemen for help, and he directed us to a different parking lot, much closer to campus. As we pulled in, a group of nuns was getting out of their car. By the time we unloaded all the kids, the nuns were way ahead of us, but since we weren’t sure where we were going, we adopted a policy of “follow the pretty blue nuns.” (They were in full habit.) My daughters were thrilled and started screaming “Go faster! The nuns are really fast and we have to catch them!!”
We streaked across campus. At one point the signs that the ND Response crowd put up went one way, and the nuns went another. We were at a loss about what to do, so we asked one of the official campus greeters. Big mistake. She hadn’t even heard that the Mass was going on, it wasn’t on her official schedule of events, and she had no idea why we’d want to go to it. We quickly decided that our best bet was to follow the nuns, so we ran off after them again.
We eventually caught up with them in front of the basilica, and found out that they were Daughters of the Immaculata (http://
daughtersoftheimmaculata.com/) from Libertyville, IL. My daughters proclaimed their habits ‘beautiful’ and told me that they all looked just like Mary. They’re a new community and seem like they’re definitely worth checking out!
We’d skipped Benediction, as we wanted to save up the kids’ limited reserves of good behavior for Mass. We’re lucky we did. The quad was huge, and our first thought was “It’s not too crowded.” Then I noticed how tiny the choir seemed from where we staked our ground. If we’d been at St. Mary of the Angels (one of the biggest churches in Chicago) we’d have been sitting in the last pew. And the people kept on coming in behind us. Fortunately, they had a good sound system and a camera/video screen going, so we could still see.
Mass was pretty good as far as outdoor Masses hosted by college students go. It was very reverent, and the choir was so good I actually didn’t mind Hass and Haugen for a change. =) The celebrant, one of the Holy Cross fathers, gave a good homily on what Christ means by love which led into an appreciation of the seniors who organized the Mass and the fact that they were making a great sacrifice for the truth and shouldn’t be discouraged.
Communion was orderly except for the occasional old ladies criss-crossing the quad in a determined effort to receive from Father Corapi (who concelebrated.) There was absolutely NO media coverage that I could see, even though I’m sure there were more people at the Mass than at the protests where people were getting arrested.
After Mass, Airforce One did a flyby, which a lot of us found funny. (Unfortunately, since it was AFTER Mass a big chunk of the crowd had gone to get lunch, so the view from the window probably wasn’t as impressive as it had been 15 minutes earlier.) I talked to a bunch of people who’d come up from St. Louis – we also saw some who’d come all the way from Virginia!
The speakers at the rally weren’t terribly famous, but they were all very good. Father Wilson Miscamble, a Holy Cross father and a professor at Notre Dame, gave a great barn-burner to start things off, calling out the administration on their cowardice, and praising the students for having the courage to stand up for the truth, even when it was inconvenient. Also, he’s Australian, so he has a great accent, and he made Lord of the Rings references!
After Father Miscamble was done speaking, Bishop D’Arcy arrived. He said he hadn’t been planning on coming, because he hadn’t seen what he could possibly contribute, but that he realized the night before at Adoration that while D’Arcy the man wasn’t that important, the office of the Bishop was, and so it was his job to be there and let the protesting students know that the church stood with them. Very short remarks, but much appreciated.
Chris Godfrey, the founder of Life Athletes and a Superbowl champion, gave the next talk. Unfortunately, I can’t give a good summary—whenever talk turns to football, my attention wanders and I was changing a dirty diaper while he talked.... The crowd enjoyed his speech, though.
The next speaker was Elizabeth Borger. She’s on the board for the Women’s Care Centers here in Northern Indiana. (http://www.womenscarecenter.
org/) These are crisis pregnancy centers, founded by Professor Janet Smith, that operate completely in keeping with church teaching—they don’t even dispense contraception! Also, the Women’s Care centers continue to provide support to the mothers until their child enters Kindergarten.
Mrs. Borger’s talk mostly talked about the Women’s Care Centers, the work they do, and why it was important to reach out to pregnant women. She contrasted the media image of pro-lifers (judgmental, mean, hate the mothers) with the reality (love mothers and babies BOTH, want what’s best for everyone) It was a good solid talk, and could have done a lot to dispel stereotypes if there’s been any media present. (There wasn’t, that I could see – though the students were recording all the speeches, so hopefully they’ll show up on YouTube later.)
A senior took the stage to announce that the Orestes Brownson Society at Notre Dame was giving an award to Mary Ann Glendon and read a few excerpts from her letter accepting the award.
Lacy Dodd, the woman who wrote the “Notre Dame My Mother” article for First Things (http://www.firstthings.com/
onthesquare/?p=1402) spoke next. She was the first speaker to interest my 5 year old, mostly because she brought her daughter along. She gave a good, solid talk which was along the same lines as her article.
At this point, my 3 year old daughter and my 18 month old son were getting tired and fussy, but I convinced my husband that we should at least stay a little longer, until the end of the rally.
He was glad that I persuaded him to stay, because the next speaker, Father John Raphael SSJ, was awesome. He talked about abolition, civil rights, and abortion. He also had some great, snarky comments about the fact that Obama’s supporters called anyone who didn’t want him to get a degree from Notre Dame a racist, and well, what does that make Father Raphael? And then he ripped into Obama for being racist by promoting abortion for poor and minority women, and acting like a black mother on welfare can’t love her child as well as a white woman in the suburbs. HUGE reaction from the crowd, a really great speech. A reporter from the local Fox affiliate was there for some of it, but he seemed to be filming the crowd, not the speaker…..
The final speaker, Professor David Solomon, was joined on stage by about 50 professors in full academic regalia—they were all boycotting the commencement and supporting the ND Response kids instead. My husband pointed out that, sadly, it didn’t look like there were many younger faculty members with them—I don’t know if this is because the young faculty unanimously approve of honoring pro-choice speakers, or if they’re just afraid to speak out before they have tenure. Solomon’s talk was more about speaking the Truth even when it’s inconvenient, and fighting to make Notre Dame Catholic again.
At this point the kids were inches away from major meltdown (They’d been too excited to nap,) and the girls had nearly trampled and elderly nun (not one of the Immaculata sisters, a white nun of some sort) so we decided to skip the Rosary with Father Pavone and head home.
All in all, the Mass and Rally were excellent – they were peaceful, appropriate, and family friendly (the ND response people were even giving the kids ‘Choose Life’ balloons…. And they rushed to replace any that escaped!) There was almost no media coverage, though.
Which takes me back to my complaint about the lawn-trampling-dismembered-
corpse-displaying- tresspassing-and-getting- arrested pro-lifers who DO get all the attention.
I realize they’re angry about abortion. We all are. But the ends (making people aware that abortion is bad) don’t justify the means (law-breaking, showing pictures of dead babies, etc.) And the ends do more harm then good. They don’t convince people to protect life; they turn them AWAY from it.
To end abortion in this country, we need to change hearts and minds. We can change minds—ultrasounds are ubiquitous now, the ‘hand of life’ boy is turning ten, anyone who’s had high school biology has to admit that, from conception, the thing in the uterus meets all the scientific tests for ‘human life.’
The problem is the hearts – no matter how rationally we argue, the pro-choice position basically comes down to “But I don’t WANT to have a baby.” And, in the end, probably the only Person who can change hearts is God-- that’s where Mass/Rosaries/Eucharistic Processions and Adoration come in. In the end, the controversy over abortion is NOT about politics –it’s about religion. It’s about recognizing that every human life has value, that every human life is loved intensely. And I think this is where the ND Response kids see the truth of the matter more clearly than all the folks who were trying to shock the media and get arrested.
So, even though their protests were completely ignored, because they don’t fit the prevailing narrative, they weren’t wasted--- after all, any time we run to Christ in the Eucharist and throw ourselves at the feet of Mary with our prayers, there’s no possibility of ‘waste.’
Deirdre, thank you so much for sharing your experience with all of us--and thank you, and your family, for turning out today to be among the pro-life witnesses reinforcing the Catholic Church's teachings on the sanctity of life!