Earlier this week, I hurried from my office to cover a candlelight vigil that marked the start of an annual pro-life campaign. Since parking at the location, a downtown abortion clinic, would be scarce, I decided to leave my truck in my building’s lot and walk. After a day spent hunched over my laptop, I needed to untangle both mind and limbs with a brisk stroll.
A few blocks later, I began to notice a number of police officers and protestors gathering in front of City Hall. I then remembered that a grand jury had issued a decision a few hours earlier regarding the police-related death of Breonna Taylor. The 26-year-old emergency medical technician had been shot March 13 in her Louisville apartment during a “no-knock” narcotics warrant that yielded no evidence of any criminal activity on her part. One officer was charged with endangerment for firing into a neighboring apartment; the other two were not implicated.
The demonstration was still forming as I hastened past, but I prayed both sides would remain safe throughout the evening. I knew that the vigil would draw far fewer participants, and I expected it to be quiet, though certainly no less heartfelt.
But as the evening unfolded, the two events mysteriously merged. Outside of the clinic, an angry heckler demanded if the pro-life advocates planned to attend the Breonna Taylor protest. The keynote speaker graciously replied that some of those gathered might choose to do just that following the final prayers.
And moments after that concluding “amen,” the police assigned to safeguard the vigil alerted attendees that the City Hall protest, by now some 150 strong, was wending its way down the street. The minister who had offered the vigil’s last blessing quickly turned to the stream of demonstrators, raising his hands in greeting and goodwill. For him, and for those who had just held aloft candles against the darkness of death in the womb, the two causes were not at odds: human life at any age is precious.
“Be careful walking back, ma’am,” an officer said as I reshouldered my camera bag and began the 10-block trek back to the office parking lot.
Despite the caution, and for all sirens and shouts, I felt no anxiety; only a sense of deep reflection. Diners of all races (and, I would imagine, religions and political parties) filled outdoor tables at restaurants that had just reopened after weeks of COVID closure. On almost every corner, a man or woman without shelter looked up from a doorstep, asking for some recognition of their need, their dignity. Cars threaded their way through bicycle riders and pedestrians trying to cross busy intersections, all hastening to a somewhere unique to each.
Two groups had stood their ground that evening against injustice, their cries echoing through the media, but reporters and cameras could never capture the untold battles that raged in the hearts of the demonstrators, or of the otherwise ordinary passersby. We live in a loud and noisy age, but perhaps the most deafening peals are those that are left unsounded in the depths of the human heart — the longings we cannot name, the wounds we cannot forget, the desire for an eternal home that, on our own weary feet, we cannot reach.
Surely Christ heard those echoes when he assured St. Faustina in 1934 — the year in which Hitler assumed his demonic power — that “mankind (would) not have peace until it turned with trust to (his) mercy” (Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, 300).
Amid the protests within and without, then, may we find the grace to kneel not only in our streets, but in our souls, and to find there a Savior whose pierced hands are stretched forth to heal our anguish and restore us to unending life.
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