Saturday, February 23, 2013

March for Life, Part 2: Stumbling upon half a million people.

Actually, the final estimate was 650,000--give or take a few tens of thousands.

After stumbling upon Fr. Justin and making a scene, Lita and I left the Dominicans and explored the other signs and flags nearby, finding interesting groups such as Pro Gay Pro Life and Seculars for Life and Hemophiliacs for Life. But the temperature was in the 20s and we felt cold so we decided to enter into the hordes of people where we could leech off their body heat and be out of the wind. As the emcees warmed up for the rally by shouting out to various states and groups and projecting live video on the Jumbotron we eventually realized that we were behind the stage! And walking to the other side we saw a seemingly endless sea of more than half a million people. I was amazed to see armies of jubilant high school and college aged people, making up far more than half the population present. And they were all so joyful. As Fr. Wells said during his homily at the Comcast Center: “Then He sends us out to march joyfully, to protest prayerfully, to give evidence to the world that life is good and we cannot deprive anyone of their God-given right to live.” Far from the somber severity I had expected, the atmosphere was filled with hope and joyful celebration of life and community. The sense of community would increase right through to the end of the March.

Secular Pro-Life (from Lita)

The rally included oodles of live and taped speakers including politicians, ex-abortionists, women who regret their abortions, people who were conceived through rape, various religious leaders, the new organizer of the March (The previous organizer, Nellie Gray, passed away last year at age 88.), and a Tweet of encouragement from Pope Benedict XVI!

Lita took an abandoned sign, after getting permission from a pack of teenagers, but we hid it in a bush when we decided to go into the Smithsonian Castle to warm up. I saw no signs of civil disobedience (certainly nothing worse than our sign-hiding offense) but the DC natives made it clear that they were not happy to see us (see what I mean?), from threats of confiscating property and pre-scolding us for anticipated disobedience to blank looks in response to innocent questions and an overall tone of unfriendliness. It certainly felt like the staff at the Smithsonian Café would have refused service if they had thought it would be legally permissible. But from so many years in grad school I know how frustrating it can be to find oneself caught, even for a few minutes, in the middle of a crowd of teenagers, no matter how well intentioned. And maybe that explains how they became so exasperated. Anyway, after a few humbling experiences, we managed to purchase hot tea and snacks. I ate my breakfast of cheddar and sour cream potato chips while we had a nice chat about vocations and Opus Dei and corporal mortifications and many other things.

Lita's "stolen" sign and proof that she definitely did not need a new hat.

By the time we left the sign was gone but I had gotten instructions from Jeremy telling us the whereabouts of the Mount St. Mary’s seminarians. So we set out on a confusing trek through the crowd, frequently led astray by various miscommunications. But, perhaps led by the Holy Spirit, we eventually found them toward what seemed like it might be the front of the March, although we still couldn’t see the leaders.

Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion of this March for Life 2013 blog post series!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

March for Life, Part 1: Stumbling across Fr. Justin.

I prayed the rosary on the Metro from Greenbelt to Smithsonian feeling a little nervous about the cold temperature and the impending snow but comforted by the Catholic and March-for-Life chatter going on around me. I had half expected to feel isolated and alone, enduring the disapproving glares of a few straggling DC commuters. I finished praying and tried to relax until Smithsonian where I shuffled off to find Lita who was already outside waiting.

A couple of men peddling winter hats—actually they claimed they were free—approached us immediately. “But…. We already have hats.” Eventually they gave up on the hats and just asked for money. But alas, Lita was carrying plastic and I only had a fifty dollar bill and didn’t feel comfortable asking for change. (I’m sure FrC would have given them the fifty dollars and his own hat, unless he knew for sure they were after drug money.) So I said we would pray for them and they took it well, with one man offering prayers for us too.

We weren’t sure where to go but there was a steady stream of people with matching neon scarves so we followed them. We got to the National Mall and saw a stage set up with a bunch of people beside it. I would guess we could see about 100 thousand people, far fewer than the typical crowds of 400 thousand. But we assumed that most people had not arrived since many, including my friend Jeremy, were currently participating in Mass for the Feast of St.Paul’s Conversion with a full house at the Verizon Center (the Eucharistic Jesus on the Jumbotron!). From the homily by Fr. Griffin: “In the face of a culture that says you can’t find happiness without indulging every sexual urge, we respond with the beauty and peace of holy purity in our thoughts, our words, and our actions.” Later we found out that mega Masses were also celebrated at a stadium in VA and at the Comcast Center in College Park.

Here I am!! Cold but happy. (from Lita)

The night before, Cardinal Wuerl celebrated a Vigil Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception with so many other bishops, priests, and deacons that Jeremy says the procession lasted 40 minutes! The Mass kicked off an all night prayer vigil with confessions available and concluding with another Mass the next morning (both Masses were broadcast on EWTN). Really, the prayers started in earnest nine days before the March, with nine day novenas and Mass intentions offered in all 50 states and even in other countries. The anticipation reached a crescendo with Mass for the Feast of St. Paul’s Conversion—what a great feast day for the March for Life!
There is what Fr. Larry A. calls "The Mean Jesus".

I missed the Mass at the Basilica Thursday night because I was at my weekly rosary prayer group where the ladies gave me tips (e.g. use a museum bathroom instead of the Port-a-Potties) and packed me some snacks for the trip. The next day I was running late and caught Mass at Our Lady of the Fields where I ran into 90 year old Joe who offered more snacks if I had time to stop by his place. He quickly packed me a bag of fruit and we said a prayer together and then I was on my way.

Anyway, back at the Mall, we marveled at the giant and fancy signs and flags all around. We approached one black and white Religious Order that Lita thought she recognized but they turned out to be Dominicans. And I knew one of them! Like the awkward scientist that I am, I pointed at his face and said, “I know you!! You’re Fr. Justin.” And like the mild mannered Dominican he is, he acted like he didn’t notice my awkward rudeness and pleaded guilty.

Gasp!! It's Fr. Justin. And here's the proof. (from Lita)

I had only seen this man on two occasions, first at his priestly ordination and second at Meghan and Greg’s wedding (although I had been in the same room with him once, without seeing him, at the Dominican House during Compline). Now knowing at least TWO other people at the March, I felt quite comfortable.

Liebster award--whoo WHOO!!

It is like the chain letter of blogging, and I am a winner!

I copied that first sentence from Meghan. So double-thanks, Meghan! BTW, I copied this post from since it has a sweet picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The Rules:
Thank the person who nominated you and link your post to their blog.
List 11 facts about yourself then answer the 11 questions given to you.
Create 11 more questions for your 9 nominees, all of whom have 200 or less followers.
Comment on their blogs informing them of their Liebster Award nomination.

Facts about me:

1.)       While I was still a kid, all of a sudden the Lemonhead boxes had SAY NO TO DRUGS printed inside the flap. I was partially convinced that this was code to indicate that they contained actual drugs or poison—convinced enough to cause some genuine fear, but not convinced enough not to eat them.

2.)       I was also afraid that the mouse poo in our outdoor stairwell would give us Hantavirus.

3.)       Also while I was still a kid, Andy and I used to skate around the hard wood floors in our socks, pretending to be competitive figure skaters. We choreographed routines set to sweet 80s music—what a good brother!!

4.)       I used to watch Andy play video games because he claimed it was more fun to play with someone watching. This conditioned me to spend hours watching college friends play Snood.

5.)       Once, I think on Andy’s birthday, we spent an entire day watching and rewatching Young Einstein.

6.)       During my short hair phase, I once chemical burned my scalp while bleaching my hair blonde.

7.)       Once (kid again) I ate all of the stenciled fake snow off of my mirror and, as a baby, I stuck my finger into an electric pencil sharpener.

8.)       I really do not like licorice.

9.)       I had brief stints in both high school and college cheerleading.

10.)    I’ve been told that I would really thrive in the prison environment—it was a compliment.
Answers to Meghan’s questions:

1.) What is the best book you've read lately?

I am reading Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain and it is pretty amazing.

“We live in a society whose whole policy is to excite every nerve in the human body and keep it at the highest pitch of artificial tension, to strain every human desire to the limit and to create as many new desires and synthetic passions as possible, in order to cater to them with the products of our factories and printing presses and movie studios and all the rest.”

2.) Do you have a favorite painting/piece of artwork, and if so, what is it?

YES! Our Lady of Guadalupe

3.) How do you feel about Tuesday?

It’s ok, I guess. I prefer Monday and Thursday because they seem more optimistic. On Monday I have a full week ahead of me to make amazing progress. By Thursday I may not have made amazing progress yet but there are still two whole days to catch up.

4.) Do you have any wilderness survival skills, and if so, what are they?

No. None at all.

5.) How many (and which) languages do you speak?


6.) Got any funny stories you'd like to share?

Sorry, can't think of any. I'm not very funny.

7.) What is the weirdest recipe you've made and loved?

The first time I made it with an expired can of spinach and liked it enough that I bought a new, unexpired can to make it again.

8.) Are you right-handed or left-handed?

Righty. If Lefty were cut off I might not notice much difference.

9.) What would be your ideal vacation?

I would like to go back to Spain and see all the amazing Catholic things that I didn’t care about at all the last time I went there.

10.) What is the age from which you have your earliest memory?

Maybe 5ish? I’m not good at remembering things.

11.) Can you separate an egg without using some sort of man-made egg separator?

YES! I’ve never even heard of an egg separating device.

Questions to the nominees:

1.)          What is your favorite animal?
2.)          What is your favorite day of the work week?
3.)          How many pets have you had and what kinds?
4.)          What is your favorite blog to read?
5.)          Have you been to Boulder, CO and, if so, do you think it’s some sort of dream land?
6.)          What was/is your favorite thing to do on a snow day (if you’ve ever had one)?
7.)          Do you own a Snuggie?
8.)          What was the last movie you saw in the theater?
9.)          What is your favorite cookie recipe?
10.)       Did you ever own any NKOTB merchandise?
11.)       Which is your favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle?


Also copied from Meghan:
Those I would like to nominate for the Liebster Award (also, I will not at all be offended if you are not interested in making your own big long post like this. But either way, I still wanted to let you know that your blogging is appreciated. Also, if you are not one of these people but feel like answering any of those questions in the comment section, I'd be all in favor of that)!

BTW, a lot of these blogs seem to be dead, but since I know hardly any bloggers I’m giving those blogs a chance to be resurrected. (And I still didn’t make it anywhere near 9.)

1.)   Dana
2.)   BPS
3.)   Meredith
4.)   Chris (his blog is extra dead!)
5.)   YOU?? (Please let me know if you have a blog and would like me to nominate you for the Liebster Award.)