I was fortunate enough to be on retreat in Tampa, Florida. It was wonderful to be on retreat with Father Palardy of St. Agatha Parish. Please know that I prayed for you during the retreat and have returned with a renewed spirit.
As I write you coming off this past weekend, the Gospel still echoes within me as Jesus told us to “Turn the other cheek” and “Love your enemies.” It think it is fair to say that we pretty much “get it” in our minds, but putting it into practice still challenges us. In light of this, I wish to share with you a story that came out of the Women’s March in Washington DC the day after Inauguration Day.
It seems that there were not enough “porta-potties” set up for the event. The March went by the Dominican priory on the southern side of the National Mall, where many people from the March sought a restroom as a result. Observing the desperation of those outside, some friars kindly offered to let a dozen marchers use the public restrooms in the priory. But, unexpectedly, hundreds of people quickly formed a line seeking relief. This small act of mercy became a source of anxiety. Not only was a large crowd descending on the priory, but with the people came many disagreeable signs, shirts, and hats, some of which had messages that were anti-Catholic, pro-abortion, or vulgar. Nevertheless, those carrying or wearing these things had the courtesy to cover them up. Instead of the friars just leaving the women to themselves, they followed Pope Francis’ call for Christians to get out of their “comfort zone” in order to increase our chance of “encounter” with those we would not normally do so. While many were on the opposite side of the Church’s teaching on abortion, the friars were able to engage in discussions of the Church’s teachings on the dignity of women, of laborers, and of the poor, as well as the importance of the environment. Surprisingly, a few marchers spontaneously started collecting money for the church. It started with their passing around a hat. Over the course of about two hours hundreds of dollars were donated to the church without any prompting by the friars.
The friars could very easily have not let them in, citing their differences to justify that act. They, instead, chose to acknowledge and meet them, using an act of mercy as a starting point. We can all learn from their example.
Gratefully yours in Christ,
PS The source of this story is the Dominican publication “Dominicana.”