For all those who were on their way in to see "The Pope and the Witch" last night, a not-so-silent witness of faith was to be seen, and heard, on the front steps of the Rarig Center at the University of Minnesota campus.
The account has already been told by Adoro te Devote
, so I won't repeat what she said here. For my own accounting, I had heard about the prayer vigil earlier thanks to an e-mail from Ray
, and immediately divided my time between getting my work done at the parish and ringing up various other friends to let them know about it. Then, after the 5pm Mass at the parish I made a dash for Minneapolis, fortuitously pulling into the 21st Ave parking ramp right at 7pm along with a carload of my fellow UST Rome students
Things started kind of slow, but shortly there appeared a few other UST students, and soon we were formed up in line across from the Center and fervently praying the Rosary. (Must have been at this point that the other MN bloggers arrived, I remember seeing people coming into line down on my left, but didn't know who it was. :) It was amusing to note that a security guard appeared almost immediately from the recesses of the Center, and slowly made her way down to where we were. I was standing next to our fearless leader, who went to talk to her and there seemed to be agreement on all sides about what we were doing (whew).
Suddenly there's a break in the prayer and the 20 or so of us who were along the sidewalk turned to see the very cool sight of dozens of SJV seminarians marching up! We all then went across the street, took up position in front of the building, unfurled the banners of the SJV pledge and of Our Lady, and started singing! I wish I would have taken a video, the sound of our singing was just glorious. I pray that it touched some hearts of those casual passers-by who stopped in amazement to see us.
I have to say, after participating in anti-abortion prayer vigils (and outright protests), this one was pretty mild - it was mostly looks from what I saw. We got a lot of dark looks, a lot of condescending looks, a lot of "puh-lease" looks, a lot of scathing looks, a lot of bemused looks, and a lot of "i'm not looking at you, you don't really exist" looks. One lady very amusingly went "hmph" loudly right in front of our signs. Another few characters walked by as quickly as possible, muttering "go home!"
My conclusion was that most of the people in attendance didn't really understand what they were going to see, if they had and meant to endorse it, we should have heard all kinds of comments about the political/ecclesial charges that the play makes. Instead, it seemed more like we were getting the same scorn that we would get from the lefty/GLBT/artsy/progressive crowd at any time of day or night that we would dare show our faces (and our Latin singing voices!) in public. I think we'd get the same reaction if we set up shop in the middle of Uptown on a random evening.
So, that's almost more scary to me - what we saw was the typical cultural hatred and condescension towards any show of Christian belief. What we saw was the typical cultural openness to anything that criticizes the same belief, and therefore sees productions like the "Pope and the Witch" as perfectly acceptable ways to broaden our cultural vision and understanding. What we saw was a lot of people who were like sheep going to the wolves, ready and willing in the name of "freedom" to be formed in whatever truths their entertainers saw fit to present to them. What we saw were a lot of souls in mortal danger, perhaps not because of their actual opposition to the truth but more because of their lukewarmness and indifference to truth (apart from a superior arrogance towards "those people").
Nope, we were not there to protest. We were there to pray. We were there not so that they would see us
per se, but so that we could see them
- we could see some of the faces of our neighbors in need. It is not often that the worlds of secularism and of orthodox Catholicism meet quite so obviously, but I feel very strongly after last night that these worlds do indeed need to meet more and more. We must "upset the apple cart" by simply BEING in the world, if not to convert them by what we are doing, to convert them by being able to pray for each of them specifically. Personal prayer. I know I will remember many of those faces that I saw last night for quite some time to come, I vow to be intentional in praying for them (if not by name, by face!).Remember, O Most Gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession, was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins my mother. To thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.