by Tara K.E. Brelinsky
I'm a people watcher, so this weekend's trip to Washington, DC afforded me ample opportunities to indulge myself. You can learn so much from just watching one another, reading body language and listening to that which is being said without words.
The whole Brelinsky brood made the journey to our nation's capitol to unite with our fellow pro-lifers in the annual March for Life. This was our first time participating in the DC March, so we weren't sure what to expect. We knew we'd be among “friends,” but we weren't quite sure how we'd navigate our large family through the myriad of protesters. This type of concern is enough to stop some from ever making the attempt and in truth it has prevented us in the past, but we were called this year and so we had to trust and march forward. All the beforehand preparation and concerns caused me to reflect on the work of the apostles and even our founding fathers. God called them, too, to go out and spread His Truth, to forge His path in a new land. His call required their response, their willingness and action. So, we Brelinskys responded by booking a hotel, requesting time off from work, making arrangements for our animals, creating T-shirts and signs, packing and then setting out on the four hour drive. All around me was eagerness and combined cooperation as our kids put their full efforts into dreaming about the anticipated events. It is times like this when I relish the blessing of being part of a big family, even though in the moment to moment mothering duties I sometimes succumb to my own weaknesses.
When we arrived on Thursday night the forecast for Friday was telling us to expect the worst with a 70% chance of precipitation and low temperatures. We woke up Friday morning undaunted and began our trek to the metro station with rain drizzling down upon us. The kids were troopers, layered in shirts and coats. Watching them reminds me that life is meant to be lived joyfully. They ignore the minor details like rain and cold and simply focus on the excitement of the moment.
Arriving at the metro station, we purchased our tickets for the day and that is when I began to watch more intently. Being unfamiliar with metro mass transit systems' methods of operation, we initially had difficulty purchasing our tickets and then discerning how and when we could use them. At the same time, we were fumbling around from machine to machine, there were several transit employees standing together chatting. Perhaps, they simply didn't notice our family of nine with a double stroller in the lead because no one of them acknowledged our struggle. Once we did garner their attention, the response we received was less than warm and personal. The tickets it seemed required us to stand about for another ten minutes before we could commence our journey. We were like race horses confined by the stall gate waiting to charge forth, but instead God placed us in the moment that tested our patience. Are we too far north for some southern hospitality, I thought?
When finally the clock registered 9:30am, we charged forth navigating each of our children one by one through the ticket gate. I, myself, felt like a child following behind Greg. It all seems like a maze to me, so I simply pulled up the rear of our caravan and grasped the tiny hands of stragglers. After an elevator ride and some quick jockeying around obstacles, we pushed onto the first of our several trains for the day. Mindful of fellow passengers, who might not be accustomed to the commotion and noise that erupts from our children every other minute, we did our best to keep their endless stream of energy and conversation contained to a reasonably tolerable level. All the while I was on guard and watching.
Many of the other occupants on our trains seemed to me to be on their way to work, judging by their attire and baggage. It seems a rational deduction that they might see one another from time to time if they make this same trip daily. But, what struck me like a lightning bolt was the way they ignored each other. It appeared to me that there were no quick, friendly smiles nor even general polite pleasantries like “Good morning.” At one point, the man in front of me was texting a long note when a woman sat down beside him. She began talking to someone on her headset. Another young lady across the entrance was listening to her iPod. In my estimation they never made eye contact, it was as though each was alone on this crowded train. Being made in the image of Christ, we are made for communion. Understandably, we should exercise some cautious and privacy, but written in our very hearts is the desire for communion. This all seemed so unnatural.
Once we reached our destination we found ourselves in different company. Now I don't mean to imply better or worse company, just different company. Perusing the pro-life messages printed on their hand-held signs, we discovered that our new companions were marching in the same direction as we were. We began to exchange nods and smiles and friendly banter. Our communion of purpose was obvious, so I suppose that may be the reason for our greater displays of charity. Of course, it is always easier to show charity to our friends, but we are called to charity for strangers and enemies as well.
As we walked the blocks to the Basilica, we prayed that our Mother Advocate would ask her Divine Son for clear skies and comfortable temperatures. Inside the church we met up with a number of friends both old and new. Together we joined in communion to receive the Word and the Eucharist. Contrasting our feelings of separateness that we experienced on the train rides, I felt united with my fellow Catholic pro-lifers. But if I'm honest and I delve a little deeper, I have to admit that sometimes even inside the pews of my parish there exists a separateness. Some Masses find me, like on the metro, focused on shepherding my children and trying to hear the Word, but scarcely connected to the people sitting in front, beside or behind me.
Ultimately, we found our way to a designated starting point for the March for Life. There were so many people that we could see neither the beginning nor the end of the crowd of protesters. Many schools and churches were represented by large groups of teenagers. The exhilaration was palpable, but we were reminded of the true nature of our mission when we walked passed the images of the tiny, innocent victims of abortion. Our young children had never seen those images beforehand and so they had questions. The tone changed to solemn as we explained that the small limbs belonged to babies who'd been aborted. I know that many would chide me for exposing my children to what they deem “violent” images, but that is how evil continues to exist. When we turn our heads away, we are too easily convinced to accept a lie. We, in that crowd, had a shared purpose which was to walk in the place of those innocent babies and cry out on their behalf. Ironically, the children looked intently at those pictures trying, no doubt, to make sense of it all. It seemed to them, obvious, that those were babies, individual persons worthy of living. Fair to say I believe, those who claim abortion is a simple “choice” are the ones who refuse to look at the reality and consequence of that “choice.”
Blessings flowed throughout the day in the form of helpful friends and sunny skies. We managed to feed everyone while in transit and to keep them all close. There wasn't a whine to be heard. Thanksgiving echoed in my thoughts.
Returning to our hotel required another trip on the metro, albeit this trip didn't require any change-overs. Understandably the children had plenty of energy to spare, except the baby of course. Again trying to be considerate of our surrounding travel mates I kept our 3 year old busy with tales of the Three Little Pigs and Five Monkeys Jumping. This time a person or two offered a compliment about the children's good behavior before exiting at their stop. Being a family of nine with so many young children we are often hyper-alert to those around us since not everyone appreciates the beauty of a large brood. I've shared the stories before of comments both complimentary and insulting that strangers and sometimes acquaintances freely utter to us. It's not worth re-mentioning except as an explanation of why we are vigilant in public appearances.
The long ride home a few days later allowed me the opportunity to mull over the whole journey and to apply some more thorough reflection. I took an account of the various encounters we had and applied this to my insights on the purpose for our trek. I thought about the reasons why a mother would abort her child. I considered what we need to do to end this murderous agenda. It hit me so squarely.
Our nature is for communion, but we in this current age suffer from loneliness. Women are life bearers and so they have the ability to manifest communion in a physical way. Husbands and wives join in communion through the marital act. These are facts, but they are regularly distorted. When contraception was created and then invited into the marital embrace, it destroyed communion. The husband and wife broke off from their communal union with God, as pro-creators. They fractured their communion with one another by holding back their fertility and they thwarted communion with the new soul that their love was capable of conceiving. The people on the metro were a glaring example of this. Rather than recognize their connectedness as persons, persons in the image of One God, they were alone in their travels. They separated themselves with things. They ignore opportunities to shine His light to one another, to offer charity, comfort and direction.
When we deny ourselves the truth, true communion, the lie does not suffice. People are lonely, lonely in their relationships, lonely among one another. It is this deep and real loneliness that leads a mother to reject her child or to accept the lie that he isn't really a person in the first place. Abortion can't be eradicated simply through legal means. We need to recognize its roots. We must reach out to one another and share our gifts. Christ abides within us if we abide in Him and through us He accomplishes His work, but we are called to action. He instructed us to love one another as He has loved us, freely, faithfully and fruitfully. In His Presence we are never alone. Women need to feel His love, His support, His forgiveness and it must come through us, her fellow travelers.
It seems such an insurmountable task. Before the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles, they couldn't imagine how they would ever carry out Jesus' mission for building His Church. Abortion must become unthinkable to each and every individual. When we all recognize and understand that we are not alone and that every choice we make, every step we take is connected to our fellow journeymen, then the culture of death in all of its forms (contraception, the contraceptive mentality, abortion, euthanasia) will become an sorrowful page in our human history.
So, today I must do my small part by living in the moments and seizing every opportunity to reach out through acts of sacrifice, compassion, charity, honesty, mercy, etc. It is not enough for me to simply watch people, I am called to respond. We are not alone and if we all live that way imagine how lovely and fulfilling this life journey can be.
Greg & Tara
1 Dad + 1 Mama= 8 beloved children
"if a man loses his reverence for any part of life, he will lose his reverence for all of life." Albert Schweitzer
Tara and Greg may be found on Facebook.