I was floored by the responses to my post on Monday, documenting the state of NYC after the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Thank you to everyone who commented and passed it along to family and friends.
In the post, I recounted my visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral on the Sunday after the Court’s decision, and how every entrance to the church, and the whole perimeter in itself, minus one side door, was barricaded with police barricades.
It was absolutely surreal, walking up to the church to go to Mass, only to find that it was completely guarded by armed policemen with large rifles, and personally getting searched before entering through covert entrance, as though I was heading into a bunker or something.
That whole episode really stuck with me all week.
What has become of our world where, in order to go worship, you have to face the threat of imminent personal danger?
I mean, really?
Going to Mass in a barricaded building complete with bomb sniffing dogs?
If the threat of Covid scared people (myself included) away from attending church in person, imagine how this new threat of attack is going to fare on people!?!
But I will say — even with the threat of a “Weekend of Terror” following the Court’s decision, St. Patrick’s Cathedral was still packed with Mass attendants.
They have Mass every hour on the hour, pretty much, on Sunday. And though we were at an “off-peak” time: 1:00, it was still fully attended with people, who, truly in this climate, put their lives on the line to be there.
Which is something that I’ve really been contemplating recently: what are we willing to risk to follow Jesus?
What am I willing to risk?
Because frankly, it took every ounce of courage to publish Monday’s article, fearful that people I know in my “everyday life” would come across it, and disapprove of my beliefs. What am I willing to risk?
If going to Mass means that, especially here in NYC, I’m putting my safety in jeopardy, given the hostile nature of this city, and the extremes people will go to in order to express their rage over the Court’s decision? What am I willing to risk?
If I’m unwilling to join a conversation about abortion and make my beliefs know, for fear of offending a friend…what am I willing to risk?
We have two options: we can be like the disciples, who hid in the upper room after Jesus’ death, controlled by fear. Or, we can listen to Jesus’ instruction in Matt 10:28 “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.“
Faith from behind the barricades takes courage. It forces you to look potential danger in the eye, and say “Yes” to God with your presence at the sanctuary. Jesus never said that following Him would be easy, safe or popular. But rather, that we would be hated, persecuted, martyred, and mocked. Just like HIm.
My one final thought, is that the danger with barricades is that, though they keep the “bad” from coming in, they can also intimidate us to keep the “good” from getting “out.”
My prayer is that we, as a body of believers, do not let their intimidation plays snuff out our faith. Though they may vandalize, protest, and act with violence towards the Church in response to the overturning of Roe, may it not dim the beautiful light that shines forth from, not just the physical sanctuaries across America, but also the living sanctuaries inside our hearts.
That is a light that, I pray, is never snuffed out due to fear or intimidation.
What are you willing to risk?
“Freedom of religion means much more than the right to worship in your chosen church, mosque, temple, or synagogue. It means having the freedom to live out your deeply-held religious beliefs… It is a fundamental human right, and is core to American identity. The threat of violence against people of faith is antithetical to human rights.” – Cardinal Timothy Dolan
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