Tuesday, August 26, 2008

T-Shirt Evangilization

This is the size of a baby (not a blob of tissue, as you can see) in the womb at 8 weeks old.

By Emily Bissonnette

Usually one for evangelizing by wearing Catholic or pro-life T-shirts, on this particular Saturday morning I wanted nothing more than to blend into the crowd with something innocuous, so I could complete my errands without being “bothered” by questions or insults. Looking into my dresser drawers, however, I was unable to find something that did not include a religious or moral message. I was able to find a shirt from a local pro-life walk with small words in the corner that simply said, “Cross the Bridge for Life.” Confident that no one would notice or know to what the words were referring, I took off for a productive Saturday morning.

I often feel that I have developed the unique talent of finding the longest possible line in a store, even if at first glance it appears to be the shortest. Such was the case on this Saturday morning, as I waited behind one woman who had returns, exchanges and commentaries to offer the cashier. As I internally rolled my eyes, the middle-aged cashier moved on to my purchases. Within seconds, she glanced at my shirt and asked, “What’s ‘Cross the Bridge for Life?’” Rather surprised, I answered as generically as possible, “It’s a pro-life walk across the bridge from Newport to Cincinnati.”

“Pro-life? Do you mean anti-abortion?” she queried. “Just this morning God woke me up early - He really did - and I turned on the television and watched a program talking about young people today who don’t believe in evolution but that God created us and who are also pro-life. Now I see you here with that pro-life shirt. If this keeps up, I’m going to have to change who I’m voting for.” She proceeded to inform me of her current candidate, who, I can affirm, supports abortion.

It was at this point that I was reminded yet again that God really does have a sense of humor. I gladly took the opportunity to explain why it’s so important to vote pro-life. After explaining that it makes no sense to support a candidate who doesn’t support the most basic right to life, she agreed saying, “If someone can’t stand up for people who can’t fight for themselves, then what help would be given to people who can help themselves?” She muttered something about accountability, which I didn’t fully understand, but I hope that seeds were planted that morning that impact the building of a culture of life in our society.

It struck me that although I had been selfish in not wanting to be a witness to God’s love and to the beauty of life that morning, that God still gave me the opportunity. My encounter with the cashier served to reinforce in my mind the necessity of being always willing and ready to give a reason for our hope. We never know who God will place in our paths, or what He will call us to do to impact an individual’s life.

My life is a gift, as is yours and as is the cashier’s. I can’t take credit for being on the earth at this particular moment. I can live my life as a thanksgiving that God chose to place me here at this moment. And so I must eagerly follow the promptings God places on my heart to live my life as a gift in return to Him.

Perhaps this scenario is most eloquently summarized by our late Holy Father, John Paul II. In the following statement, from Go in Peace: A Gift of Enduring Love, John Paul II shared a beautiful analogy about our responsibility to touch the lives of others:

“This life is a talent entrusted to all of us so that we can transform it and increase it, making it a gift to others. No person is an iceberg drifting on the ocean of history. Each one of us belongs to a great family, in which we have our own place and our own role to play. Selfishness can make us deaf and dumb to other people’s needs; love opens our eyes and our hearts, enabling us to make the original and irreplaceable contribution that - together with the thousands of deeds of so many of our other brothers and sisters, often distant and unknown - converges to form a mosaic of compassion and charity that can change the tide of history.” (81)

In the last couple of weeks I have had a family member and a friend say (well, write in emails since nobody will actually TALK to each other anymore) some harsh and not so loving words about my faith and the way I live and talk about it all of the time now. I haven't, and I won't, apologize for the way I live my life and share my thoughts because I am only living and speaking the TRUTH as I now know it. And I know that these attacks are coming out of fear because they don't know or understand where I am at or where my thoughts and words are coming from. I was in exactly the same spot only a couple of years ago. They are living the secular life that the world tells us is right, but in reality is oh so wrong. I want to share my thoughts, feelings and outlook with them so they too can find and live a life of peace and fulfillment in the truth with God. But it's apparent that they aren't ready to hear the truth, and if someone isn't ready they certainly aren't going to listen. I know that from experience as well! So, for now I pray for my family and friends and for strength, forgiveness and patience that God's will be done. And I WILL keep living and speaking the truth as the Spirit moves me because you just never know who is listening and where those words might lead, as this article shows.