Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. I have probably repeated those words, situated in the middle of the Hail Mary, over 10,000 times. Flying by them like empty cans along a highway, I’ve barely ever noticed them. But, one day in mass during my junior year of college, I did notice them. We recited the Hail Mary after intentions and I was suddenly confronted, face-to-face, with words I’d always known but never recognized. “Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus”.
Perhaps it was the fact that I was in the middle of starting a sidewalk counseling ministry with our pro-life club. Maybe it was that I was suddenly attuned to the vast tragedy of abortion, perhaps it was because around every corner, across every intersection, I was suddenly seeing individuals wounded by the culture of death. But that line, blessed is the fruit of thy womb, hit me like a ton of bricks and I realized something.
Mary had an unexpected pregnancy.
You could even say “Mary had a crisis pregnancy.” Unwed in a culture that would kill her for such actions, Mary found herself the unsuspecting mother of a child.
What’s more, Mary fully understands what it is to have an unexpected pregnancy, and, coupled with her heavenly position and holiness, she is thus the perfect guide for the pro-life movement. How much more unexpected can it get than having God pop in on you while you’re picking berries in the garden? Mary knows what it’s like to face the turmoil of such a pregnancy. She knows the unknowns: not knowing how she will care for this child, not knowing what will happen to her when society and her family finds out, not knowing what to expect from her husband-to-be. And yet, where all these modern day mothers say “no,” Mary was able to say “yes.”
I’ve spent two years soaking up this relationship of Mary to the pro-life movement. But I only recently learned what Mary has been trying to demonstrate to me in the past 2 years. I’ve been so busy watching Mary shower love on pro-“choicers,” too busy seeing Mary as “on our side,” as “one of us,” that I have completely missed what I could learn from her. What she has to offer us as a movement. Yes, she is on our side, but she is not merely a weapon to be used against the acts of the Evil One. She is a honing stone, a weapon to be used on us to make us better examples of Christ’s love in the world.
We must avoid the great temptation to see ourselves as Mary, present to the crucified Christ of aborted children. While “whatever you did to the least of these you did to me” is a main message of the pro-life movement, equating the killing of children with the persecution of Christ, pro-lifers must be careful not to see themselves solely as those who don’t “do [wrong] to the least of these.” We must learn to be Mary in the pro-life movement, and not just to children. We must learn to emulate her inner as well as outer disposition whenever we face the daunting task of being witnesses at the modern day Golgotha of Planned Parenthood.
When the guards arrested Jesus, what did Mary do? When the soldiers scourged him at the pillar, when the crowds jeered at Jesus on the cross, when they spit on Him on His way to Golgotha, when they laughed at His pain, what did Mary do? I don’t mean “what did Mary do for Jesus?” How did she respond to those horribly wronging her son? In the Bible and extra-Biblical texts we see no account of Mary’s actions other than those directed towards Christ. We know that she stood by, that she was at the foot of the Cross, and that she gave all of her suffering up to Christ.
We have no account of how Mary responded to the mob. Perhaps this is why pro-lifers struggle with an appropriate response to the mob in our day. We always end up doing one of two things, if not both.
We either become self-important, aware of our humble and stalwart witness to the faith, becoming prideful of our own humility. If others mention it we rejoice inwardly at the good we are doing, denying that any and all good works we do are good works of the Father. Any good witness is a witness to Him, and in the end we are only messengers of His divine plan of life and love. We are miniscule partakers in the greater battle of good and evil that Christ has already won. We forget that the Lord has already decided the battle that we are fighting now. Any witness we bear is only a speck of His almighty greatness and goodness; we have no place to say that any of it was our doing.
Or, we harden our hearts against those committing these acts. We loathe the deeds and allow this hatred of evil action to make us see them as evil people. We allow the Devil to poison our minds against them. The hatred of their acts is no doubt from God, the hatred of the person is no doubt from the Devil. The Evil One cannot create his own wickedness and so must pervert goodness to his ends, which he does ever so successfully in the heart of the pro-lifer, whom he turns against goodness in the very act the pro-lifer is rejoicing in as good.
I doubt that Mary hated the mob the way that pro-lifers tend to hate abortionists or even the post-abortive. I think Mel Gibson was on to something when in The Passion of the Christ he depicted Mary’s role in Peter’s reconciliation with Jesus after his denial of the Christ. When Peter runs out of the square and runs into Mary, he tells her of his denial and she does not loathe him. Rather, she attempts to touch him and bring peace to his anguished face. She is only wholly open to him and it is obvious in the gentle nature of her touch and the quiet expression on her face that all she feels is pity and love towards him.
If she can so wholly love and forgive Peter, who knew and loved Christ, ate from the same table as Him, was privy to His most intimate moments, how much more must she have love and pity for the mob crucifying her son. The mob did not know Him personally, had not eaten at table with Him, and were acting out of fear. Indeed, her total peace and love through Christ’s passion only serves as a reflection of the total love Christ has for His people, as summarized in His plea for mercy “forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do!”
Mary’s silence reflects this plea for mercy from her son. She needn’t say anything, as Christ has said it all, she has only to love those crucifying her son. Indeed, hating the mob will only add to her son’s burden and pain. Thus, she allows Christ to call to the Father in anguish for mercy and she bears witness only to these events.
So also should all pro-lifers stand as silent witness to the cry of Christ, “forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do!” Let us not harden our hearts, but in gentleness and patience bring peace to their anguish and bear witness to Christ’s suffering while we offer up our silent witness as a plea of mercy to the Lord – “forgive them, Father, they know not what they do!” May we learn to be Mary, not only to Jesus on the Cross of the abortion clinic, but to the crowd as well, who in fear and pain unknowingly attack the One it longs for.