In our present generation, many people pass in complete anonymity on the highways and byways — knowing nothing of others beyond the messages displayed on various bumpers. I had an ‘encounter’ with another woman at a red light recently and her potpourri of ideas stayed with me well beyond the minute or two we were collected at the intersection: in fact they weighed on me throughout the day.
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Who was she and what rationale lingered behind this collection of bumper stickers?
The first, “Mothering — A Proud Profession,” was near and dear to my heart. I shared this idea with her wholeheartedly! It is important to recognize this fundamental task which builds stable societies and forms the character of successive generations. Any woman who is a mother should be proud of her contribution to society and we would do well to acknowledge her ‘profession.’
The second promoted breast feeding as “Safe, economical, effective health care.” How very true! The benefits to such a simple gift of self are extraordinary and far-reaching. All countries should invest in the promotion of breast feeding, even if for only a short period after birth.
Our camaraderie seemed to end here. The next intimate glimpse into her world-view was the sticker reading “Pro-family; pro choice.” What was the link between this and her seeming appreciation for the creative and generous love of motherhood. All of a sudden, her openness to life and the good of the child was coloured by her peculiar take on ‘family.’ The embrace of the child and his good was suddenly compromised as she drew a line in the sand: the family I choose, the children I choose, the circle of love I choose. Mothers are known to be fierce defenders of their brood and their hearth: she was defending her home against — what? — unwanted children who had somehow broken in to the family circle. The threat to the family was none other than a pregnancy that was not ‘chosen.’ To defend the family, in her logic, was to defend against ‘outside’ life. The idea boggles the mind yet is accepted nonchalantly in polite society and goes virtually unchallenged.
How could she have made this leap from pro-mother to ambivalence about the life of certain children? How could her motherly instincts be so inconsistently applied? To her credit, the fourth bumper sticker provided the missing piece. It was a thought that drives me up a wall beyond most silly thoughts because of the inherent danger within. It read, “Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.” I realize it's a play on words, but I see red when I read this inane, supposed ‘positive’ message. It runs contrary to everything I believe as a Christian. It runs counter to the demands of love and our call to practice charity in season and out. Kindness should be anything but random and beauty is light years from being senseless.
It is this very randomness in kindness, though, that can allow a woman to embrace her child and offer him the best and ignore the plight of the neighboring child being carried into the abortion clinic down the street. Frivolous charity can be tossed around in such a random fashion that it can be given one moment and withheld the next. Its inconstancy is only matched by its shallowness. It is not done for any reason other than the whim of the giver, as the higher meaning, the link to sacrifice and grace is nowhere to be seen.
Also absent is the meaning in beauty, which is the recognition of the order in the universe. Order has beauty since it reflects God Himself. Beauty gives Him glory and pleases those who can appreciate it. To call beauty ‘senseless’ is to deconstruct the universe and remove God from His creation.
I must admit that, as downcast as I was after my “encounter” with this woman, she clarified for me what I am called to do. I have to spend more time giving thanks for my gift of motherhood and trying to match her zeal for promoting the well-being of children. I also have much to do to diminish the randomness of my charity. I need to put on Christ more intensely, more constantly, and more thoroughly. If I could embrace all in my path with the penetrating and unconditional love of Jesus, I would make Him more present to His beloved children who so desperately need to know Him.
I’ll take this ‘fender of wisdom’ as a call to holiness in my everyday life and leave my comments to her unspoken. What was so easily seen as an opportunity to cast well-thought-out stones turns easily into a reminder that there is enough dust in my attic to keep me from inspecting the status of my neighbour’s dwelling — though she cheerfully invites me to do so at the every corner.