Paul Moore: A memorable ‘Walk for Life’ . . . through my parish’s cemetery
In My Father’s House / Paul Thomas Moore
I was at St. Mary of Lourdes Church on Sunday, Jan. 23, for the second annual Parish Walk for Life in support of the National March for Life in Washington, D.C., marking the 49th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision to legalize abortion.
The afternoon began with a rosary, and people were then invited to continue praying in the church or “take it outside” with a walk around the parish grounds and nearby cemetery. It was cold, but sunny. The cold reminded me that this world is very cold toward the humanity of the unborn, and toward the harm that abortion does to the bodies and psyches of women, and to the souls of all of us who participate directly or indirectly in this sin our society permits.
On the other hand, the bright sun reminded me of the Son of God, and how Jesus is always there to shine his light into dark and cold places — like a cemetery in the dead (no pun intended) of winter.
A SAD-HAPPY EXPERIENCE
I can see how a cemetery might be considered a morbid place to hold a Walk for Life, but when it comes to the way and will of the Lord, I’m never surprised to see blessings popping up in unexpected places. In this case, initially I sensed that the other walkers and I felt somber, sensing the obvious corollary between death and abortion.
However, after a couple of times around the graveyard, I felt a subtle shift in mood among we, the living, a collective warming despite the frigid temperatures. The other walkers and I were still respectful of the prayerful occasion and setting, of course, but we were pausing at interesting-looking headstones to read the inscriptions, or “visiting” with friends and family who had gone to God before us.
I happened to pass by as a parishioner was showing some people where members of her family are buried, including her father, grandparents, and a brother. She didn’t sound sad; she sounded proud.
I also stopped by the grave of my in-laws, Jerry and Mary Klein, where I often go to pray for their intercession, as well as that of my own parents, Tom and Teresa. (Mom and Dad are buried in Nova Scotia, which is a little far for a Sunday drive, but their gravestone is the same color and style of granite as Jerry and Mary’s, which means it’s no trouble for me to feel close to them there.)
Some younger teen girls, who had been devoutly praying the rosary in church earlier, were now looking at headstones and speculating, “Maybe that was her maiden name?”
Although death had come to these souls in the graveyard, as it comes to all of us, I believe myself and the other walkers felt that this is not so much a place of death, but a place that celebrates and honors the value of lives well-lived.
There is sadness in remembering the lives of those we loved, but with God’s grace, most of the time it is a good sadness, like when people cry at a wedding, or the birth of a child. Such occasions remind us that life is temporary, but love is eternal. If that isn’t worth a sad-happy tear or two, what is?
“THEY ARE THE REASON WE’RE HERE”
But then I came to the commemorative stone in the graveyard that marked a not-so-happy sad. On this stone was remembered the tragic sadness of those needlessly lost lives that never saw the light of day because of abortion. Two women from Henry came to the monument just as I did. One said, “There it is,” as if to say, “They are the reason we’re here.”
When you’re in a graveyard, you realize the “grace of a happy death” is not morbid, but one of the nicest prayers you can pray for anyone. May we pray for an end of abortion, so that someday, children yet unborn can be visited with happy sadness by their future ancestors.
PAUL THOMAS MOORE is a Catholic commentator and singer-songwriter. He and wife Mary Louise attend St. Mary of Lourdes in Germantown Hills. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.