A good man draws what is good from the store of goodness in his heart... For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. - Luke 6:45
In The Seven Storey Mountain, Thomas Merton writes about a childhood spent abroad with his father, who, though not affiliated with any particular Christian denomination, still managed to provide “valuable religious and moral training” to his son; “. . . not systematically, but here and there and more or less spontaneously, in the course of ordinary conversations . . . if something spiritual was on his mind, it came out more or less naturally.”
“And this,” Merton urged, “is the kind of teaching that has the most effect.”
I read these lines on a flight “home” to Minneapolis Friday morning after two years apart from family and friends due to Covid. My first stop upon leaving the airport was to pay respects to my parents at a national cemetery. As I set two of MCFL’s red silk roses in the grass at their gravesite, I tried to recall how my mother and father instilled in me a respect for life. I didn’t remember books or pamphlets. There was a clip of Nathanson’s The Silent Scream when it was first introduced, but beyond that, my parents didn’t present any kind of formal pro-life “curriculum.”
As I stood before the white headstone, I realized that, over the years, they simply conveyed a duty to protect the most vulnerable human lives through the kind of “ordinary conversations” Merton revered.
Now, I’m not one who winds down her work week by pondering Merton on Friday nights, so what happened later that evening, I’m convinced, falls in the “providential” category. I received the photo below from my nephew, in honor of Father’s Day; Dad back in 2013 with one of his great-grandsons. My nephew simply texted about my father, “His one or two words or phrases, they defined how I look at life.”
I share these threads with you today because it occurred to me that, as daunting as it sometimes feels to construct a culture of life, we shouldn’t be overly concerned with drafting a formal set of blueprints. There’s no time for that and, as I was reminded three times in one day, there’s no need. Instead, earnestly, fearlessly, speak sincere words to those with whom we’re called into conversation, day by day, moment by moment. From the fight for freedom to civil rights struggles, history shows us that’s how movements succeed.
Or, as Merton emphasized, "it is precisely this speech ‘out of the abundance of the heart’ that makes an impression and produces an effect in other people. We give ear and pay at least a partially respectful attention to anyone who is really sincerely convinced of what he is saying.”
Happy Fathers Day -- both to those celebrating and to those honoring men who live, or lived, by example.
Have a good week.
P.S. If you haven’t yet, read about MCFL’s 5 Pro-Life bills filed this session and then contact respective legislators to encourage their support. Soon, you’ll be able to read various testimonies online which my colleagues and I submitted during hearings. Until then, review an adaptation of my presentation to the Joint Committee on Public Health, defending those diagnosed with Down syndrome.