This Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, we light the third candle of the Advent wreath. The rose-colored candle and the priests’ rose vestments mark a change in the tenor of this penitential season. For those who have been using Advent as a time to prepare heart and home for the celebration of Christ’s birth, it is a reminder to rejoice in His approaching arrival. For all it is a reminder to get serious with the remainder of the season and use it profitably, to exercise not the feeling, but the virtue, of Hope.
And we do need hope. I don’t know how many of you have seen the recent video of the heroes — yes, the heroes — who defended the cathedral in San Juan, Argentina from a violent assault by a feminist mob. It was a truly ugly scene: a cursing, half-naked throng of hate-filled and obviously deeply wounded souls molesting, assaulting and spray-painting the defenders of the house of God. These defenders did not retaliate, but kneeled or stood arm-in-arm, praying the Rosary while being kicked, spat upon and cursed.
The cathedral itself suffered some damage along the outside, but the interior was not broached, and the Holy Eucharist in the tabernacle was unmolested. And as we see too often, the police stood by and did nothing, as they were directed to do. And of course despite the fact that this was clearly a news-worthy event with obviously compelling video readily available, the media turned away. To the agenda-driven media, it’s the wrong story: Faithful Catholics are not to be portrayed as peaceful victims in the culture wars, and the defenders of abortion and the LGBT agenda — the perpetrators of these crimes — must not be portrayed as the aggressors. Hence, nothing to see here.
The defenders of the cathedral are heroes. Without question.
The confrontation between good and evil does not get much more clear than this, through the eyes of faith. On this same view we see incredible virtue — and hope — as triumphant. The faithful Christian can be justly angry at this injustice, but cannot despair at yet another assault on life. Rather, how can we not look at the example of faith and courage in our brothers and not be filled with hope, and more: a challenge to step up our own game? What would we do in this situation? What can we do in our own situation?
As we look around, there are other signs of hope as well. It appears that after many years of fruitless research, the majority of stem cell investment is moving away from the type of research that destroys embryonic human beings toward areas that begin with donated adult stem cells. We need to continue to watch this as not all moral questions are answered, and this is more a pragmatic development than a morally-intended one, but in the progress made we can find hope.
Russia, despite its myriad problems of demography and human rights, has put into effect some restrictions on abortion (before it had been more like the U.S. — without any meaningful and enforced restrictions whatsoever), and public campaigns about the harm done to women by abortion. This, in the nation that first legalized abortion under Communist dictatorship.
Here in the U.S., our friends at Operation Rescue report that at least 47 abortion clinics have closed this year alone — a development that will save untold numbers of lives and women from making a decision they’ll regret for the rest of their lives.
We continue to hear stories of hope brought through the intercession of the Mother of God in HLI’s From Ocean to Ocean Campaign in Defense of Life, as the icon of the Black Madonna travels throughout the United States. And fittingly, we celebrated yesterday, the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas and the pro-life movement. The miraculous icon, which was given to the Church, led to the conversion of millions and ended a longstanding brutal campaign of human sacrifice, still inspires hundreds of millions of the faithful to turn to God in the fight to end the modern campaign of human sacrifice: abortion.
“[W]e have been given hope, trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present: the present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey” (Spe Salvi n. 1). We can picture Pope Benedict reassuring the heroes of San Juan, letting them, and us, know that our sacrifices offered up in love are not lost on the One who truly gives us hope. There is a reason for all of this, and we are grateful for the glimmers of hope — and examples of great courage and virtue — that we are given to strengthen us until Christ returns. Let’s be that sign of hope and strength for one another, following the example of our brothers in San Juan, trusting in Our Lord with everything we have. Let’s also finish Advent strong by truly getting ready for Christmas, by preparing a place for Christ in our hearts and homes.