By Deacon John De Gano
I have a love/hate relationship with my electronic fitness tracker. I balk at the idea that some machine is going to dictate how many steps I need to take each day or tell me I should feel affirmed when it provides me with a three-second flashing light display if (and when) I reach that goal.
How am I supposed to react to this? Do I thank my wristband or something?
So back in January, Cheryl and I decided to give our wrist devices a real workout by joining tens of thousands of others in the 14th annual West Coast Walk for Life in San Francisco.
We flew into Oakland and took the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) into the city. Having a couple of hours to explore before the “Abortion hurts women” rally at the Civic Center Park, we headed over to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art where we caught Louise Bourgeois’ exhibit entitled Spiders.
I found these huge multi-legged metal sculptures darkly compelling. Her biographical material said that Louise didn’t even start creating them (mid-1990’s) until she was well into her eighties. It said that she saw spiders as both fierce and fragile; protector and predator – having the same three common traits she saw embodied in herself and in her mother -- cleverness, industriousness and protectiveness.
Leaving the museum, I noted that these same maternal traits have served the Catholic Church and its Pro-Life movement up until today: Thoughtful. Active. Supportive.
By the time we arrived at Civic Center Park I had logged in my first 10,000 steps of the day. We embedded ourselves in the sea of people and pro-life signs and proceeded down Market Street through the financial district of San Francisco to the finish line at the Embarcadero (across from the Ferry Building).
Our public display of faith in action did not go unnoticed. Protesters shouted angrily from behind police lines. Pedestrians and business people looked for ways to get through the flow of humanity by cutting between the walkers, and motorists were forced to detour onto side streets or else sit in traffic while our procession passed.
Was this what it was like for Jesus as he was led through the crowded streets of Jerusalem to his death? Gawkers and crowds of detractors railing against this Son of Man, his very body wracked with the pain from his scourging, and the weight of the cross that bore down upon him with each faltering step along the way.
While Jesus must have felt abandoned, we had the consolation that along our 2.1 mile ‘Via de Dolorosa’ we could catch glimpses of faith and hope, coming from the most unexpected places -- from “thumbs up” gestures by homeless men leaning up against the side of buildings, to smiles and waves from strangers and even the silent presence of local law enforcement personnel who, by placing themselves in harm’s way, kept the peace and dignified our pro-life message and the freedoms we all share.
In the end, we experienced God’s abiding peace -- standing up for life, from conception to natural death.
Unafraid to count the ways.
Or the number of steps necessary to get there…
John De Gano is a deacon at St. Catherine of Alexandria parish in Riverside.