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Kathryn Jean Lopez / September 17, 2017

Unexpected Sources of Power

Three trees were planted on a concrete island in the 1990s in what seems like the busiest intersection in London.

Three trees were planted on a concrete island in the 1990s in what seems like the busiest intersection in London.

At first, when my Uber driver dropped me off a few blocks away during a recent visit, I thought it had to be some kind of mistake. Across the street from Hyde Park is Tyburn convent, home to the Benedictine Adorers of the Sacred Heart of Montmartre, nuns who pray 24 hours a day on the spot where the blood of 105 Catholic martyrs spilled — executed for their faith during the long conflict of the English Reformation. The convent is in many ways a shocking contrast to the bustle around it - especially at rush hour, amidst a new luxury high-rise being built. The nuns’ lives and the memorial on the intersection are reminders of the fragility and the greatness of God’s gift of freedom.

There, I also saw a memorial to modern-day martyrs, featuring a prominent picture of Father Tom Uzhunnalil, a Salesian missionary from India. He was taken captive in Yemen by terrorists in March of last year. Father Tom was released this week. After such an ordeal, one of his first items of business was to meet with Pope Francis in Vatican City, where he told the pontiff that throughout his captivity he offered his suffering for the pope’s mission and for the Church. When he greeted the pontiff, he knelt and kissed his feet in gratitude for a people united in prayer, even in the midst of all kind of controversies. He couldn’t celebrate Mass during his captivity but has said that “every day inside, in my heart, I repeated the words of the celebration,” and that “Truly, every day I felt Jesus next to me, I always knew and felt in my heart that I was not alone.” The pope was moved to tears by such an act of humility.

A few days before Father Tom’s Sept. 12 release, which is being credited to the work of the Omani government and the Holy See, the country singer Don Williams died. There’s a world of difference in these headlines, of course. But like the commuters zipping around the Tyburn memorial trees, the nuns who’ve given their lives to a mysterious way of life and a missionary who chose to suffer joyfully, we make our choices every day. For years, I’ve woken up to Don Williams singing, “Lord, I hope this day is good.”

The truth of the matter is that we have more power than we realize to control whether it will be a good day or not. Sometimes, by just voicing the hope for a good day, we immediately change the way things look — for ourselves and for all those we’ll encounter. Even in captivity, Father Tom knew this. The Tyburn nuns, meanwhile, are silent witnesses to the role of the supernatural in the world and in history, a role too often overlooked in all the hustle and bustle of modern life.

Two blocks from the White House on a recent weeknight, a family from Louisiana came to the Catholic Information Center, as part of an event co-sponsored by the National Review Institute, to talk about the ministry they run called Witness to Love, which has been of benefit to people of all and no faith. The older children watched a Disney movie while the adults talked about the power that every family has to change lives around them by opening their homes and being welcoming people. The program is about marriage mentoring and was born of the wise ask of a parish priest.

Couples come to churches all the time for wedding ceremonies. Such visits could be a tremendous opportunity. Perhaps they could spur newlyweds to get more involved in the church, including in charitable service. But the church could connect them to experienced married couples who could give the newbies counseling and advice. Churches that have adopted the model — connecting engaged couples with mentors of their choosing — have seen divorces reduced.

Mary-Rose and Ryan Verret, the founders of Witness to Love, realize that we all have much more power in the day to day than we think, when we choose to hope and not be terrorized by our history, captors, or the bombardment of bad news.

COPYRIGHT 2017 United Feature Syndicate

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