Early last week, the redoubtable Simcha Fisher of the National Catholic Register made some predictions about what we could all expect at the national wide rallies for religious freedom on Friday, March 23rd. I agreed totally when she said there would be tons of young, attractively dressed women with clever slogans on their signs, who would be totally ignored by the press in favor of the
"... as many as four counter-protesters, who’ve been using state-funded contraceptives for so long that they’re suffering from estrogen dementia—hence their conviction that “rosaries” rhymes with 'ovaries,'..."
But I thought to myself , "Oh, surely not!" when she went on to predict, "There will also be one fat guy with greasy, grey hair and a scaly neck and his shirt buttoned wrong, kneeling on the sidewalk and wearing a sign that says “PRASERVE THE PATRIARCKY” on one side and “COMMUNION ON THE TONGUE” on the other side. The Huffington Post will take so many pictures of him, their camera batteries will fall out."
Well, I should have trusted Simcha. Although the guy I saw was the thinner, better-groomed, and better-spelling cousin of the fellow she describes.And his sign stated that the US Bishops, through their unwillingness to speak out frequently against contraception these last 45 years, and because they instituted the Novus Ordo, are the ones that have brought the whole HHS mandate down upon our heads. And unfortunately, he didn't just kneel. Instead he paraded back and forth at the edge of the crowd, shouting his ideas into a personal amplifier, such that it was difficult to hear all the legitimate event speakers, including the president of Franciscan University, the founder of the 40 Days for Life movement, and others.
After a few minutes of this stuff, there were lots of dirty looks and murmurs being sent his way. It almost seemed like he was an actor planted there by the government to precipitate violence. The presence of Homeland Security cops nearby made this seem a fearsome possibility. (As it turned out, he was genuine.) Probably lots of us agreed with his main sentiment: the bishops had been wimpy on contraception and other issues over the years. But here we all were, at a rally that was largely inspired by the (at long last) courageous stand that our bishops have in fact taken. The man's actions made about as much sense as the actions of the elder brother of the prodigal son. He was apparently sorry that the bishops were acting in a way that no longer fit the extreme traditionalist narrative, because this might mean that there is still some legitimacy to the Catholic Church most of us live in, as opposed to the fringe societies of the various Pope Pius's, or Pope Me's that these folks inhabit.
But there was a happy ending to this unfortunate sideshow. A man walked over to the counter-protester, and engaged him in conversation. Quietly, off to one side. He simply asked him questions about why he felt the way he did. He gently expressed some objections, but not in a way to belittle or sneer. He kept him talking (quietly) for about 30 minutes, after which the counter-protester packed up and left, probably to go back to work. Apparently he just needed a listener. Charity and patience won out over anger, thanks to one man who was willing to give up his time at the rally so that others could enjoy it. Most of us couldn't see this, and just silently thanked God that there the loud man had gone silent, and now we could listen to the speakers.
But I found out about the hero of the day, because he happens to be my husband. I couldn't help emailing the rally organizers to let them know. And just letting a few more people know by means of this blog. Three cheers for Bill Sockey, always a knight to me, but on Friday, a knight to about 500 people.
For more information about the Pittsburgh rally,and others, scroll about halfway down the page to see my contribution to the larger article about all the rallies nationwide in the National Catholic Register