Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Crossroads Reflection

Beautiful British Columbia --- The Best Place on Earth
 Provincial Flower:  Dogwood
Starting off the trip in Vancouver, the community life at all of the parishes was awesome---we often had coffee and donuts with parishioners after Mass.
There was lots of fine mist rain, snow in the mountains, and wild animals.  The trees were tall and beautiful, and the mountains were majestic.  We received a lot of apathetic responses on the road; although, many people stopped to see if we needed help.  One truck driver gave Steve a newspaper around 2 AM … we are still trying to figure that one out.  
Our group has pretty good dynamics.  We often sing the same songs over and over, including “Ben Dennison” to the tune of “Carol of the Bells.” We often speak full conversations in just movie quotes. Alex was given a Lord of the Rings “One Ring” at the beginning of the trip by Maria. We’ve pretended that it’s heavier for him while praying at the abortion clinics, and that it must be destroyed in the Eternal Flame in Ottawa on August 11th.    
St. Clare and St. Anthony are our amazing intercessors on the journey.  We began our journey in Vancouver at St. Clare of Assisi parish, and were informed that we end on her feast day, August 11th. She is the Patroness of media, television, and good weather.  We also live somewhat like Franciscans on this journey, which fits perfectly with St. Clare.  We’ve also asked for St. Anthony’s assistance when lost on the road, or with lost items in the RV.
At the first parish that Ben Dennison and I fundraised in, a woman wanted to donate.  She gave us everything she had with her----two pennies. It reminded me of the woman in the Bible who gave her two pence in the Temple.  When Lindsay was collecting after Mass, four little boys wanted to donate. They had no money, but they gave us the lollipops they had just received after Mass.  One gentleman accidentally soaked his donation in holy water, by placing the money in the holy water font, instead of in our basket.  As he noted, we now possess “a blessed $10 bill.”

Alberta --- Wild Rose Country
Provincial Flower: Wild Rose
Mountainous for the first part, and then very flat. The sky in Saskatchewan and Alberta is limitless.  Imagining the explorers discovering the Rockies and B.C. after experiencing Alberta and Saskatchewan’s prairies has intrigued a few of us, and has inspired me to read more historical fiction.
Walking through Alberta on night shift, I happened to look at the water in the field on our left.  I thought the stars were reflecting in the water, when Cesar noted that they were twinkling too much for stars.  We realized that we were looking at a field of fireflies.  Neither of us have seen so many fireflies in one place!  They were truly beautiful stars of the field.
The response on the road and at the abortion clinics in Alberta was often negative, but the host families and pro-life groups were great. We have stayed with many wonderful host homes on the weekends.  These families, who have opened their hearts and homes to us, have definitely made an impression, as their pro-life witness shines through their generosity.  During the weekends, we pray in front of abortion clinics and rest from the week.  The pro-life advocates in every city never cease to amaze me.  Many of these pro-life heroes have prayed in front of hospitals and clinics, a couple of times a week, for decades.

Saskatchewan --- The Land of the Living Skies
 Provincial Flower: Tiger Lily
 On night shift, the van would pull forward from the starting point, drive 5 km, and then pull over, all within sight. The Corner Gas theme, “So you tell me that your dog ran away…and then you tell me that it took three days!” does apply to Saskatchewan! Seeing so much of southern Canada has given me perspective on the ridiculousness of overpopulation. Canada is so vast, and there are long stretches without even small towns.
Night shift is a lot of fun, though very tiring around 4 AM.  Hearing the coyotes barking and yipping at night is an eerie experience.   Breakfast at 9 p.m., when we are on night shift, will forever boggle my mind.
Very Pro-Life---lots of support on the road, and at parishes.  We had two Barbeques by pro-life groups, one of which was hosted by youth.
Cesar and I invested in Tim Horton’s travel mugs, so we could refill with our own coffee, or Tim Horton’s if the RV was not plugged into a power source.   Cesar made the point that we would not confuse our coffees with other people’s coffee---while he was holding my medium mug, and I was holding his large mug!  We often joke that we could write an awesome Gas Station Coffee Guide for Canadian travelers. I personally enjoy Husky’s and Petro Canada’s coffee the best.

Friendly Manitoba
Provincial Flower: Prairie Crocus
Manitoba is the perfect blend between the Saskatchewan prairies, and the Ontarian hills and trees. The people definitely live up to their licence plate claim, “Friendly Manitoba.”
As the pro-life battle is very much a spiritual one, we often experience minor set-backs.  A flying object hit our van’s rear windshield and completely shattered the glass.  Bethany and my guardian angels worked over time, as the object narrowly missed our heads! We were delayed a couple of hours while it was being repaired.  Our van has various troubles; the battery dies, or disconnects, sometimes very often. Continually being on the run and camping is, for me, the biggest sacrifice----I have seen enough RV park washrooms, along with the complete absence of washrooms in the woods---to last a lifetime.  I have often experienced homesickness, and especially felt it when I endured the stomach flu.  I’m sure the other team members wished they were home, when they also caught the stomach flu the following week.   Ben and I ran into a bit of a marshy bog along the side of the highway.  I lost a sandal, but thanks to Stephen for his heroic search for my sandal, and to Becky for a replacement pair!  We all offer up different sacrifices, whether it is lack of sleep, camping, or suffering from intense blisters.  As this walk is in service of others, I’m sure we have all experienced redemptive suffering by uniting our sacrifices with Christ’s Sacrifice, in order to help others through Christ’s grace and merit. 

Ontario --- Yours to Discover
Provincial Flower: White Trillium
It is so great to have arrived in my home province.  The day shift included all of our Ontario team members when we passed the Ontario sign, so we took a picture of us all kneeling and kissing the soil. I had sorely missed the Great Lakes, the escarpment hills, and the trees.  Kenora was absolutely beautiful.
Recently at a BBQ, the guys were taken aside for an "annual tradition." A few minutes later, they returned with buckets of cold water, which they threw on us girls! Of course, a full-on water fight took place after that.  Despite our Niagara Falls experience at the BBQ, the guys on our team are seriously dedicated.  As there are only four men and six women on our team, on day shift or night shift, one guy has to walk with a girl the entire time.  So, for two guys per shift, one rests while the other walks, and they have to switch non-stop, while the girls get longer resting breaks.
We stopped on Thursday night and Friday in Barry’s Bay, ON, and had supper provided for us by Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy, a liberal arts school which is faithful to the Catholic Church’s Magisterium.  7 members of our group are Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy current, past, and future students.  We “recruited” Lindsay to OLSWA, and Maria picked up an application form while we were at the Academy. 

Quebec --- Je Me Souviens
Provincial Flower:  Blue Flag
Quebec was beautiful.  We were fortunate to visit St. Anne de Beaupre, Blessed Kateri, and many gorgeous old churches in Quebec City.  In Montreal, we prayed in St. Joseph’s Oratory.  We almost did not see Notre Dame, but then a generous group from Massachusetts gave Alex and Adrian tickets for our group to see a lights show inside of Notre Dame.
The people in Quebec were very helpful and friendly---I truly enjoyed our time there.
We received various reactions to our peaceful, “Pro Life” t-shirts on the road.  We did receive positive feedback about how our message positively impacted individuals, but the main reaction we received was nothing at all.  Canadians are mostly apathetic towards this serious issue, and it was oftentimes hard for us to see the good that we were accomplishing.  However, I find the words of Archbishop Charles Chaput nicely sum up the hope we must have in this pro-life mission:
"Nothing we do to defend the human person, no matter how small, is ever unfruitful or forgotten. Our actions touch other lives and move other hearts in ways we can never fully understand in this world. Don’t ever underestimate the beauty and power of the witness you give in your pro-life work."
-  Eleanor van den Enden