It’s been fascinating, hearing reports all weekend long from the March for Life caravan—a substantial portion of which got stuck in a massive snow-induced traffic jam somewhere outside of Somerset, Pennsylvania on Friday night.
Spirits remained high, even when the busses didn’t move for almost 24 hours.
From what I gather, a sort of highway triage was going on – snowbound cars got freed from the drifts first, on the theory that most were not as well prepared to weather an extended stay on the turnpike as the busses and 18-wheelers that surrounded them.
Had I been on the bus, I think I might have taken exception to that plan. I wouldn’t have minded a bit if my carriage were shown to the head of the line.
What I heard, though, is that the bus passengers responded in an entirely different manner: Welcoming stranded strangers onboard…offering them snacks and drinks…and even venturing out into the drifts, to help push when the time came to get the autos on their way.
And then there’s this remarkable tableau – a sacramental moment, recounted by Deacon Greg Kandra:
Saturday morning, as the snow continued to fall, and the snowplows were still hours away, [the bus passengers] did something extraordinary. A group of kids poured out of the buses and began gathering the snow and ice outside, packing it into shape.
It looked like they were building a snowman. But they weren’t. They made an altar. Out of snow. Then they took tree branches and made a cross. They set up a sound system to play music, and then priests pulled on their vestments and set up a chalice and paten and hosts.
Chaperones opened umbrellas to shelter them, and they stood on a hill along the side of the turnpike, the wind howling and the snow still falling, and there they all celebrated Mass together – hundreds of them, in parkas and scarves and snow boots, joined together in the greatest of prayers, in the most unlikely of places—but a place that for a short time became as solemn and sacred as a cathedral.
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My brother has been sending cell phone pics from the scene since Saturday morning. And with each new dispatch, my admiration for him and his fellow pilgrims grows. Throughout the weekend, they’ve been hard at work…turning what some might consider a disastrous trip into a chance to offer a memorable witness.
Their indomitable spirit reminds me of a favorite passage from St. Augustine, about the nature of Christian discipleship:
‘Let us sing alleluia here on earth, while we still live in anxiety, so that we may sing it one day in heaven…in full security. God’s praises are sung both here and there. Here they are sung by those destined to die…there, by those destined to live forever. Here, they are sung in hope… there, in hope’s fulfillment. Here, they are sung by pilgrims; there, they are sung by people living in their own country. So let us sing now, not in order to enjoy a life of leisure, but in order to lighten our labors. We should sing as pilgrims do.
We should sing, but continue our journey. Sing then, but keep going.”
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.