Little Sisters, big joy

Published on Mar 30th, 2016 by Our Sunday Visitor Catholic Publishing Company | 0

Women impregnated with the Gospel. That’s what Blessed Pope Paul VI said at the end of the Second Vatican Council the world needed to keep mankind from falling and for the peace of the world. Pope Benedict thought it important enough that he reissued the message to all the women in the world in 2012. (He handed it to me, so it made an impression.) But what does that look like? Could it be entirely a coincidence that 2012 was also the year that the Little Sisters of the Poor case just heard before the Supreme Court bubbled up? And that the Little Sisters are just those needed women of the word? If you only caught a sound bite about the case, you may have missed the revival outside the Supreme Court when they had their day in court. Women were everywhere. In habits. In business suits. Lots of sensible flats. Some reports mentioned “conservatives” challenging the Department of Health and Human Services’ abortion-drug, contraception, sterilization mandate. Try radicals. The Little Sisters of the Poor are women whose lives are surrendered to their Lord and savior, no ideology. Mary, Mother of God, comes to mind. And that is, in fact, how the rally ended, with the “Salve Regina” — “God Bless America” came a little earlier. Through her intercession, women — Little Sisters and others — impregnated by the Gospel were on display. That wire report mentioning conservatives sticks in my mind because it misses the totality of the witness. The Little Sisters of the Poor have other things they could be doing rather than educating us on religious liberty, but their close encounter with its fragility calls them to an enhanced service. And that awareness comes as no stunner for them, as they know just how fragile the gift of human life itself is — they dedicate their lives to the elderly poor, who could be the most discarded among us if it were not for the witness of the likes of these women. Which, of course, is why we need them so. Because there are no better angels if we do not know we need to be better. If we do not see that we can be. They live to wake up the world, as the recent Year of Consecrated Life put it. A few days before, at The Catholic University of America across town, at a conference co-sponsored by its business school and the Napa Institute, author Mary Eberstadt previewed her forthcoming book, “It’s Dangerous to Believe” (Harper, $25.99). In it, she bridges a divide. She makes the bewildering less so. She sees the genesis of the mandate that brought the sisters to court as a rival religion. She takes those who would mandate sexual-revolutionary values seriously as the true believers they have demonstrated they are. Different women, different roles, and each providing clarity. They do so because God has given them gifts and calls. How can you be light in a crowded, clouded world with short attention spans and overstimulated despair that can’t see heroines and prophets? You show love and respect, and even joy. You make a case. You take your case wherever it will be heard. Eberstadt’s book will be published by a mainstream publisher. And we await what the Supreme Court will say about the Sisters of the Poor’s case. Faithfulness doesn’t guarantee success. But it does inspire. Doing the hard work of the Gospel, being salt and light and leaven — even before cameras and in commentary — can be contagious. It’s the best kind of “going viral.” Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online and co-author of “How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice” (OSV, $17.95).