Well, I have returned from the prayer rally and sufficiently thawed my fingers to post about it! :) (No pictures, unfortunately - I left my camera at the house. Maybe next time.)
When I arrived at the Main Building around 2 pm, there was a sizable crowd already gathering. The atmosphere was hushed, but excited. Students were gathered around tables, writing on the red envelopes to be sent to Fr. Jenkins to give to President Obama. A Right to Life member handed me a carnation, and I learned that we would walk down to the Grotto after the rally to lay the flowers in front of the statue of Our Lady.
The prayer rally was kicked off by an invocation from a priest (whose name escapes me, sadly). Most appropriately, he began with a verse from Psalm 127: "Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it." This verse is so dear to me as it embodies my approach to life and work - to lift it up in praise to God. I think Father Sorin must have known this verse as he strove to raise up this university. Now we are all wondering whether Fr. Jenkins remembers that this university should glorify God.
Chris, the chairman of ND Response, then introduced the keynote speaker, Harold Cassidy, a prominent pro-life lawyer. In his speech, Mr. Cassidy refuted the arguments used by Catholic politicians to justify their support of legal abortion. He made the case that the right to life is based not in a particular faith, but in science and law - indeed, the right to life is written into the founding documents of our nation. He shared some stories from his legal work with post-abortive women - stories that eloquently illustrated the harm that abortion causes women. He told of one woman who had survived a suicide attempt brought on by post-abortive depression - the scars of her attempt covered her entire forearm.
It was at this point that we had a bit of a disturbance. I was surprised, actually, to not see any counter-protesters, or at least mockers or scoffers. Given that there are dorms around the quad in front of the Main Building, I half expected to see some foolishness precipitated by people hanging out the windows. Maybe the gray weather and threatening rain kept them away.
But, I did notice during Mr. Cassidy's speech a group of two or three girls on the edge of the crowd, on the east side of the quad. Their body language suggested they were itching for a confrontation. Right about when he started to talk about the harm caused to women by abortion, I heard one girl begin to shout something. He simply raised his voice and kept talking -but she was apparently determined to be heard, as she started yelling for people to "get out of her face." I couldn't really tell what she was trying to say, other than "this isn't about abortion" and something about Obama. She seemed very angry, and frankly, a little scary. Mr. Cassidy asked that she be left alone - I couldn't see what was happening, but I guess someone was attempting to get her to move off. He continued on with his speech but the girl kept shouting indistinctly until a camera moved her way. The chance to air her grievances to the media apparently placated her and we didn't hear any more for the rest of the rally.
After Mr. Cassidy's speech, we all prayed the rosary together as the rain began to fall. The rain came harder and I thought that the girl and her friends had given up and left. I looked up, though, and saw her watching the student leaders pray the rosary with a sneer on her face. I thought for half a second that she would take advantage of the prayer time to rush the podium - but we were undisturbed.
I've never prayed the rosary with such a big group before - they estimated the crowd at about 400 people. It was an amazing, incredible feeling of unity. When the rain got heavier, a sympathetic undergrad - a complete stranger - moved over to share her umbrella.
After the rosary, Prof. Alfred Freddoso spoke for a few moments. He said that campus security would not allow him to drive into campus, even with his faculty tag - drawing a murmur of disgust from the crowd. He told us that he was here as a sign of solidarity, as a representative of the tiny minority of faculty who also opposed the invitation to Obama. His words were absolutely energizing - I wish all those on the blogs who are ready to write off every Notre Dame professor as an utter heretic could have heard him.
Finally, the rally drew to a close and we walked down to the Grotto with our carnations. I said a Hail Mary as the rain continued to fall. My feet and hands were completely numb, but my heart was warm. No, all is not lost here at Our Lady's University.
Now, let's pray that God will bless me with awesome productivity this evening to make up for those two hours I probably should have been studying/working on my term paper! ;) I don't at all regret going, though. Some things are just too important to miss.
4 years ago