SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Andrew was clearly taken with the woman.
"She symbolizes so much, a resignation to His will, an utter awe and reverence for the beauty of life -- regardless the circumstance -- and she provides a voice for those without a voice."
The beauty got to him. Considering how often we can be attracted to that which is harmful to us, her pure loveliness seemed to offer protection and benediction.
The woman was Mary, the mother of God, as she appeared to Juan Diego in Mexico, in 1531.
Like so many young people, despite being raised Catholic, Andrew wasn't inspired to live a life of radical discipleship. But Andrew credits Our Lady of Guadalupe for changing his attitude: She focused his attention on the rich sanity of a life of chastity and integrity, and led him to service in Honduras as a lay missionary to the pro-life work he's doing now in New York.
The late Pope John Paul II knew she would capture lives like Andrew's. He called the pregnant Mary, as she appeared in Guadalupe, the "Star of the New Evangelization."
This effect can be seen in a penetrating way in South Bend, Ind., recently, where more than 24 pro-life medical doctors, lawyers, parents, teachers and other professionals and students took two weeks to learn how to be better disciples of true love.
That's what the Project Guadalupe, part of the Notre Dame Fund to Protect Human Life, chaired by philosophy professor David Solomon is all about.
This June it held a large conference, in which participants, spanning more than five decades in age, took part in two weeks of lectures, workshops, interaction and prayer. The left with a fuller picture of the state of human dignity in America and the world, with classes in biology, philosophy, theology, law, psychology and more. It was an opportunity to feed an intellectual and spiritual thirst, and compare notes on how to be truly engaged, effective and comprehensive.
As Notre Dame alum Bill McGurn, a former presidential speechwriter and Wall Street Journal columnist, told the gathering: "We are not simply after the outlawing of abortion, though a law may be the result of our efforts. … We stand for something much more difficult and far more consequential: an America that protects the unborn in law because she welcomes them in life."
And where better to proclaim this, than under the enormous statue of Mary atop the school's golden dome?
As McGurn put it: "At times it might be tempting to think: 'We are just one judge or one law away from getting what we want.' At these moments, it's important to recognize that the only secure defense for the unborn is persuading our fellow citizens of the dignity of each human life."
Here's what was happening in South Bend: the care and feeding of missionaries, bent on persuading fellow citizens and changing the world, not through politics but through love and service.
Hope is in South Bend. Notre Dame may be better known as a football haven and a kind of Catholic Disneyland, which, whenever it makes non-sports headlines, seems to be a school in identity crisis. And in a way, it is: it's not the solid rock it could be.
But there's a sacramental nature to Notre Dame, a commitment to service, as evidenced in a beautiful way by its Catholic-school teacher-training programs. And, right past a monument to Domers who served and gave their lives for our nation in the military, lies the beacon that Solomon has built to lead a culture toward the all-encompassing embrace of divine love.
When you think of the pro-life movement in America today, don't think of a protest placard or a presidential debate, think of Project Guadalupe. The face of the pro-life movement is a mother with child. And when you truly think of it this way, and look to meet her and all her challenges and pain and gifts and love, it changes everything.