Sherry Antonetti is a freelance writer, blogger and published author of The Book of Helen. She lives just outside of Washington, DC with her husband and their ten children.
Recently, a woman I didn't know who felt combative messaged me about how wrong I am to be pro-life. She used a slur. I asked why. She sent more insulting invective my way. I asked why again. She explained it was because I am pro-life, and “all pro-life people are ****oles.” I believe she said this without a trace of irony.
What would be the proper witness in this moment? Tell her we believe all humans to be made in the image of God, to have inherent dignity? I'm not sure she’d believe the all part, about some people already born having dignity, starting with me. I could quote the Catechism, but I doubt that would do much to change her heart. We have to trust God to do the overwhelming part. The Holy Spirit whisper pierces the heart and floods it open with grace. Grace allows a person to move from a position of holding a splinter like a shield to keep the gifts of the Church at bay. Grace allows Jesus remove the splinters or planks from our eyes.
People who seek out intellectual combat online usually have an axe to grind, a pain that permeates everything. In attacking people who are pro-life, she revealed her wounds. Christ on the Cross is always seeking to enter into our pains and take our place. I promised to try not to be a jerk. She stopped sending ugly notes. It's a start.
Our job as disciples is to keep the sliver of all hearts’ doors open with our Christian living. Even someone far from the faith can sometimes hear God’s knock if we’re there to provide the opportunity of quiet witness. Quiet witness is not silence, nor is it weak. It is how we treat people online or in line. It’s how we come to the Mass and how we experience Mass, and how we leave the parking lot. It’s how much we tip and how we handle bad news like flat tires, visits to the ER, and people knocking on our door to pitch new roofs.
How do we handle the scourging of minutia? If we encounter Christ in His distressing disguise in the poor, we need to also recognize everyone else should be doing the same when they encounter us, encountering Christ disguised. The crown of white martyrdom born of 1000 paper cuts still stings, still requires sublimation of the self. I admit, I wanted to lash out, to argue, to win, but that would have only revealed me, and not Christ. If we're graced and obedient, the veil might slip, and grace might be allowed to pour into those exposed wounds. It happens most often when we practice sublimation. Not my strong suit to be sure.
In the meantime, I’ve stuck her name on a sticky note on my computer as a reminder to pray, because sometimes people forget themselves in the heat of the moment, whether in real life or online, because they feel things deeply for a whole host of reasons we don't know. Our job is to love them whether we know those reasons or not. I hope she comes back someday so we can talk again.