Why me Lord? Pick on someone else.
My wife had been back and forth from South Bend, assisting the Insurrecta Nex team and was in charge of media relations while I was back in Virginia holding down the fort. Randall called me shortly after his arrest and informed me that things were beginning to heat up at Notre Dame, and he and the team came up with another strategy to put more pressure on Fr. Jenkins, Obama, and Notre Dame to rescind the invitation to speak. It appeared with the initial arrests, that Fr. Jenkins was making a very clear statement that he intended to make this even happen; despite the fact it violated clear tenets of the Catholic faith, as well as the fact that Bishop D’Arcy had asked Notre Dame to rescind the invitation. If Fr. Jenkins was going to dig in his heels, so would we.
Randall Terry’s strategy was to send waves of people onto the campus with nothing other than rosaries to pray, and with very clear instructions to be peaceful and nonviolent. Because this strategy had not been used before, Randall was unsure whether arrests would happen, but one would have to be prepared to be arrested and to possibly sit in jail for at least a weekend. Since Randall knew I was coming back with my wife to south Bend for the weekend, he had asked me if I would be willing to be arrested. I told him I would think about it, but inside I dismissed this as foolishness and at that moment, had absolutely no intention of doing nothing other than protesting outside the gates. What I did not understand at the time was that someone with greater authority than me, had other plans.
The servant is no greater than the master.
God speaks to us in our own unique ways. God speaks to me in two ways I have readily identified: quietly when I am willing to listen, and with a 2 x 4 when I’m not. This was one of those 2 x 4 ‘moments’ and I have to admit that I put up a real good fight. The conviction came over me in such a way that the best I can say is that “I can’t not do it”. I could find no valid reason to not proceed on, and kept running into scripture verses that mandated me to act on what I knew was the truth. If Jesus found it good enough to get arrested under false charges, who am I to make any statement about how ‘unfair’ it is?
This process took several days, and my mind was not at peace until I made the decision to proceed onto south Bend, and participate in this protest to its fullest extent. However, I did not inform Randall of my decision, thinking he would encourage me to stay in jail for the weekend, if being arrested was the final outcome. It was then decided we would set out for South Bend on May 13 and I would be joining the first wave of prayer warriors to enter the campus on May 15th. Prior to going to our lodging, I asked my wife to drive by St. Joseph’s county jail to see what my possible ‘weekend home’ looked like. Even at this time, I was still hoping we would be left alone to pray and would not end up in jail, but also remembering rather clearly that I was willing to do the Lord’s bidding on this matter.
Arrested for praying.
That morning, there was a large gathering at the Francis Street house which served as the residential headquarters for this event. There were about 30 + people willing to enter the campus and risking arrests. The previous Friday, Dr. Alan Keyes and 17 others had entered the campus pushing baby carriages with dolls, and were arrested fairly quickly, and it was likely our fate would be the same. After getting into formation, we walked the 3 blocks to one of the main entrances to the campus, and could see the campus police waiting for us. There were also a myriad of pro Obama protestors waiting as well. After a quick prayer in front of the gate we proceeded in. We did not get much further than about 50 yards in when the police confronted us and ordered us to leave. (However, the pro Obama counter protestors were left alone) Dr. Keyes was the first arrested then the rest of us were eventually taken into custody. Fr. Norman Weslin was one of the last to be arrested on that day, and decided to go limp. It took 5 officers to get him to a separate van, and once they had Fr. Weslin squared away, we were off to St. Joseph’s county jail. In all, 22 of us were arrested that Friday, and 10 of us stayed in Jail overnight.
There were two other waves of arrests that weekend, 19 on Saturday which included Norma McCorvey and Fr Weslin again, and 27 arrests on Sunday, the day of the commencement speech. In total, 94 people had been arrested over the course of 3 weekends with the bulk being the weekend of the speech. The international media was all over the arrests, and many of the people arrested were approached by all sorts of media wanting to know their stories. The arrests and tactics used by the Insurrecta Nex team, coupled with the support of Dr. Monica Miller and CPLS and others made this event an international news item.
There is no question president Obama had to address the issue of abortion, knowing multiple numbers of Americans were getting arrested for speaking up for the life issue. There was no doubt that we were making a difference, despite the fact our first objective failed, in getting Obama cancelled. It raised the bar for the dialogue that Fr. Jenkins claimed to want to do by inviting Obama in the first place. Without the arrests, this event would have been lightly protested and there would have been minimal coverage of this event, as it is the case for the majority of presidential commencement speeches. However, we did not get the support of most of the pro-life movement, and many of the accusations by these groups were just starting.
To be continued