In short, the mercy of God is not an abstract ideal but a concrete reality with which he reveals his love as that of a father or a mother, moved to the very depths out of the love for their child.
—Pope Francis, Miseracordiae Vultus, para. 6.
The only desire I had when I boarded the plane was to power down, enjoy some silence and read Bishop Robert Barron’s Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith, newly downloaded to my iPhone. It had been a very busy weekend of nonstop talking, which included giving two one-hour presentations at a Marian conference.
But when a 20ish-looking blonde woman sat next to me, something told me to put down the phone and tune in to her. “Where are you coming from?” she asked.
“I spoke at a Catholic conference in St. Louis,” I replied. “I’m headed home to New Orleans.”
Introducing herself as Paige, she shared that she was getting married in May, and that she and her Jewish fiancé had recently traveled to Israel for a month-long visit to attend a friend’s bar mitzvah. She disclosed her horror over routine violence that is part and parcel of life there, especially as Muslim extremists increasingly engage in random stabbings of Jewish people.
“A man was stabbed right by our hotel,” she lamented. “And it didn’t even make the news. It’s incredible!”
We both agreed that the world needs much less hatred and violence and much more love.
Paige shared that her parents had raised her without faith, even though they’d sent her to Catholic schools her whole life.
The conversation somehow turned to abortion. “I know you’re Catholic,” she said unapologetically, “but I’m totally pro-choice. One of my best friends is an ob-gyn who wants to learn how to do late-term abortions. She feels so bad for people who really want to be parents, really want a baby, and then find out their child has some unsurvivable abnormality. They’re totally stuck, you know, because Louisiana law prevents them from having a late-term abortion.”
“Well,” I offered gingerly, making every effort to use my kindest voice, “it would indeed be a horrible suffering to learn that your baby was going to die within hours of its birth. But what would be even worse is being stuck for the rest of your life with the knowledge that you had caused their death.”
Paige’s eyes grew bigger.
“I know of people who have lived through this,” I continued, sharing the story of presidential candidate Rick Santorum and his wife, Karen. “They were able to welcome their son, Gabriel, into the world, baptize him, hold him in their arms and shower him with love for at least a few hours. That was a very merciful way of dealing with both themselves and the child.”
By this time, Paige’s big, beautiful blue eyes were locked into mine.
“Here’s the thing,” I went on while I had her attention. “We both agree that we need more love in the world. And that’s precisely why I’m against capital punishment, war and violence against Jews, women and babies in the womb. Abortion is a very violent act against both the woman and the baby. We could use so much more love across the board in the world.”
Paige continued to fix her eyes on mine, and I finally laughed a bit nervously and said, “You must think I’m crazy telling you all of this on a plane.”
“No,” she said slowly. “I’m listening … I’m listening to what you’re saying.”
The plane touched down. “It was really nice talking to you,” Paige offered with a smile. “I like Judys. I’m going to buy your book.”
“It was really nice talking to you too, Paige.” I smiled back. “God bless you.”
With that, an hour plane ride from Dallas to New Orleans had offered the unexpected gift of a mile-high defense of human life. Because while Paige was raised without faith, she was raised with love. And anyone can understand the logic of love, including someone who’s “totally pro-choice.”
Judy Landrieu Klein is an author, theologian, inspirational speaker, widow and newlywed whose book, Miracle Man, was an Amazon Kindle best-seller in Catholicism. This article was originally published at her blog, “Holy Hope,” which can be found at MemorareMinistries.com.