Near a statue of the Blessed Mother, a small rock sits on my desk. Every day the simple image of Christ, painted on its front stares at me, and I stare at it. That rock does not tell me what time it is. It does not keep track of notes or missed calls. It does not help me to complete my tasks for the day. It simply sits. It stares at me, and I stare at it. And yet, I have heard the voice of the Lord speak—simply looking at this almost insignificant relic of the past.
This rock reminds me of September 14, 1999: the day my life changed forever. Somewhere, in a small town in Southern Romania, I left the hand of an extraordinarily generous woman, so that I could be given to the hands of a mother and father. She had given me life, and now, one she could never offer. On this day, for the first time, I breathed in air on a whole new continent. Shortly after this day, I would be baptized. In a short period of time I went from orphan to son, and from little boy to Child of God.
“What a wonderful Father we have, who has created a plan for each of us.”
I never fully appreciated this day, until a cold January morning, almost 17 years later. I was standing in front of an abortion clinic. It was cold, and snow had fallen, but the true pain was seeing these mothers and fathers walk into this clinic. Here they would have their unborn children ripped apart from them and thrown away. Here “the greatest destroyer of peace”, as Mother Theresa called abortion, would reign. At least that’s what I thought.
We stood on the sidewalk, as we usually did, to pray for an end for abortion. We would never go to protest, or to condemn, those considering an abortion. As the motto went, we were there, “to be the last sign of hope, and the first sign of mercy.” We prayed that women would change their minds, and choose to give their child life. But if they didn’t, as it often seemed to be, we were there to show the compassion of Christ, and his unconditional mercy.
It was a normal morning of prayer with nothing too strange happening. Person after person would walk in, and we would offer a word, or a prayer, and in the blink of an eye, they would be in the building. Then came a change. As we were in the midst of praying, another woman came to go into the clinic. She didn’t shut us out, though. She had an air of sadness on her face, and she seemed to be full of anguish and distress. I thought for a moment, and against my usual disposition, I spoke up.
“You don’t have to do this,” were the first words I could think of. And then, the unexpected happened: she stopped. She looked at me and I looked at her. I don’t know who was more nervous, her or I. In that short moment, I let go of the fear of what she would do, and by God’s grace, I told her the truth.
“Your baby has a future. God already has a plan laid out for your little son or daughter. Who knows what amazing things He will do in their life? And if you do this, you are ending that.
“I was adopted. My mother could have chosen abortion, because in some ways, it may have seemed easier. But she didn’t. She chose life. And here I am, I can never thank her in the way that I would like, but here I am.”
She paused. She began to tear up, “We just don’t have the money,” she said, “I don’t want to do this any more than you want me to, but I don’t have a choice.”
“You can choose life, and I will do anything I can to help you,” I said. And she walked away, crying.
In that brief exchange that seemed like an eternity, my world collided. So filled with anguish, I had no idea what to do. I began begging God to spare this helpless child. What kind of future would her or she have? What would he or she accomplish in their life? What would he or she do for God? I was distraught at the thought that this may be the end. I began begging St. Jude, the patron of impossible cases, to intercede for this poor child. I prayed. I waited. And finally, I left.
As I left I couldn’t help the overwhelming thoughts of worry, distraught, and sorrow for the sin of abortion. I didn’t say too much to those I was around, and I simply continued in prayer.
As the Lord would have it, we had some time to spare later that morning, so we managed to swing by the clinic once more to pray one last rosary. As we prayed, I kept begging, begging the Lord for a miracle.
Finally, as we began the last prayers of that rosary, the door of the clinic opened. A small buzzer rang, and I saw a figure walk out. It was Amy. My heart dropped. She walked straight up to me. “It’s a boy. I couldn’t do it,” she said.
She showed me the little boy on the ultrasound, she smiled, a tear came to both of our eyes, and she left.
In this second of two brief exchanges, everything changed, but everything was just the way Christ wanted it to be.
I have not seen Amy since that cold January morning, but I know that that baby boy is alive and well. I choose to call him baby Jude, after the heavenly patron who prayed for his life, and I pray for him as often as I can.
Fast forward, to two years later, I found myself leaving a town during a pilgrimage in Poland. This time, I had an encounter that solidified all that had happened: being adopted, and helping to ensure life for another child. A kind lady walked up to me. She introduced herself and she said that she was from Romania. In addition, she had found out that I was born in Romania. In fact, unbeknownst to both of us, the same part of Romania that I was born in, was the very part she was from.
In her hand she had a gift for me, a traveler she had never met. She told me when she heard that a seminarian from America, who was born in Romania, was visiting, she had to give him a gift. She said that she ran home, and since she had nothing else to give, she pulled this gift off of her mantle.
I opened it and it amazed me. It was a rock, but not any rock. It was a rock from the area where she was from, and where I was born. It was a piece of where I came from. On it was painted a beautiful image of Christ. That rock took me back to two days. First, it took me to the day I was adopted. Seeing this icon filled me with amazing gratitude at the providence of God. Later, however, this rock took me to the day God saved the life of baby “Jude” in my very midst.
What a wonderful Father we have, who has created a plan for each of us. He has already foreseen every detail of our being, and further, he has sent his own Son to save us from our sinfulness. He has a plan for us, “a plan to prosper us,” Jerimiah says. But it is up to us to say yes. We were made for “greatness”, though the world offers “comfort,” Pope Benedict said. May these words echo in the depths of our heart as we hear the Father say to the Son, and pray God, to each of us, “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Micheal Schultz is a seminarian studying for the Archdiocese of Louisville and is a member of the class of 2020.