My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
After putting in many miles of training to prepare for the Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa on Nov. 24, it was disappointing to settle for only 13.1 miles instead of the usual 26.2. This was the first time in 25 attempts that I was not able to finish the full marathon. I was running strong for six miles when I suddenly felt sapped of energy, apparently due to the lingering fatigue of a cold that I had been fighting for several days. Little did I know going into the race that this would officially be my first half-marathon! Apparently my plans were not God’s plans that day!
In several ways, it was a challenging weekend in Tulsa as I took part in activities of the LIFE Runners, a pro-life running group with almost 14,000 members world-wide. As is our usual practice, the LIFE Runners had a booth at the Marathon Expo, where we display a large “Remember the Unborn” banner, sign up new members, and distribute LIFE Runners gear. Unfortunately, the Tulsa Expo director was not very welcoming to us despite our having paid a fee to host a booth, just as other Expo sponsors had. One woman, who appeared to be a grandmother, removed the LIFE Runners’ “Remember the Unborn” sticker from her grandson’s clothes, telling him we were “anti-choice.” It is sad that an adult would abuse the power of language to communicate a hateful message to a child about those who are sincerely trying to protect the lives of unborn babies.
We had a similarly unwelcome encounter before the race at the start line, where we had gathered for prayer under our “Remember the Unborn” banner, which the race director wanted us to move because the corporate sponsors did not want our pro-life message in their pictures of the start line. Since we were standing in the street on public property, we reminded the race director that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects our rights to freedom of association, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion. Given these rights, we said that he would have to call the police if he wanted us to move. Since the police never came, apparently the race director recognized that we were legally in the right, but it was still an unpleasant encounter and at the same time a clear reminder of the hostility toward the pro-life message that is harbored in significant segments of our society.
On the brighter side of things, we prayed without incident in front of the Tulsa Women’s Center abortion facility on Saturday afternoon, and then celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at Holy Family Cathedral in downtown Tulsa. After Mass, we gathered for our pre-race pasta dinner, at which we heard from Julie Ann Wilkinson, a former abortion clinic nurse who played the part of the attending nurse during a simulated abortion procedure in the movie Unplanned, about the abortion activities of Planned Parenthood. She spoke about her conversion and her dedication to the pro-life cause.
One of the highlights of the weekend was meeting Alan Webb, who holds the American national record in the mile, with a time of three minutes and 46.91 seconds. His wife, Julia, set a new world record for running a half marathon in Tulsa while pushing a stroller in one hour and 21 minutes! Alan and Julia both joined our LIFE Runners pro-life running group.
As in the past, I was running to help raise money for charity, so it is very gratifying that $10,000 has been contributed to support the pro-life efforts of the LIFE Runners! Thank you to all of our donors for your generous charitable contributions to this very worthwhile cause.
By the time you read this, I will be on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Rome from Dec. 2-14 in conjunction with the ad limina visit of the bishops of Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. We will be meeting with Pope Francis on Dec.12, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I will pray for all of you as we concelebrate Mass that evening with the Holy Father at St. Peter’s Basilica. Please pray for our safe travels in the Holy Land and in the Eternal City.
May God give us this grace. Amen.