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Today, my lovely wife and I went to Art Hill, a historic place in St. Louis. Our art museum, one of the many gems in St. Louis, is adorned with a statue of our city’s namesake, King Louis the IX, monarch of France and canonized a saint by the church of Rome.
The statue of King Louis has become controversial of late, as have many monuments to figures meaningful to Western Civilization. While I think it is wise and fruitful to revisit various monuments and consider if they are worth their place, I think the current fever is ridiculous, and not borne of a desire for civic hygiene, but just a means to focus anger in furtherance of political goals.
Faithful Catholics have been gathering there to pray the Rosary. I have friends who are attending and joining their Catholic brothers and sisters. My wife and I joined them at the appointed time Monday evening. Our Catholic friends got right to it.
After a few minutes of reflection, being a protestant I am not familiar with praying the Rosary and out of respect I would not even try. I did see a few men off in the corner standing respectfully, not kneeling, and not holding a set of beads.
We approached them and quietly asked if they were protestant, and if so would they join with us. Lacking a tradition as old and rich as the Rosary, we fell back into the evangelical mnemonic of ACTS. We each prayed, offering an adoration of God, a confession of sin, a prayer of thanksgiving, and a supplication. My brothers and my wife each spoke in turn, a bit more freeform than the Rosary, but I think fairly disciplined for evangelicals.
All of us gathered in the gloaming, in the shadow of St. Louis, praying for peace, for unity, for hope…I really have no idea what the mind of a person praying the Rosary does, as I have not ever done it. I do know I was moved. I felt the Spirit of the True and Living God among us.
We protestants sang, quietly, “Bind us Together” as we closed up about the time our friends finished “Ave Maria” on their second round of three. We then quietly parted, and my wife and I continued to pray quietly.
Our current troubles are troubles of the human heart and all its capacity for darkness. I think politically motivated persons are using a legitimate issue to pursue illegitimate ends. While politics is an important field, and the faithful should participate, I think our best battleground is the few square feet we occupy when we humble ourselves before our God and ask for his intervention.
Tonight I learned the value of a statue of a flawed historical figure. To the purely rational mind, it may seem silly to risk conflict over a statue. Nevertheless, consider the witness of the previous Saturday. A friend describes some very obnoxious conduct – heckling and profanity – from a vocal crowd there to jeer at the supplicants. Undeterred and unprovoked, our Catholic neighbors in attendance piously kneeled and began to pray, led by a priest who had come from our sister town of Kansas City. As the priest-led laity cycled through their obligation, the heckling crowd became quiet, then silent. For 90 minutes (I believe) they prayed.
In the end, a substantial number of hecklers stayed, relieved of their animus, and a meaningful conversation broke out among the opposed groups. Those of us who believe in this sort of thing know that the Spirit of the Living God will bring peace, and I believe this happened. If even one of these taunting people finds peace with God from the experience, then the world will be a better place for the piety of the men and women who, in the quest to save a statue discovered lost sheep along the journey, and gained a story of the presence of the Divine.
I am chagrined that so few of us protestants could be bothered to join, though the effort is fairly new. I have no shortage of Evangelicals expressing their outrage over Trump posing with a bible, but nothing of a call to prayer from pastors in my area – perhaps I am missing them.
Alas, I have no great insight to wrap up this note, other than I can see how people can pray, together, and make a difference. I know this in my mind, but it is yet far from my heart, that prayer is powerful and effective.
We conservatives, we Christian conservatives have been trying to avert the Communist catastrophes that befell other Christian nations like Germany, Russia, and Italy in the 20th century by being involved in the marketplace of ideas and by putting our shoulders to the political wheel. Now that it’s all in peril of falling apart, I plan to return to the statue of King Louis and pray some more. I will at least find peace for myself, and maybe have the privilege of showing someone else what I did to get it. Who knows, there may yet be a revival. Our God is mighty. If he can change me, he can change anyone.