There was something remarkable in the news near the end of May. In the midst of horrible events, three women stepped forward and showed what it looks like to offer love in the face of hatred.
It happened near London two men attacked a soldier on the street. In broad daylight, in the middle of a crowd of people, they wanted to kill this man they didn’t know, and begged bystanders to film them so they could broadcast their anger. The horror of the event is what most media outlets are focusing on, but something beautiful also happened that day.
A mother and her daughter stepped forward, approached the attackers, and asked if they could be with the soldier as he lay dying. They faced two men armed with guns, knives and machetes who had just butchered a random passer-by. They wanted to offer comfort to the young man so he wouldn’t die alone, and when they knew he was dead, to protect him from further abuse from the attackers.
The imagery is powerful: I am remembering scenes from The Passion of the Christ when Mary tries to comfort Jesus by making eye contact with Him as He carries His Cross. I am picturing Our Lady holding her beloved Son before He was placed in the tomb. The Pieta – a mother holding her dead child – is one of the most striking images of maternal love I have ever seen.
The two women were a mother and her daughter. The mother, Amanda Donnelly, held the young man in her arms, and prayed for him, despite being harassed by the killers. Faced with weapons and anger, the women ignored issues, politics, and fear, to care for that unknown boy as they hoped their own family would be treated in such unspeakable circumstances.
Amanda’s son said his mother acted out of love: “My mother was just driving past and she saw something and wanted to try and help. She just showed a bit of motherly love. She just did what any mother would have done. She felt that could have been me lying down there in the street. She just felt for the poor guy. No man should have to die like that in the street with no one around him..”
While Amanda and her daughter were caring for that dying son, another mother stepped out of the crowd and approached the two attackers to talk to them. Despite their abhorrent actions, she hoped treating them with kindness would calm the situation. The violent men were covered in blood and armed with butcher’s knives and an axe, ranting at the crowd; yet she went up to one of them and calmly spoke to him. “I asked him what he wanted. Someone who does that always wants something, so I asked him,” she has told the press. And then she showed some spunk. When told by the attacker he wanted to start a war in London she told him, “You’re going to lose. It’s only you versus many.”
Ingrid Layou-Kennet has been hailed for her bravery, and her words have been adopted by the British Prime Minister. I can’t help but think those three women have shown us how to respond to evil: with calm, with confidence, and most of all, with love.
Not many of us – thank God – will ever find ourselves in such an extreme situation. I hope we are never confronted with mad men wielding weapons, spewing their hatred and spreading terror in our streets.
The evil we confront might be less overt, but we are engaged in battle, every day. Our friends are undergoing hardships and we ourselves might be experiencing spiritual attack. And yet our response is the same: We have faith. Do not let fear destroy your calm. Remember Jesus calming the storm while in the boat with His disciples. We have nothing to fear when we are with Him. We are confident because we have been promised the victory. We also know that we can do all things in Christ who strengthens us.
And we love.
Patricia explores authentic Catholic femininity on her blog The Feminine Gift.