Catholic Values Column: Lent and Legacy


You are dust and to dust you shall return.

This coming Wednesday, March 1, students and faculty will hear this statement as ashes are liberally applied to their foreheads, thus marking the start of Lent.

Although Lent is supposed to be a solemn time liturgically, growing up I always enjoyed its start. We would go to Mass early in the morning, then I got to go all day with ashes on my forehead, showing off that I am Catholic and proud of it. In fact, my only regret when I got my bangs was that now people wouldn’t be able to see my ashes on Ash Wednesday.

Even with my non-Catholic friends, there was always buzz about what we were giving up this year. In high school, I spent Lent explaining our traditions to my curious Jewish friends.

Especially with all the initial excitement of Ash Wednesday, it was always difficult to remember that Lent is more than its associated customs.

Lent is a time to prepare our hearts for the saddest moment of the liturgical year: Christ’s death on the cross. It is a time of mourning, so that Easter can bring even more joy in contrast.

All of our Lenten customs are intended to orient ourselves towards Jesus and his Passion. They are there to help us grow in faith. If Jesus can sacrifice his life on a cross, we can easily sacrifice soda or chocolate for 40 days.

Lent is here to lead each of us to Christ through inner conversion. Our sacrifices are not for the world to see, but for us to personally draw closer to God. Lent reminds us that God can reach us even in the darkest places.

I was thinking a lot about this concept a little less than two weeks ago. On Feb. 18, an email popped into my inbox titled “Sad News.” I opened the email and audibly gasped. Norma McCorvey had died that day at the age of 69.

If you don’t recognize this name, perhaps you will recognize the pseudonym she went by for quite some time: Jane Roe. As in, the Roe from Roe v. Wade.

Her story has always interested me. In 1969, McCorvey was an unmarried 21-year-old on her third pregnancy. McCorvey decided she wanted an abortion, and when she couldn’t get one, she was directed to two lawyers who had been looking for a way to change the abortion laws. McCorvey fit the bill, and the case of Roe v. Wade began, ending in the legalization of abortion.

By the grace of God, the story does not end there. After Roe v. Wade, McCorvey went off the radar for a while, but then joined the pro-abortion movement. She began working at an abortion clinic, and it was there that God reached her.

When a pro-life organization moved in nearby, McCorvey at first treated its members with disgust, which was for the most part reciprocated with love. Eventually, McCorvey became pro-life and was baptized a Christian in 1995. Three years later, she became Catholic.

This is why when I opened up this email, I was taken aback. I was sad to see such an impactful person die, but I was happy to know that she is surely on her way to heaven.

My hope is that even though she is gone, her story will not be forgotten. Hers is a story of redemption through God’s persistent love.

The way I see it, Roe v. Wade was inevitable. McCorvey’s lawyers had been looking for a person like her, and had they not used her, they would have used someone else. But McCorvey was chosen.

God has a plan, and ultimately, he’ll get want he wants. Just like in Jesus’ Crucifixion, God can work even through evil to bring about good. Look no further than McCorvey’s example. God found her in the darkest place and used her to change other people’s hearts.

And that is really what Lent is all about. God uses this dark time to polish us in our sorrow so that we may shine with the light of Christ for all the world to see. We just have to listen.

Let’s use this Lent to really open our hearts and listen to God’s plan for us. Easier said than done, I know. But conversion is never easy. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for McCorvey to open her heart to God, or to come to terms with the fact that her signature helped lead to the murder of millions. But she did, and what a blessing that has been.

This Lent, let us remember McCorvey’s life. Let us remember that even as we go through darkness, there is hope through Christ, who can reach us in the most unlikely times and places.