A Culture of Encounter - Right to Life

Stephanie Gray - Guest SpeakerBy Jean Pawlus

NORTH BATTLEFORD – An inspiring and invigorating experience awaited those who attended the Right to Life banquet at St. Joseph Calasanctius Parish in North Battleford on May 1, 2016.

Stephanie Gray, author, university professor, and champion of life in all forms, was the guest speaker at the pro-life banquet. In her sixteen years as an international presenter, she has spoken in Costa Rica, Latvia, England, Ireland, the United States and Canada. She has formally debated with abortion doctors and professors at universities and had many one-on-one conversations with professors and students.

As she says in the introduction to her book Love Unleashes Life, it has been her full time job to discuss abortion with people who don’t share the pro-life view. While it can be tempting to focus on what we are saying rather than who we are saying something to, she said, she has learned the importance of looking at a conversation as an encounter with another soul. A quote from her book reads, “While we certainly need the strongest of minds, we also need the most tender of hearts.”

Beginning with a quote from Pope Francis, who spoke of a “culture of encounter” in which all are called to visit the marketplace, Gray addressed the need for dialogues in the midst of the everyday life experience of every person.

Her presentation focused on three aspects of the message we are called to share: dialogue is our method, how and what does this look like; fidelity to the one our hearts call us to hear and share to; and proposing God’s offer of love.

With the vibrancy of her personality and the wisdom of her experience, Gray spoke of the importance of dialogue as our method in presenting God’s message of life and love, which to her is not an argument to be won.

To be fruitful and wise, our lives must be grounded in prayer, she explained, being forever in touch with Christ as he was with his father. At important moments, Jesus spent time in prayer. He prayed to his father before choosing his disciples, before difficult tasks and especially in the garden on the night of his passion.

Effective dialogue involves asking questions and telling stories. Asking a question invites the listener to reflect on his or her response, allowing the conversation to go beyond, “Yes I do; no you don’t.”

Gray used many examples of Jesus telling a story and then asking a question. When in Luke 10:29 the young man asks Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” Jesus tells him the parable of the Good Samaritan. He then asks the young man who he thinks is the neighbour. He draws out the information.

Gray recounted many of her own experiences with young people. Often the conversation turns to human rights; the right of the unborn fetus or baby against the right of the woman. Then it shifts to who is more fragile, more needy, as in the case of the paramedic called to rescue a women and her child clinging to life on the roof a submerging car. Who does he take first? Well, of course, the baby. Why? It is more helpless. Then, is not the fetus much more helpless?

Gray says she has been told, “You argue well.” Much of what is shared in communicating with the heart as well as the head is important in all human encounters.

In sharing her many examples and the learning she has gained, Gray left the audience energized and inspired. She explained each person is called to fidelity to the one who never fails to go to the marketplace and to continually remember the culture of dialogue. The soul of the apostolate is the heart of ministry. We need to be reservoirs, not channels.

Due to a grant received, each attendee received a copy of Gray’s book Love Unleashes Life: Abortion and the Art of Communicating Truth.

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