Because of various Independence Day road closures, my wife and I arrived at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception later than planned. It was 11:59 a.m. as we approached the steps and saw a demonstration taking place. People with drums, guitars and other instruments were singing loudly. They carried banners indicating they were from Georgia and the Carolinas. At the time, I didn’t know if they were for or against the Catholic Church.
Although we were near the lower entrance that leads to the gift shop, I said to my wife, “the only way to find out what’s going on is to walk right into the middle of it.” We headed up the stairs and through the crowd of Neocatechumenal Way members. We learned that they are very vocal supporters of the Church.
When we walked through the doors, we saw dozens of Knights of Columbus in their full dress uniforms. They were waiting to process into the sanctuary. Obviously the noon Mass hadn’t started yet. We were at the rear left of the church and started down the side aisle with a group of others. Behind us, the Neocatechumenal Way members were finishing their song and starting to enter the Basilica.
My wife and I kept walking forward. The ushers were diverting people to the pews in the left arm of the cruciform. I thought we should zig while the others zagged. We walked across to the right arm of the cruciform and looked for a seat. There was enough room in the front pew for my wife and me to sit, but we were separated by an aisle. The woman next to me offered to switch seats with my wife, which allowed us to sit together. Before Mass started, I whispered that if the Basilica, were All Saints Church, we’d be in our regular seats.
The Mass was the closing ceremony for the second annual Fortnight for Freedom. The celebrant was Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who emphasized in his homily that Catholics are for freedom of religion. People whose views differ from the Church tend to unfairly paint Catholics as bigots. Ironically many of those who seek acceptance and open-mindedness for their own views on marriage and birth control are the same people who refuse to show acceptance for differing opinions.