Madonna House

Love at Speaker’s Corner

by Michael Fagan

When I worked in London, many years ago, I would regularly visit Speakers’ Corner at Hyde Park. This is a place where individuals representing either themselves or groups can speak on any topic of interest, be it religious, political, or otherwise. Each stood on a platform, popularly known as a “soapbox.”

Listeners who wished to do so could question, debate, or heckle the speaker. Tourists from all over the world would come to experience and enjoy this global village atmosphere in which ideas and opinions were exchanged.

I spent hours and even whole days there. It was one of the greatest learning experiences of my life.

My favorite group was the Catholic Evidence Guild, whose members spoke on the doctrines of our faith under the title, “Catholic Apologetics.” This group always drew a crowd, and to me, this was an especially stimulating and exciting group to listen to.

One day, when there was a large crowd, a young man brandished a Bible and shouted loudly, “Come out of the Church, the whore of Babylon!” This insult to Mother Church did not sit well with the Catholics, some of whom looked incensed and ready to take him on. They may well have ended in physically attacking him.

But just then, a woman took the man aside. She said something to him—I didn’t hear what—but whatever it was, she bypassed his mind and went quickly to his heart to what was beneath his explosive words. He started talking, and she lovingly listened to him.

To see the change that came over this angry young man was for me a revelation. It seemed that he had had many negative experiences in his youth, especially during the time he spent in an Irish monastery.

Through her compassionate understanding, this loving woman had touched his wounded heart. When he finished pouring out his pain, she wrapped him in her motherly embrace, and his tears flowed.

People like this woman are bridge-builders and reconcilers, and society today needs this listening love so much. In these polarized times, especially, both Church and State have great need of it. Fear and anger, so present in our age of terrorism, can only be healed in the way shown by this woman in Hyde Park.

“Peace” and “love.” These are the eternal words of Jesus, who spoke them to his apostles and disciples after his resurrection. Because they are eternal, they transcend all cultures and religions and are relevant to every age. They are also the very cry of the human heart. In fact, all of life exists and is nurtured through these immortal realities.

We can never underestimate their power to heal the wounded heart, no matter what obstacles stand in the way. A tiny pebble of love, like the one proffered that day in Hyde Park, can slay the Goliaths of fear and anger.

This is the light of Jesus that shines in our darkness and will never be overcome.

It is our call as Christians to be candles of this light. Christ is Risen! Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit!