Restoration

Restoration

Posted February 14, 2011:
A Walk Across Canada

by Paul Jang Han Goo.

I don’t like walking, I don’t like camping, and I definitely don’t like giving public speeches. But there is a reason why I walked across Canada last summer. There is a reason why I camped five days a week, for eleven weeks in a row. And there is a reason why I delivered a speech in front of hundreds of people every weekend.

That reason is the right to life. That right comes before all other rights, and it’s being violated at an unprecedented level. Forty-two million human beings are slaughtered every year, 100,000 in Canada alone. I walked to change the hearts and minds of those I met, but by the end I would realize that no heart was in greater need of transformation than my own.
There were eight of us who stepped up for this cause, seven guys and one girl. We came from all across the country: three were from British Columbia, three from Ontario, one from Alberta, and one from Nova Scotia. Five of us were studying for the priesthood.
We were sponsored by Crossroads, which is a non-profit Catholic organization based in the United States. Originally inspired by Pope John Paul II, who encouraged young people to “not be afraid to take the Gospel of Life to the streets like the first apostles,” Crossroads has sent groups across the States every summer for the last fifteen years.
Through this effort, over 600 young people have become pro-life warriors. The first Canadian group walked in 2007; we were the second.
Because three years had passed since the first walk, our walk was just as pioneering. In fact, we explored a new route that took us all the way from Vancouver to Baie Saint-Paul, Quebec, about 100 km east of Quebec City. We estimated the total distance we walked at about 5,600 km.
In order to cover that distance in just two months and three weeks we had to walk day and night. We divided ourselves into two groups; one group walked during the day, the other walked overnight, and every week we rotated. Each individual walked 20 to 40 km per day, with the team as a whole traveling 120 km per day on average.
Besides the rather daunting physical challenge, our journey across Canada brought us many other trials. The first five weeks through British Columbia were quite rainy; on some days, we even ran into tornadoes and floods! We were under the constant threat of running into bears, moose, coyotes, snakes, and wild dogs.
Wild semi-truck drivers were no less threatening. On the prairies, mosquitoes and black flies proved to be formidable enemies. From Ontario on, the sweltering summer heat slowed us down.
But those challenges were only half the battle. In fact, the other half of the battle was much tougher because it took place in our hearts and minds. We were a tight community doing everything together under extreme circumstances.
Because of the dynamic nature of the journey, we had to make decisions as a team on just about everything, from whether or not unused dishes should be washed after each meal to how our pro-life message should be brought to the fore during parish visits.
Decision-making in a group is essentially consensus-building, and for a group of physically and mentally exhausted young people with different upbringings consensus-building was difficult to come by.
We began to discover pet-peeves we never knew we had. I, for one, found many things about our team members that greatly irritated me. Some I thought talked too much, and others too little; some slept too much, and others too little; some were too clean, and some too dirty; someone was too showy, another too dull.
Eventually I realized that nearly everything irritated me, and that the only common factor in each annoyance was me. I was the real problem.
This discovery troubled me. I felt as though I had woken up to find myself locked up in a prison, not knowing exactly how I had gotten in or how to get out. In search of solutions, I became more conscious of my thoughts and reactions. I gradually became aware of my desire to do everything my own way.
I noticed my tendency to always say something to “correct” other people’s behavior whenever an occasion arose, often in a condescending, sarcastic manner.
I became so conscious of my problems that at one point I did not want to say anything at all; it seemed that almost everything that came out of my mouth only worsened my relationships with others. In the midst of internal agony, I understood that it was pride or love of self, that hindered me from loving others.
Who could rescue me from the prison of pride but Humility Himself? Who could lead me away from selfish love but the Teacher who taught us that true love is selfless?
Jesus, through the sacraments, gradually healed me and changed my heart. His sacramental grace gave me the strength and wisdom to stop loving self and start loving others, one step at a time.
On the very first day of our walk, our leader, Br. Paul John Mary, said, “When you arrive in Ottawa, you will be a different person.”
On the last day of our journey, when I arrived in Ottawa, I remembered his words. And was he ever right! I had become a different person, a better person.
Through the transformative experience of Crossroads, I became more aware of myself and of my sinful tendencies, and, more important, more accepting of others. There I was, out to change the hearts and minds of other people, but changed myself.
Selfless love is key to solving the problem of abortion. At its root, the abortion issue is not an issue of the intellect but of the heart. Selfishness of individuals is essentially the driving force behind every abortion.
Mothers and fathers who abort their babies choose to love themselves more than their babies; doctors who perform abortion for money choose to love themselves more than the mothers and babies.
Hence I believe that in the spiritual realm every act of sacrificial love somehow repairs or restores those acts of selfish love. Acts of charity, including prayer and penance done out of love, are the most practical means to fight against the evils of abortion.
Knowing that, I can only wish I had been more willing to embrace the Cross that was presented to me during the trip. Because I avoided suffering, others suffered instead; because someone willingly chose to suffer, others did not have to. So it is that love restores.
Paul, who stayed at MH as a working guest for a few weeks after his walk, is a seminarian studying for the Archdiocese of Vancouver.
All eight participants in last summer’s walk visited MH within a few weeks of its completion. One, Sean Fowler, stayed on long term.
More information about Crossroads is available at
www.crossroadswalk.org.
This article also appeared in The B.C. Catholic, Vancouver’s diocesan newspaper.

 

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