Up Front and Personal

City of Brotherly Love Rings True to Name

by Father Robert Czok

Recently, I was in Philadelphia to participate in a prayer event commemorating the “fetuses” killed by Dr. Kermit Gosnell. In order to give them proper burial in recognition of their humanity and personhood, Father Frank Pavone, director of the Priests for Life, was attempting to obtain the release of their remains from the medical examiner’s office in Philadelphia. Up to the time I departed from the group, the medical examiner regrettably would not release the remains. But it was worth the effort to give a prayer of recognition for the humanity and personhood of those babies so tragically murdered.

Then, leaving the area of the medical examiner’s office, I faced the prospect of trying to find my car for the drive back to New York. I was totally unfamiliar with the area and the only assuredly legal parking I could find was about three miles away from where I needed to be. The day was one of  those real steamers. I thought I remembered the name of the intersection near where I parked, but my memory was faulty. Being more macho than I thought I was myself, I aimed to find my car on my own. I was not at all ridiculed or laughed at, but a kind lady and three young bicycle-riding police officers in yellow and black uniforms saw my plight better than I did. The woman just would not accept my refusal of further assistance; she put me in touch with the police, all three of whom stayed close and busied themselves searching around the vicinity until at last my car was found.

Reflecting upon this afterwards, I recalled Abraham’s encounter with the three mysterious men in the Book of Genesis. Here and now, these three young black men were truly an inspiration as they persisted in following all the possibilities that my memory could afford them to help me in my difficulty. I had them going in circles, but they seemed not to mind it. Hot, sweating and thirsty, I was at last turning on the ignition of my newly found car (just a few minutes under the two-hour parking limit there) for the drive home, when one of the young officers on his bike drove up to my side window and held before me a bottle of clear, cold water. He said it was a courtesy, as he knew the bottle of water I had in my car would be warm at best. Delighted beyond words, I told them that in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, I found the city to be living up to its name in my case, thanks to the brotherly love shown me by three young black police officers whom I had never seen before, nor they me, who would simply not walk away from a stranger in need.

After participating in such a poignant event as I described above, I was uplifted. It was a small victory for kindness in Philadelphia in stark contrast to the desolation generated by the negative experience at the medical examiner’s office. As much as I felt lost, tired and confused, I was comforted to know that there was no hint that I was considered a suspect out of place in that neighborhood, which appeared to have a largely black population.

One of the officers, the tallest of the three, the one who was constantly behind, around and before me, whose name was Frederick, smiled broadly as I called him “Frederick the Archangel.” But I think he would be just as glad to be called “neighbor.”[hr] Father Robert Czok is the senior priest at St. Rose of Lima parish, Rockaway Beach.