This morning I woke with the curious thought that Catholicism ought to work itself under our fingernails. Puzzling over this notion during prayers, I later read the news and came across a 2019 story of 15 year-old Polish Jakub Baryła, who stopped a thousand-strong gay-parade with a crucifix. Catholicism under one’s fingernails made perfect sense.
Jakub presents himself on Twitter as “Catholic, traditionalist, conservative and patriotic.” During the parade, he at first feared what people would think about his desires to defend the faith. But inspired by the story of a Polish priest who one hundred years earlier led soldiers against the Bolsheviks, and seeing an image of Our Lady desecrated with an Equity rainbow halo, the teen borrowed a crucifix from his parish priest, sat down in the street and began to pray the Salve Regina in Latin. The police asked him to move but he told them, “I cannot do [that] because the participants of the march are destroying my Catholic faith and profaning the Polish flag by placing a rainbow on it.” By Jakub’s own account, the police "behaved flawlessly",* and the end result revealed there was faith under this young man's fingernails.
Jakub realized that following Jesus means to follow Him even at the sacrifice of self. “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mt. 16:24). Then again, at a Fourth of July celebration yesterday, 22 year-old Robert Crimo went on a shooting spree yesterday, killing six bystanders and wounding more than thirty-six others in a Chicago suburb. With yet no acknowledged motive, it is difficult to draw parallels, though the actions of Robert speak a message dark and ungodly.
I find that there are those who would defend orthodoxy and those who would “liberate” us from it. My grandmother, bless her heart, at 94 years old, blind and sitting in her rocker outside with busy hands (always busy hands!) told me shortly before she left for eternity: “Jonny, put legs to your prayers!” She was a member of a local Four-Square Gospel church and I, a Catholic parish priest, but none of that mattered with respect to her lesson, now that I find myself dreaming my fingernails will only display abiding evidence of a life of prayer, faith and love.