WASHINGTON, D.C., January 28, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — A Catholic priest in Indiana recently sent a message of support to Covington Catholic High School junior Nick Sandmann, thanking him for marching for life, commending his handling of the now infamous confrontation with Native American activist Nathan Phillips, and empathizing with his plight.
Father John Hollowell, a priest in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, said he faced a similar experience on a smaller scale for teaching the truths about the Catholic faith, and he offered Sandmann assurances that the words of the mob won’t hurt as much as one thinks they might. The priest also encouraged him to find the joy in suffering.
Hollowell said he shared his message to Sandmann for one reason — that a priest he knew in the area said he heard that Nick and others involved in the incident hoped Catholic priests and bishops would speak up on his behalf.
For a week after Sandmann and his classmates were harassed by Phillips near the Lincoln Memorial after the March for Life on January 18, the Covington diocese, Covington Catholic High School and Covington Bishop Roger Foys maintained a public stance indicating belief in the faulty media narrative.
This handling of the situation by church leaders in Covington and elsewhere upset Catholics while Sandmann, his classmates and their families continued to face endless venom, defamation, and threats of violence and death.
Foys finally released a statement, the third statement and the first one with an apology, last Friday afternoon, one week after the incident.
In Hollowell's Facebook message, he first thanked Sandmann for marching for life.
He joked that while he had attended the March for Life often when he was younger, he thought he was getting too old. Sleeping on the floor had become too hard, and he’s just “kind of a wimp now at this point.”
“So thank you for going out and marching for life,” he said. “I think that’s an awesome thing that you and your classmates did, making sacrifices.”
Hollowell told Sandmann that he loved the reflection that Sandmann wrote about how and why he did what he did when Phillips approached him and was beating his drum and chanting in his face continually. Sandmann said in a statement that he was really trying to de-escalate and calm the situation by remaining in place and trying not to react.
“I remember something that I heard from Bishop Robert Barron one time,” Hollowell told Sandmann, “talking about the sort of peaceful way of trying to resolve situations that Jesus used when he said to turn the other cheek.”
“Bishop Barron was talking about how there’s a sort of a not backing down in that,” he said, “but yet also trying to calm the situation.”
“So I turn the other cheek if someone slaps me,” said Hollowell, “but I also don’t walk away, I don’t back down from that, and that hopefully tries to bring calm, in a way that also says this isn’t going to be tolerated, this kind of thing.”
“And so I just wanted to say I really admired the way that you tried to de-escalate that situation,” Hollowell added.
The priest, a school chaplain and teacher who also blogs and produces podcasts about the Catholic faith, said he too had been a part of something going viral because of something he said, though not on any scale like Sandmann.
“As a Catholic priest, teaching the truths of the Church,” Hollowell said, “and I’ve had thousands and thousands of comments leveled at me, and my high school got shut down, the server got shut down for a while when I was a pastor, and a chaplain for teaching things.”
Hollowell had come under fire in 2011 after videos of lectures expressing Church teaching he posted on YouTube and his personal blog angered homosexual activists.
The thing that he took from that experience, he said, which he hoped Sandmann would as well, is that the mob doesn’t actually hurt.
“The words don’t actually hurt, the things that people say, the lies that people spread and all kids of things,” said Hollowell. “It doesn’t hurt nearly as bad as you think it will. And I hope that that’s your experience too — that’s my prayer for you, for you and your family, and for anyone else who’s being drug through the mud in the midst of all of this.”
“Apostles get persecuted, you know, in the Acts of the Apostles,” Hollowell added, “but they go out singing and rejoicing when they are released from jail, even after being beaten.”
“And I think that one of the reasons they were singing again is that they probably realized, like I have in small ways and I hope you have too,” he continued, “that being persecuted for being a Catholic or being pro-life, whatever it is, for following Christ, being persecuted doesn’t hurt nearly as bad as we think it does, and there’s rejoicing in the midst of that, that we’re found worthy to suffer in that way.”
“I just hope and pray that that’s your experience,” Hollowell told Sandmann.
He concluded by offering his continued support to Sandmann, reiterating his thanks to the high school junior for standing up for life, and offering prayers.
“Just know of our prayers for you and for the entire situation,” said Hollowell, “for your community, that there might be healing on all sides and for all involved. Again just let me know if there’s ever anything I can for you. God bless you.”