10/03/2013 01:00 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

The Subtle Evangelist

You have to understand right from jump street that I 'd be the last person someone would identify as a holy roller.

Sure, I do some things I'm proud of, like attending Mass on Sundays, praying quietly in the privacy of my car on the way to work (most days) and making the appropriate contributions for the financial well-being of my parish and Diocese. Oh, and yeah, I learned how to make rosaries several years ago and diligently make one set a day during Lent that I then give away.

Some would say that those traits qualify me to be called a holy roller. Not true. Those things are about trying to arrive at Heaven's gate with at least some things to my credit that might help balance all the deeds, regrets and sorrows that are mine. Much of my effort is of a penitential nature. I don't want to be totally pathetic when St. Peter asks me for an accounting. You see I was -- and still am -- a sinner.

I drink, I cuss, I flirt, I lust. I skipped the killing but just barely. That could be the end of the story. Just one more sinner out there in the world. A sinner with little hope and less purpose, other than his own desires. But no, reluctantly there's more.

Although I've always believed that abortion in any form is abhorrent, I've never been the guy to verbalize or act out my very internal and private position. I'd be uncomfortable, fearing someone would look to me to contribute to a conversation that touched on the subject. And surely, I'd never bring it up. Abortion was bad, and I was worried about it, and that's about how far I went.

It wasn't until I realized that 56 million babies have died from abortion that the situation really got my attention. But, what to do. I'm not a preacher or even a preachy type. I don't know all the arguments that have been formulated over the years that articulate the pro-life position. I only know the one statistic... 56 million and well on the way to 57 million babies lost.

Over the last two years, I spiritually adopted three unborn babies and prayed for them for nine months each. One girl I named Abby and then twins I named Amanda and Amy. Pray that God heard my prayers and somewhere in this world those three did not lose their lives but survived to be born and are now growing into wonderful happy and healthy children.

I keep getting moved in the direction that I must do something, though I'm still not eager to speak out. One day I came up with a grand idea. I have a dear friend who is a jeweler, and I prevailed upon him to make two lapel pins for me. The number 56 and, sadly, also the number 57. I often wear suits at work, and my plan was to very quietly wear the lapel pin. Initially, I didn't tell anyone of my intention or the meaning of the pins. Again, I was fearful that someone would ask me to explain. They did ask, and once I told the first person, the cat was out of the bag, and I now had to live with the possibility that other people, maybe strangers, were actually going to ask me what the numbers meant.

It has been two months since I have had the pin on my lapel and people do ask what it means. At first, I cautioned them and asked did they really want to know what the pin represented. That drew very curious looks in deed. Next time, I ditched the caution but still stumbled with the words of my response. The third time, and every time there after, my words came easier and easier. "I wear the pin in honor and memory of the 56 million babies that we lost to abortion."

In fact, the impetus for this essay was a chance encounter over a salad bar in a local deli. As I built my salad, a fellow businessman was commenting on the abundant choices set before us. Apparently, he was new to this establishment. I assured him that this was the standard, and that everything he saw was fresh and good. Well one would have thought that that would be the end of that, but no. "Might I ask you what the 56 means," he said, pointing to my pin? My response was quick and easy, "I wear the pin in honor and memory of the 56 million babies that we've lost to abortion." And now the beautiful part happened. He smiled broadly, nodded his head in sad agreement. Emboldened by the reception to my words I continued. "To me it's about which one of the babies would have grown up to cure cancer or end world hunger." Not over yet -- he looked me in the eye and said "which one would have grown up to donate a kidney to your child?"

I hope to never have to wear the 57 pin, but if that day comes I will, and I will say those same words to one person at a time.