A quiet highway, Rosary beads and a tragic accident

First things first: The Indianapolis Star team deserves quite a bit of credit for the quick news feature it produced the other day about the death of Andrew Moore, a Thomas Aquinas College student who was killed while walking from coast to coast during a prayer marathon in opposition to abortion. Most of the questions I have, truth be told, are about the nature of the accident itself. Moore was wearing a reflecting vest and was walking in the grassy median of the highway -- details that the story notes quite clearly. Still, police are saying that this was nothing more than a simple accident.

So I liked the article, in particular the biographic materials, which I will share in a minute.

The opening, however, will be rather jarring to traditional Catholics. Why's that? It's all about that first verb.

Clutching their holy beads as they walked down the dark highway, Andrew Moore and his fellow “pro-life walker” were praying the Rosary early Friday morning.

Their group had walked about 2,200 miles from San Francisco and had about 600 miles to go before reaching Washington, D.C. There aren’t many cars at 5 a.m. on U.S. 40 near Stilesville, in Hendricks County, so it wouldn’t be difficult to hear the prayers they voiced.

“They had figured that if they kept praying the Rosary, they could kind of pace themselves ... they could get through one in exactly one mile,” said Rev. John Hollowell, a priest in Terre Haute, who interviewed the group on a small Catholic radio station on Wednesday.

What they apparently did not hear was the sound of a vehicle approaching from behind as they walked in the grassy median of the four-lane divided highway.

Moore, a 20-year-old college student from Concord, Calif., was struck from behind and died quickly on the highway. The unidentified woman with him was not injured, but was reportedly in shock. And others in the group, the “day-shift” walkers, were up ahead a few miles in a mini-van and RV. Police say it was an accident. There was no sign of alcohol and no sign of the vehicle swerving out of control.

Here's the question raised by some readers: Why is this young man "clutching" his "holy beads"? So Moore was gripping it tightly, as if in a fist or even a claw (check out some of the basic definitions)? Yes, I have read references to the devout "holding" their rosaries or even "fingering" them -- since the motions that accompany the prayers are light and quick, as the person praying slips the beads through their fingertips one at a time, saying repetition after repetition of these prayers.

It would, of course, have only taken one or two clicks of a mouse to find the basic Rosary prayers and mysteries. Did this devout -- the story backs up that label, by the way -- die while saying these familiar, and in this context certainly poignant, words?

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

The story includes no details from the prayers themselves, but simply moves on. Here is my journalistic question for Catholics who read this blog: What is the customary verb used to describe the use of a Rosary? If "clutching" is awkward, to say the least, what is a more accurate and descriptive word?

One thing is for sure, the young man described in this story would have felt totally comfortable saying these oh-so-familiar prayers. The story's biographical details make that clear:

Andrew Moore, who was known by friends and family as “Kent” (a shortened form of his middle name, Kentigern), was the oldest of five kids. He was described as a straight-A student who helped the homeless and went on a mission trip to Mexico to build homes for the poor. But his life’s passion, according to his father, was the anti-abortion movement, where he worked for a local Birthright organization and often prayed before a local Planned Parenthood office.

“He was not ‘in your face’ or mean, but he would simply pray and use kind words,” said Joseph Moore.

Andrew Moore, who wore a bushy black goatee that earned him the nickname “Pharoah,” would have been a junior at St. Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, Calif., where among other things, he was discerning a call to the priesthood.

Yes, some readers will want to argue about the Associated Press style issue that looms over that reference to a grieving father being quoted -- note, in a paraphrased quote -- as saying that his son was passionate about the "anti-abortion movement," when you just know that what the father actually said was "pro-life movement."

Please, let's not re-hash that debate at this time. All in all, this was an effective and at times touching hard-news report about a tragic event. The "clutching" thing is a bit strange (one wonders where that word choice came from), but it will not spoil the whole stories for most readers.

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