It’s late January in Washington DC. A little snow, and surely a chill. But this time every year is also marked by the warmth of tens of thousands who come to DC for the March for Life. I have marched just about every year, except when I was sick or away from the city. My favorite year was 1985. There was record cold  that year. The day before had featured the second inauguration of President Ronald Reagan. However, the temperature for that inauguration morning was -4 Degrees Fahrenheit. Thus the swearing in moved inside the Capitol. The next day was just as cold and the snow was knee high, but the Pro-life March went off any way. We walked through the bitter cold and snow in testimony to life. The numbers were down but our spirits were high (and our pace was swift!).

Most years have escaped such bitter conditions but its nice to know that many of us march anyway even in the worst weather.

But I must say, I have longed for us to take a fresh look at the march. I have wondered if we could not perhaps do something to freshen it’s impact. We barely make the news anymore here in DC. and it’s always the same: the media says we have 30-70,000 and the March for life committee estimates over 100,000. Likewise the media always gives equal billing to the dozen or so counter-demonstrators that show up.

Another, more frustrating aspect is that every year the political speeches get longer and longer and the march starts later and later. What once began 1pm now often slips to as late as 2:30pm. 90% of the marchers can’t even hear the speeches anyway. I realize there is a political dimension to the march but frustrations do rise as we stand for a long period often in poor conditions.  

I am not sure exactly what to do on a yearly basis to move the march back into the headlines but I do have a dream that we would pick a year, say two or three years into the future, and really pull all the stops  to give Washington a March they’d never forget. Here are the aspects of my dream:

  1. There are 78 million Catholics in this country according to recent Pew and Gallup Polls. If only 10% of them agreed to come to DC, that would be 7 million people filling the mall, the reflecting pool, the tidal basin area and even across the river to the Pentagon. Now I know that only 25% of Catholics really practice their faith in any meaningful way by coming to Church. But that’s still 19.5 million and if only 10% of them came we’d still have almost 2 million people here.
  2. Now how to get that many to come? Well, what if we invited the Pope to lead us? In thirty-eight years of marching  have we ever invited the Pope to personally summon us and promise to stand with us?
  3. Bring the Pope ! If our numbers did swell past 2 million I doubt we could actually march, but I can see the Pope on the steps of the US Capitol standing at the head of  two to three million people lamenting the legality of infanticide (aka abortion) and warning our nation that God’s justice cannot forever wait. Then I see him turn toward the Capitol, staff in hand and millions behind him. (Think of Moses before the Red Sea, staff in hand). And I hear the Pope in prophetic tones calling legislators to conversion, and insisting that the life must be respected. Insisting that it is shameful that the richest and most powerful land in this world cannot find the political courage and the moral fiber to end abortion, that the best it can offer women who face challenges in accepting life is a trip to the abortionist. Shame! Shame! Shame!
  4. The speech would have to be very carefully developed because in my dream this speech would need to rank right up there with Dr. Martin Luther King’s Speech in 1963. That was a speech full of hope to be sure but also a speech that indicated no compromise with injustice and insisted that America live up to its vision and do what was right. Not in some distant future, but today.
  5. Turnout goals – In the years and months leading up to the rally every Bishop would have goals to meet in terms of catechesis and turnout. Likewise every pastor. Dioceses closer to DC would have higher turnout goals, but every diocese would have to meet turnout goals and be publicly accountable.
  6. With this sort of turnout and the presence of the Pope we’d give Washington a March they’d never forget.  

I realize that our present Pope (may he live forever) is up in years and that in three to five years he may be in no shape for such an arduous event. But the way these things go, the planning takes time. The point here is, let’s dream big! Let’s break all records! One for the books.  Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream (Amos 5:24). Even if it takes years to plan, lets do it.

Do you have dream? Do you have ideas about the Pro-life March? How can we turn up the volume and wake the sleeping nation?

36 Responses

  1. Vijaya says:

    I love your vision, Father. I think it’s fortuitious that the Rev. MLK holiday and Roe v Wade are so close together because abortion is the new civil rights issue. The parallels are many. Freedom to be born and to live.

    We hope to join the March in the other Washington with our children in the coming years. Our state has even made euthanasia legal so it is a tough fight out here in the Pacific NW. Did you know we have new Archbishop here? It’s Peter Sartain. He is much loved already.

  2. Peg says:

    I will dream and hope for it!!

  3. Peg says:

    I will dream and hope for it and maybe, God willing, I will be there, too.

  4. Paul Zummo says:

    It would be a marvelous thing if the Pope could come, but there are potential drawbacks. The pro-Life march is not simply a Catholic affair, so you have to keep that in mind. Most non-Catholic Christian pro-lifers do respect the Pope, but it could cause some friction. And then there’s the issue of making the affair overtly religious instead of political. Normally that wouldn’t be a bad thing, but here, again, it might only turn off the secularist pro-choicers even more. Then again, perhaps the people that would be turned off are the ones we wouldn’t really reach anyway.

  5. Anne says:

    Hoping this dream will become a reality!!

  6. crazylikeknoxes says:

    I agree that it is the numbers or size of the March, rather than the number or size of the speeches, the give the March its impact. And I, too, would like to see marchers flood the city “like a mighty stream.”

    Until that time when the numbers of marchers rises to the point where the secular media again takes notice, the celebrity angle is probably the most likely and/or desirable one for attracting attention. No, the chances for having the Holy Father lead the March are not great (although I think nothing would please me more), but certainly there must be some Catholic celebrities (actors, performers, politicians) whose involvement would capture the media’s attention. And since the March is not an exclusively Catholic event, I suppose any Christian celebrity would fit the bill.

    Personally, I am disdainful of celebrity and would almost rather remain overlooked rather than rely upon celebrity to garner attention – but for it being a matter of life and death.

  7. Greg Walek says:

    Msgr. Pope,

    I have only one question; How can I help to make this idea a reality. Living in Massachusetts may limit my availability, but I do make monthly trips to DC. Maybe I could coordinate my trips to DC to meet with you and discuss how I can help. I am assuming that the first step is to contact the Washington DC diocese and to get their approval for the idea. Since this is to be a few years in planning, maybe as part of the trip to DC, the Pope could celebrate Mass with Anglican converts to Catholicism because Cardinal Wuerl was designated the point person to guide Anglicans to the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. Who knows, maybe the Pope will visit Holy Comforter Saint Cyprian Curch. It’s a great idea, let’s work to make it happen.

  8. Kevin J. says:

    It is a pity the media coverage is consistently subpar. Don’t pro-life organizations have paid staff who work on getting media attention? What are they using our donations for?

    At the same time, media bias is more significant than I’ve previously thought. Surely many poor souls in the newsrooms have relied on abortion to keep their careers or family life “on track,” so this is a personal issue for them.

    • Yes, I suppose there is a good question here. But I know in dealing with the media, even in writing blogs, there has to be a hook. Have done the same thing for 38 years means there isn’t likely a hook. Even the best of media staff can only do so much if there “nothing new” in the event in question.

  9. Catholic State Legislator says:

    Msgr: I agree that a papal visit would attract a huge crowd to the event. But let me also suggest that the event be moved to March 25 (Feast of the Annunciation). I have personally participated in the March For Life in Washington, DC (and in the Rally For Life at our State Capital). But I have found that participation at these events is often diminished by the inclement and uncertain weather during late January.

    Certainly, I recognize the symbolic significance of holding the March and Rally on or near the anniversay of the Roe V. Wade decision. But the Feast of the Annunciation has a much greater significance than a misguided court decision. An early spring date may increase participation in the March For Life as much as a papal visit undoubtedly would.

    • Yes, others have suggested in these comments that the Pope’s presence might be problematic for non-catholics at the march. Hence, if we were to do something with him perhaps we should pick a specifically Catholic event, March 25th seems good.

  10. Ricky Vines says:

    Re: “Do you have ideas about the Pro-life March? ”

    First things first. Be holy, fast and pray. Then have bishops, priests, religious lead. Make this a holyday in honor of the Holy Innocents and cancel all Catholic school classes.

    After that, use sex, money and power.

    Make it sexy. Have celebrities endorse it everywhere – posters, YouTube, TV & radio.

    Money talks. Get corporate endorsements and have pro-lifers boycott their competition. Get sponsors to have people join the march then donate the proceeds to pro-life causes.

    Get political. Fund pro-life initiatives e.g. Personhood amendment. Engage people to vote pro-life. Excommunicate the Catholics who support abortion. Deny them communion.

    Unlike the civil rights protest, the victims in the abortion holocaust are quite silent and hidden.

  11. Romulus says:

    My dream (taking my cue from MLK) is massive, non-violent civil disobedience. Trekking to Washington every year for a comfortable bourgeois exercise in speechifying, staying between the lines, and keeping off the grass gets us nothing but contempt. King knew that if you want something badly you have to be willing to pay up for it.

  12. Jon White says:

    I must respectfully and strongly disagree with the idea of the pope being a/the direct leader of the annual March For Life (which march is NOT a Catholic event, but a non-denominational, pro-life event with participation by those of different religions and none). What a powerfuly-negative image that would be for the pro-life movement and for Catholic citizens! It justifiably would inflame both the “no-popery in America” and the “no-theocracy” crowds. Instead, I think it would help turnout if we found a date in the spring we could rally around (e.g., one of the post-Roe decisions) – that would make the trip to DC be more contemplatable by families on limited financial and time budgets who could both attend the march AND sight-see in the DC area on the same trip.

  13. crazylikeknoxes says:

    I have to say I disagree with those who would move the date of the March. It irks me in the same way I’m irked when the Feasts of the Epiphany or the Assumption are moved to the nearest Sunday for the sake of convenience. January 23 is the date of the disaster and should remain the date of the commemoration, just as we do with September 11 or December 7. (As for the weather, I’m from Cleveland, and I’ve always found the weather in DC in January to be on the balmy side, at worst.)

  14. Cynthia BC says:

    Although the Pope would surely be a huge draw to March for Life, in the long run I don’t know that his presence would have the same impact as having parish priests who do not shy away from proclaiming, explaining, and defending Church teachings on the sanctity of life and other issues.

    The battle to defend life is fought less by spending a day carrying signs and listening to speeches on the Mall than by supporting ministries such as the Gabriel Project and by being an advocate at the local and state level.

  15. bt says:

    Perhaps it is because I have been reading the book Saint Fernando III, by James Fitzhenry, about the Spanish saint-king, but it would be nice to have St. James leading the march on a white charger with sword in hand! St. James appeared in at least a few medieval battles that the Spanish had, leading the charge. However, it seems that he would show up when the soldiers went to confession, mass, and partook communion before battle.

    The Catholic Church probably needs to turn more to God to win this battle. Why can’t each church have a special day where a rosary is said. It is only a small amount of time, and it would probably do much good. Maybe the Sunday before the March for Life could be Rosary for Life Sunday. How about it?

  16. John says:

    Msgr : I am marching too Monday.guarenteed. my sixth actual year here but since 1972…yup—the begining is now 38 years——–my dream—-if everyone of those 300,.000 +++ here would just donate the price of two cups of Starbuck Coffee to stay warm……….could you dream how many babies I could adopt and put in homes of childless couples longing for a child and actually help pay for them with what we raise,,.,.think about that one thank you Msgr see ya Monday come cold or snow . check the U>S. post OZffice—- the mail goes thru rain or shine John

  17. crazylikeknoxes says:

    Sorry, Monsignor, you asked for dreams but all I have are thoughts. Reflections, if you will, regarding King and the Civil Rights movement. The story of the Montgomery bus boycott is one of the finest chapters in American history, but it did not end segregation on the city buses. Undoubtedly a moral triumph, the boycott did not break the will of the segregationists. Bus segregation was brought to an end by the federal courts, a fairly isolated segment of society (if only all of us could hold our appointments for life!). Now consider, abortion was not legalized through demonstrations, marches, or the like, but by actions taken in that same isolated segment of society.

    Second, King’s movement was non-violent, but it depended on violence for its success. This is what struck me when reading civil rights history. King and his lieutenants knew that peaceful marches would not attract the media attention necessary to arouse national sympathy. In this respect, the “Bull” Connors were important for the success of the movement. In the same way, our cause is benefited by the Gosnells. I’m always a little bothered by this. I mean the desirability of the evil we fight against being as monstrous as possible. If, like Romulus suggests, we take a page from King’s playbook, then we must, at some level, hope for confrontation.

  18. esiul says:

    For Cynthia BC and bt

    I wholeheartedly agree with you re the parish priest and their bishops not shying away from proclaiming and defending Church teachings, especially abortion. The lack of this does not at all help this cause.

    Regarding the Rosary. Where did that disappear to? Never hear it mentioned in church, though some old ladies are doing it, well how about promoting it by the priests?

  19. Peggy S says:

    I agree about bringing (and inviting) in LOTS of Catholics, and other faith traditions as well. So, I think at least one bishop from every state, and lots and lots of ministers and pastors from other churches as well. They are pro life leaders, others should come too! Wow, all of us agreeing and focusing in that abortion must be stopped.

  20. Jean says:

    Do you have an email address? I wanted to send you a prolife talk I wrote. It’s not about any of your blog entries but I read everyone-usually before I leave for work. They’re a big help to me spiritually. Hope you are feeling better. Thanks!

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