If you have ever had the exciting privilege of being in Washington for the Pro-Life March you how true it is that  you always leave exhausted, but more alive than you came. The Pro-life March, for a Catholic especially, is really more than just the March, it is  a series of activities. In the days immediately before the March there are usually seminars and other focused gatherings around life and bio-ethical issues. Then there is the great Vigil Mass for Life, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the night before the March. The Great Upper Church of the Basilica can comfortably seat about 4,000 people. But the Vigil Mass for Life brings often 8,000 or more. People are standing in the aisles, the side chapels, in every nook and cranny. The Sanctuary around the High Altar is packed with Bishops, priests, deacons, and seminarians from all over the country. Visible in the Church are Religious men and women in consecrated life showing  a magnificent display of diversity in their habits. The congregation is filled with men an women and young people of every age group, and every ethnic and racial diversity imaginable. If you want to know how catholic (universal) the Catholic Church really is, just come to the Basilica for the Vigil Mass for Life!

The bigger picture – There are some who want to describe the Church as aging and of declining numbers. Some want to describe the Church as not being able to connect with the young, or with peoples of non-European descent. Some say her clergy and religious are aging. But come to the pro-life vigil Mass and behold the youthful diversity of the Church! And even if you can’t go, watch, as the EWTN cameras pan the congregation. Most of the religious in traditional habits are young. And there are hundreds and hundreds of them! Watch as the seemingly endless procession of clergy and seminarians enter, again, by the hundreds. And there too, youthful vigor is in strong display! So many are the priests and seminarians that they overflow the sanctuary into the side chapel for the Blessed Sacrament and into the ambulatory behind and around the High Altar. Here is a Basilica, one of the ten largest churches in the world, filled to overflowing with life, joy and worship! Yes, the Church is a bride, she is not a widow!  Indeed, she is the joyful mother of multitudes.

Rally Riches – And this is just the Vigil Mass. The next day, of your pro-life pilgrimage features a youth Rally at the Verizon Center. The doors open early for music and praise. 28,000, mostly young people, pack the place. Music, inspired talks, the wave and ten trillion watts of youthful energy fill the center in one of its largest functions of the year. A reverent but energetic Mass follows, celebrated by Cardinal Wuerl. One of the younger priests of the Archdiocese usually preaches an energetic and youth oriented homily. And then, after the  reception of Holy Communion, concluding prayer and praise, the youthful  congregation bursts forth onto the streets of Downtown Washington to head for the March line-up on the Mall.

Overflow! The number of young people vastly outsizes the capacity of the Verizon Center. This year an alternative overflow site at the DC Armory hosted an additional 10,000 young people. There too, after prayer and praise and the celebration of the Holy Mass the young people and their adult chaperons headed for the Mall to begin the March.

And march itself  is also a remarkable display in diversity. The balance is wonderfully tipped toward a youthful appearance. Here, Catholics join non-Catholics, fellow believers and even non-believers to march in six-figure numbers. The joy, the prayer, the hope and the experience of how right and just it is to support life all fill the air. It is usually cold, but the warmth within the crowd is tangible. And again, it is the youth who so often set the tone. They have zeal and zest as they lead chants and celebrate life.

The only angry people I met today were the pro-choice counter demonstrators I spoke with. There were about a dozen of them in front of the Supreme Court and I went to each one of them and individually said, as I looked into their eyes, “In your heart you know better, you know abortion is terribly wrong.” I spoke as softly as I could in the outdoor environment with a lot of background noise. I was trying to go right for their conscience, which, though suppressed, is still there. For the voice of God ultimately echoes in every human person according to the Catechism (cf  CCC # 1776). Deep down they DO know that abortion is wrong.

I only got about half way through the group before they surrounded me and began to engage me. Their primary accusation against me seemed to be that I was not a woman. Of this I am guilty, but suggested to them that to determine the wrongness of abortion did not require a womb but, rather, a mind and a heart, something both men and women have! :-)  They grew angrier with me as I didn’t easily go away but continued down the line suggesting to each one that they knew,  deep down, that it was wrong to abort babies. I wanted to speak this to each one personally. I wanted to try and reach their conscience. Difficult, but worth trying.

In the end they chose to serenade me! And here was the song they sang:

  • Hey Hey, Ho, Ho! Pro-life men have got to go!
  • Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho! If YOU got pregnant then you’d know!

Even here, Life!  Well, I just smiled and prayed, and the ladies in the rosary group behind me redoubled their prayers and I stood there and waited for the counter-protesters to grow tired of singing. I was grateful to suffer for the sake of the Name and to be a “fool for Christ” (1 Cor 4:10). Yes, even this was life giving for me. Dr. King had once said, “If you find a good fight, get in it!” And here I was on the front line, in the forward trench.

Just in the nick of time reinforcements arrived! A parishioner and friend JJ, (and a reader of this blog), arrived. And she’s a woman! I explained how they were singing this lovely song for me and suggesting, in a rather bigoted way,  that my mere maleness rendered me incapable of having a valid understanding.  Their song, (intended to give me the bum’s rush), eventually gave way to exhaustion. I restated my case, appealing to their conscience and introduced JJ, my friend, and pointed out, by the way, that she is a woman. She went to work and gave them the “Come to Jesus” talk!

Yes, even here there was life and the paradoxical joy of being able to suffer accusation and be thought a fool (for Christ).

In the end, to stand up for life is to experience life and to experience it to the top! The March for Life shows the Church fully alive, youthful, joyful, numerous and diverse. We have discussed before on this blog with sobriety some alarming trends and numbers in the western branch of the Church. But this weekend shows once again that the Church is a bride, not a widow. That she remains alive and strong, prophetic and enthusiastic. It shows that her young are still numerous, that vocations are rebounding. It shows that zeal for the truth is still deep in a faithful remnant that is glad to be alive, glad to celebrate life, glad to be Catholic and experience that the Church is catholic (universal). To stand up for life is to experience life. Come next year to Washington.

This video shows some glimpses of the Pro-Life Youth Rally at the Verizon Center. The footage is from Catholic.tv

 

15 Responses

  1. Mary says:

    I am glad JJ was there – I am proud to call her my friend too! I went to the Rose dinner tonight and the energy of the Rally was still going strong.

    My “high risk” baby will be 18 in April and there is not a day that goes by that I am not grateful to God for sending her to us. I love the words of our beloved John Paul II -each of us is an unique and unrepeatable human being.

    Deo Gratias -what a day!

  2. jj says:

    To God be the Greater glory. Amen.

  3. Patt says:

    My daughter is expecting her 5th child, she has had 9 mis-carriages–so yes–our family stands up for
    life. It is very painfull and sad for the entire family when after 3 or 4 months infants are mis-carry before their birth. We get very upset if not angry to hear about those that deliberately abort healthy infants.

  4. crazylikeknoxes says:

    My daughter and I tried to visit the National Gallery before the March. It was just the two of us and I had a couple of hand-held protest signs under my arm. We had just entered the building when a security guard unceremoniously told us to get off the property with those signs. We walked out to the side walk, laid the signs down, and were walking back to the entrance when the guard exited the building yelling at us to take the signs and get off the property. I am not confrontational by nature, so we picked up the signs and made our way toward the Mall. Of all the sacrifices made to witness Life that day, this one was the most peculiar. But I really had no business trying to visit the museum anyway. The day was about Life, not Art. As Wilde said, “life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” And as you point out, Monsignor, Life was all around that day.

  5. Jon White says:

    The path to success for the Pro-Life movement lies in: a) the conversion of one heart/life at a time using kindness, gentleness, and joy in response to meanness; b) anger at the real transgressor (the Devil)l c) full attendence to the real and potential victims’ (children, mothers, and fathers) sufferings; and, d) promotion of specific goodness-generating policies and institutions that will remove the potential future victims from the reach of the Devil’s wickedness and snares.

    • J says:

      e) calling it “anti-abortion” instead of Pro-Life (which is viewed as a mega-label for an ideological bundle that many can’t swallow whole), thereby taking away the abortionist’s ability to use the term “anti-choice” in any meaningful way

      f) pushing for a Constitutional Amendment, instead of trying to get the Supreme Court to stop being slippery (i.e., the solution to the slavery problem).

      This is just like slavery. We need to learn the lessons of the abolition of slavery. The anti-abortion movement needs to start seeing (and billing itself) as abolitionist. You can’t have everything all at once.

      • GABRIEL says:

        J, I agree with you for the most.

        Personally, I am not Pro-Life. I am just Anti-Murder.
        Why?

        Because God has forbidden murder.

        I don`t care about the miracle of life because God has not mention it in His Commandments.
        He did however mention murder. He said:

        “Thou shall not murder”. Simple as that.
        Furthermore when Cain asked God ” Am I my brothers keeper?” God definetly expected him to be.

        Therefore I care. I am supposed to be “my brothers keeper” and God has forbidden murder.
        These are the only reasons I need.

        And my God WILL send people to Hell ang masse.
        So if the whole movement changed it`s name from “Pro-Life” to “Anti-Murder”, you would have your victory right there and then. You will never win the war in the way you go about it today.

        Acknowledge that “Post-Abortive “”Mothers”” are nothing but cold bloded killers, and treat them no different from any other killer.

        They have knowingly and willfully ended a life of a person. They are therefor Killers.
        And child killers at that. So take off the gloves and fight them like you would charles manson.

        Do not except that killers walk freely around in your streets.
        If they are capable of killing their own kids, who is to say they will not kill yours?

        The instant you start treating killers as killers you have won.
        Ok, so they are cute, and female and have long legs and know how to fend for themselves, so what?

        If you have ended the life of a child you are a killer.
        And all your Pro Life prayers will amount to nothing if you canot accept this answer.

        Go to court an argue that post-abortive women are killers , and when one is realesed into the comunity, you have a right to know so you can protect your children from the presence of child-murderers.

        That is way you end abortion. By pointing out the killers and demand their punishment like other killers.
        Demand that the special privileges these killers receive by society are unconstitutional, so that either child-killer-women go to jail for their crimes, or all forms of murder have to be legalized.

        And forget about the poor desperate women myth, who somehow desperatly need to kill their kids instead of giving birth to it and then take a taxi to the adoption center.

        God has forbidden murder.
        End murder then. Or send the killers to jail for life.

      • J says:

        !!

        Oh dear.

  6. Vijaya says:

    Thank you for sharing. Beautiful thoughts … my sister went to her first march in Texas and was much energized. I’m going to propose to our Catholic schools that they give the day off to our children so that we can make it a field trip down to the legislature.

  7. J says:

    Yesterday on the Mall I saw a boy with a sign:

    “Mom had cancer while pregnant.
    Doctor said: ‘Terminate’.
    Mom is fine and I’m 12.”

    I was exhausted…couldn’t get up this morning when I meant to. I was struck by the cheerful optimism which pervaded the throng, as well as the courteousness of all those people struggling to muster in one place with the necessary pains and inconveniences, without snapping at one another or pushing to get on the escalator first at the Metro. At CUA the line went all the way back to McCormack Dr. and people we’re surprisingly patient and cheerful and not trying to cut to the front. Kind of the opposite to the morning commute from the DC suburbs.

    The whole tone was one of quiet, persevering faith. Nobody thought that Roe was going to be overturned yesterday, but everybody came all the same, full of faith and quiet confidence. The same kind of quiet confidence that allows us to be conservative of our own perceived goods, and liberal with regard to others, the kind that brings together (as it did yesterday) groups that don’t usually get along very well.

  8. Patt says:

    I would like to ask your readers to please pray that my daughter makes it through her pregnacy, she is having a difficult time today– and sure could use the holy prayers of your kind readers. Thank you!

  9. esiul says:

    Glad to see that you have recovered and were able to confront the hecklers. I was there too, but did not see any pro-choicers. It was a glorious day. Seeing all the young priests and young people was very encouraging.
    I’m so proud of you.

  10. GABRIEL says:

    And by the way, the definition of “Terrorism” is “the killing of innocent non-combative civilians.”

    Children are “innocent non-combative civilians.”

    Hence women who kill children are killing innocent non-combative civilians.
    Hence these women are Terrorists.

    End of debate.

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