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. 18,000, 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. Last 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 meet at the March are usually the pro-choice counter demonstrators I speak with. There are about a dozen of them in front of the Supreme Court and I go to each one of them and individually, if I can and say, as I look into their eyes, “In your heart you know better, you know abortion is terribly wrong.” I speak as softly as I could in the outdoor environment with a lot of background noise. I am 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.

Last year, 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” in their eyes (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.

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

18 Responses

  1. abby schult says:

    thanks Father. your words and the video really encourage and inspire. drive the fear away of confronting the present administration with its anti life agenda.

  2. John Clem says:

    Great blog entry Monsignor Pope. I was honored to read a book and meet the author of Ten Universal Principles: A Brief Philosophy of Life Issues, sponsored by the Institute of Catholic Culture this past Saturday. It is a very compelling book that explains with great philosophy and science to support the cause to protect life, liberty, and goodness in our society. I hope more people get a chance to read it and understand how important the March for Life and this movement to everyone. http://www.calltoholiness.us/?p=785

  3. Maureen says:

    Great homily at the ADW Youth Rally/Mass for Life, Father!! Kind of short though…. ;-) I hope you heard us pray for the preacher! We wanted you to know that some of your people were in the house!!

  4. Deacon Jose Carbonell says:

    I just read the reference about the homilist:

    “One of the younger priests of the Archdiocese usually preaches…” He, he.

  5. mdepie says:

    I thank you for mentioning the March for Life. I have been there in the past and my oldest son was there the last 2 years. It is pretty much as you describe. I would note that several political figures supported it, naming only a couple Congressman Alan West of Florida gave a particularly good speech, and Former Sen Santorum had an editorial in the Wall Street journal in support of the pro-life movement. Of note President Obama marked the occassion as well, praising Roe versus Wade and noting that abortion was the something that enabled women to attain their goals. This endorsement of abortion on demand is of course nothing new, it is a core feature of the Obama world view.

    I would encourage everyone to make note of how the political leadership in this country is reacting to this aniversary and vote accordingly. For those who have the means and opportunity, prolife candidates need support beyond your vote, they need volunteers and money. If we want to move the ball down field we need to support those who can help do so.

  6. Sarah says:

    My daughter came home from the March for Life and said, “Hey, Mom you’ll never guess who said the homily!!” I guessed a bunch of priests until she had to let me in on it. “Mom, It was MONSIGNOR POPE!!!!”

    You are quite a celebrity! Keep up the good work!

  7. Rosemary Woolley, 58 says:

    Thank you for marching since I am too old. God bless.

  8. Maureen says:

    Here’s a link to the audio version of Msgr Pope’s homily at the ADW Youth Rally & Mass for Life courtesy of Baltimore’s Catholic Review: http://bit.ly/A72jUN

  9. Carlos Tavares says:

    Mission Mãos Erguidas Portugal

    A Mission pro life

    Thank you for marching since I am too old. God bless.

  10. bud says:

    I am happy that so many went to Washington to express their support for LIFE but I always wonder why no one wants to be a witness why the unborn children are having their life terminated. Our local abortion clinic is in Granite City Illinois. It aborts babies three times a week and on some days there are only five or six people present to show any concern for the innocent. The diocese in which this abortion mill is located conducts a pro-life prayer march from a church to the abortion mill once a year. The half dozen others are present during all weather condition and when ever this mill is conducting abortion. In this group there is just one or sometimes two Catholics.
    Is this any indication of how Catholics support pro-lifers?

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