As I have remarked before, to March for Life is experience life. So many joyful Christians and others who support life gather and celebrate the glory and dignity of human life. The March is ever young, with the ranks of so many young people growing every year.
Here at my rectory are 15 fine seminarians from the Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit. Fine orthodox, and zealous men who love God and the Church and are eager to preach the Gospel and celebrate the sacraments. Almost 700 seminarians marched into the Basilica Thursday evening along with hundreds of priests, and as many as 8000 lay people, standing room only in the Great Upper Church, and also filling the chapels of the undercroft.
Today at the Cathedral I was privileged to preach to a full Church and hear powerful witness talks from Project Rachel leaders prior to the Mass. Despite cold and some light snow, I would say the crowd was close in size to last year’s 400,000.
Yes, such life, such faith and joy.
I must say however, that my joy is often tempered each year toward the end of the march when I go and try to witness to the “pro-choice” demonstrators who stand in front of the Supreme Court. I often experience great pain in this work.
To be sure they are the hardened cases, but I experience such grief after talking with them. Here are a couple of conversations as I remember them.
- A man with a sign that says, “Pro-Abortion without apology.”
- Me: “Well, at least you say like it is, “Pro-abortion” instead of “pro-choice.” But listen, man, no one here asks for your apology, we’re praying for a your change of heart.
- Him, laughter, a profanity and some mumbled references about priests belonging to a criminal class.
- Me: well think about it, deep down you have to know its wrong.
- Him: Ridiculing laughter, turns to talk to another pro-abortion demonstrator.
Another, even sadder conversation.
- She, holding a sign that says, “Stop the war on Women.”
- Me: listen I want you know that I don’t hate women and I’m not waging a war against you. I love women. We all love women here today. We’re fighting to save women. Think about it, half the children killed in abortion are women.
- She: They’re not women and they’re not victims.
- Me: Well that’s just bad biology.
- Me: Come on, think about it. Deep down you know its wrong.
- She: No I don’t. Don’t tell me what I think. You do know what I think.
- Me: Well, I’m talking about your conscience, that’s deeper than your thoughts. I know you have a conscience and God wrote his law in your heart. So you do know, deep down, you know it’s wrong. Listen carefully to that still small voice.
- She, walking away, “Your little make-believe God didn’t write anything in me. Your God is fairy-tale. Besides you’re a man, don’t even talk to me abortion.
- Me: Well but I know a lot of women who don’t support abortion, It’s not just a man thing.
- She: Well I don’t care about them. I only care about me.
- Me: Do you think that’s a good way to live?
- She: I don’t care. (Moving forward to end the conversation).
Most of my conversations went that way. I wasn’t very effective to be sure. My hope was to engage their conscience. I know they’ll never admit to me that they do know it is wrong, but deep down under all the rationalizations and stinking thinking, I am convinced that they do know, they know. I tried to reach there, but this year no apparent sign, not even a glimmer. Perhaps I planted seeds. But each year the soil seems harder and rockier. I leave those conversations quite downcast, I must say.
Luckily the day ended with a Solemn Pontifical Mass in the Extraordinary Form. Bishop Perry was celebrant and gave a fine and encouraging sermon. Sitting in choir I was able to pray quietly for those with whom I spoke today. I offered Mass for their intentions and also in reparation in case I handled anything poorly. Witnessing is hard work and I don’t always get it right, so have mercy Lord on me too.
A day of life to be sure, and also of a heavy heart. But in the end, at the Latin Mass the restorative mercy of God and the reminder of life as I looked at another packed Church, standing-room only.God be praised.
A Taize song says, “Within Our darkest night you kindle a fire that never dies away.” It was nice to enjoy that light today shining on the faces of so many who came to celebrate life. I pray too that those to whom I tried to witness will also discover that light that never dies away.