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:
- 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.
- 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?
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?