Anticipating the March for Life, Jan. 21

Watch "Why Be Pro-Life?" by Fr. Chris Alar, MIC: click here.

Join in and pray the 9 Days for Life Novena of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Jan. 19-27. Click here.

By Br. Stephen P., MIC

In her speech at the 1994 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., Mother Teresa said that when the unborn John the Baptist leaped for joy in his mother’s womb as Mary greeted Elizabeth, he became the first one to proclaim the coming of Christ. At a time when our country at the highest levels of government is reckoning with the legal status of abortion, I offer some personal reflections on the pro-life movement in America today. 

Growing up in the Washington, D.C., area, I was able to attend the national March for Life multiple times. I had it easy getting to the March — all I had to do was hop on the subway and ride for about 45 minutes into downtown where the March and other events were taking place. I remember trips with my parish youth group to the Rally for Life at a local convention center downtown, where bishops from across the country gathered to celebrate Mass the morning of the March for the youth who had travelled from out of town. The Rally for Life itself was a witness — thousands of teenagers filling an indoor sports stadium to the brim. I remember one year my youth group arrived late to the rally, and they had to turn us away because there was no room left inside — a good problem to have! 

There are two things that have stood out the most to me about the March for Life and the rallies surrounding it: the sheer numbers and the youth. Think about it — people don’t gather annually en masse, with rallies, talks and music, to celebrate the greatness of abortion access. But pro-lifers do just those things to celebrate the sanctity of every human life. They come from far and wide with banners, loudspeakers, musical instruments, to celebrate the dignity of all life and protest the taking of innocent human life.  

I remember being so edified as I was walking along the March route when I would see banners for groups from Louisiana, Illinois, Michigan, and other places who probably had spent all night on a bus and who were going to spend the next night on the same bus going home. It is these people, these pilgrims, who I believe possess in a particular way the pro-life spirit.

And so many of these pilgrims are young people. Youth always bring a particular vibrancy and energy to the event. I remember seeing youth groups standing on the steps of the federal buildings, dancing and drumming to their own pro-life chants. It was also edifying to see young families at the March, with parents pushing strollers and their children walking alongside them. It seems that these young families by their mere presence were a witness to the cause — parents who have the courage to rear children, even many children, and not buy into the contraceptive mentality that is the underpinning of the practice of abortion. These courageous parents who patiently love their children day in and day out merit our commendation. 

On Dec. 1 of last year, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for what may become the most consequential abortion case in decades, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. In a very real way, the future of America and especially of our young people hang in the balance.

Marian priests and seminarians are active in the pro-life movement year-round, and participate with enthusiasm in the March for Life, which takes place this year on Jan. 21. One year, the night before the March, I was at the Vigil for Life Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in D.C. There, young people gathered with many bishops and priests to celebrate a Mass for life. I was in the pews with a fellow religious who was from a European country that used to be devoutly Catholic. After the Mass, he leaned over and told me that he was nearly moved to tears by what he saw. He said that in his country, you don’t see huge churches filled with young people on fire for life. 

We have a long road ahead, but we also  have great reason to hope. May the prayer of the Psalmist become our prayer and the prayer of our nation: “May your mercy, Lord, be upon us, as we put our hope in you” (Ps. 33). America can become an even greater nation if it respects human life in all its forms. Let’s pray fervently to Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Unborn. Let’s also ponder these words from Mother Teresa — now St. Teresa of Calcutta — and strive to make her prophecy come true: 

If we remember that God loves us, and that we can love others as He loves us, then America can become a sign of peace for the world. From here, a sign of care for the weakest of the weak — the unborn child — must go out to the world. If you become a burning light of justice and peace in the world, then really you will be true to what the founders of this country stood for.

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