This year some of us from Immaculate Conception Academy were able to attend the March for Life in Washington DC. We made the drive out to the National Shrine and literally camped out in one of the pews from 1 pm to 6:30 pm, when the Vigil Mass began. During this time we admired the incredible mosaics, prayed, visited and hobnobbed with the thousands of people filling this massive basilica. It was amazing and energizing to see so many people, a huge convergence of Catholics from all over the States ready to pray and witness to the sanctity of life. I even ran into my cousin who is a diocesan seminarian in Detroit. Many Regnum Christi members were there; and of course, they could spot a consecrated member from a mile away. It was truly a huge family experience, an experience of the great family of the Church.
On Monday morning we hustled to make it to Mass at the Verizon Center and were just in time for some of the opening remarks and introductions. The newly appointed Apostolic Nuncio was there (Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano) who smiled at all the young Americans giving him such a warm and enthusiastic welcome. He gave a message from the Holy Father that made everyone cheer for minutes on end. The conclusion of the homily was the most rousing. Monsignor Charles Pope challenged everyone to raise the greatest cheer in praise of God and the sanctity of life to outdo all the other cheers that had been raised in that stadium over sports games and rock stars. The noise was almost deafening, but definitely motivating; a great way to begin the march itself.
Despite the rain we tramped out with our signs and great spirits towards the rallying point on the Mall, and then shuffled our way towards the Supreme Court. Signs, songs, chants, cheers and prayers surrounded us for about an hour. On the edge of this joyful stream of people filling Constitution Avenue, we saw one lone pro-choicer, calling out taunts and running up and down the line. He had a cardboard sign on that said all women have the right to abortion. One of my students, a tenth grader named Kara O’Donnell, felt moved to speak to him. This is how Kara described the whole conversation:
“I just thought that we were all there to tell the Supreme Court what we believe, to tell everyone what we believe, and to see this one man so convinced made me think, why can’t I just ask him why he believes what he does in a kind, Christian way? I was a little afraid, but why not?’
Kara was thinking specifically about the homily we had just heard that morning from Monsignor Pope. He had challenged young people to put into practice four points: chastity, charity, courage and constancy. He had specifically asked everyone to understand and proclaim that they were all children of God, that their lives were precious and sacred.
“So I went over and asked, ‘Excuse me, sir, but can you explain to me why women would have the right to abortion when their children also have rights?’
‘No, the woman has her rights, and the child isn’t human.’
‘But every human being has rights.’
‘No, I bet you don’t care that I was born; I bet everyone here wishes I wasn’t ever born.’
‘No, that’s not true! I think your life is just as sacred as mine. We would all fight like this to preserve your life too.’
‘Well, I’m an atheist, so don’t talk to me about God.’ He walked away but I just reflected that his real problem was that he didn’t feel loved. That is why he thought the unborn had no rights.’
This incident made us all reflect more deeply on the need for everyone to feel loved by God and by others. We come to know the love of God first through the love we experience in our families. The pro-life movement is also essentially pro-family. On the way back we prayed for the fruits of this great event and for this man who needed to know that he was loved. We trust that the grace and mercy of God is all-powerful, and that one day he will understand the vocation of every human person according to Blessed John Paul II: to love and be loved. Under the protecting mantle of Our Lady, we place our country, our Church, and our Movement, which seeks to make the love of Christ known to all.