It has been years — almost two-and-a-half decades — since I’ve been able to participate in the March for Life in Washington, D.C. (although I’ve been able to take part in some local marches around the country).
It is an experience that sticks with you. I still remember feeling bleary-eyed from nearly sleepless overnight bus trips from central Massachusetts, the early-morning smell of diesel smoke from hundreds of idling buses disgorging marchers from across the country, the biting cold wind hurtling across the frosted National Mall.
But most impressive was the sea of fellow pro-lifers as far as the eye could see — joyful, singing, praying, confident. And that was back in the days when the march drew only up to about 100,000 people. These days, it is estimated to draw two to four times that number.
And while by no means are all the marchers Catholic, there is a strong Catholic presence that is invigorating to experience.
One commentary about this year’s march really jumped out at me. It was written by a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, Msgr. Charles Pope, who blogs regularly on the archdiocesan website, and participated in the march.
His enthusiasm is palpable:
“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.”
Like other participants whose accounts I’ve read, Msgr. Pope said the only counter-demonstrators he encountered were about a dozen people on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court building.
His approach was interesting: “I went to each one of them and individually said, as I looked into their eyes, ‘In your heart you know better, you know abortion is terribly wrong.’ I spoke as softly as I could in the outdoor environment with a lot of background noise. I was 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 (see No. 1776). Deep down they DO know that abortion is wrong.”
Not surprisingly, he took some angry abuse and taunts for his efforts.
What are your March for Life stories? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.