When you receive this week’s Catholic Sun, I will be in Washington, D.C., for the annual March for Life. More than 500 people from across the diocese are scheduled to arrive by bus, car, or plane. They are dedicated and enthusiastic “pilgrims” who are eager to promote and defend human life through prayer, sacrifice, and public witness to the sacredness of human life.
The first March for Life, which was founded by Nellie Gray, was held on January 22, 1974, on the West Steps of the Capitol, with an estimated 20,000 supporters in attendance. When I was a graduate student at Catholic University of America in the mid-1970s, a much smaller group of people gathered than gathers now. Since those days, the event has grown.
Today the March for Life is the world’s largest human rights demonstration. Over a half million people are expected in Washington for the 45th annual March on January 19. As in the past the March for Life occurs close to January 22, the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade and its companion case, Doe v. Bolton, that invalidated state and federal restrictions on abortions, legalizing abortion virtually on demand.
The March for Life is an event where we can testify to the beauty of life and the dignity of each human person. Every life is precious. As Benedict XVI reminded us, “God’s love does not distinguish between the infant in the mother’s womb or the child or the youth or the adult or the old person. In each one God sees His image and likeness. Human life is a manifestation of God and His glory.”
“Love Saves Lives” is the theme for the 2018 March for life. As I reflected on the theme, I thought back to my seminary days and recalled St. Thomas Aquinas’ definition of love. He taught that love derives less from emotion and more from decision. Love, according to St. Thomas, is “willing the good of another.” We see this “willing the good of another” most perfectly in the life of Jesus. Jesus wills the good of the other — wills the good of each person — to the point of losing His life so that we can be saved.
Jeanne Mancini, President of the March for Life organization, offers three real world examples of love saving lives: mothers and fathers who adopt children out of foster care; people who volunteer to help support women facing an unexpected pregnancy; people who staff and run pro-life pregnancy centers.
The March for Life fills me with hope. Why? First, because so many from across our country will travel to Washington. Thousands will show their support for life. Some people will come from long distances. Many will endure a long bus ride often impeded, in recent years, by inclement winter weather. The inconvenience caused by crowded conditions and the fast pace of moving from one venue to another add to the sacrifices the marchers endure. Yet, people come year after year to stand up for the life of the unborn.
Second, youth and young adults support the March. In the years that I have participated in the March, the number of young people participating in it has grown by leaps and bounds. Their sincerity, enthusiasm, and smiling faces are contagious and contribute to the energy of the event. Their devotion and attention during the prayer vigil and their active participation in Mass are heartwarming and inspiring. When I observe them and walk with them down Constitution Avenue I am reminded that among these young people are many who will make decisions about the birth of a child. I pray that as they stand up for life now they will do so in the years ahead when they are faced with decisions about the sacredness of human life.
Third, despite the fact that laws, both state and federal, do not protect the rights of the unborn, we have not given up. For 45 years, we have organized, united, and strategized around a common message: the sacredness of human life. Every March for Life is a sign that we will not give up. The words of Saint Teresa of Calcutta inspire us: “Any country that accepts abortions is not teaching its people to love, but to use violence to get what they want. That is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.”
I ask your prayers for those participating in the March for Life. In addition, we all need to pray daily that the hearts of legislators and those who shape the laws of our great country will be touched by God’s grace and make decisions that protect and defend human life, beginning with the most vulnerable, defenseless, and innocent among us — the unborn child.
If you have a prayer intention you would like me to consider during the weeks ahead, please mail it to my attention at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.