Friday, January 25, 2008

Reflections from the March, part 4

So far I've been chronicling my pre-March activities in Washington, D.C., but eventually the real reason for my trip arrived. On the morning of Tuesday, January 22nd, the people I was staying with arose early to be on the Metro by 7 am, heading to the Verizon Center for the youth rally. It's a good thing we arrived when we did because the seats filled up incredibly quickly. Thousands and thousands of young people crowded the seats of the sports arena, listening to music and lively talks by such youth ministry favorites as Matt Maher, ValLimar Jackson and Steve Angrisano.

I was particularly touched by Steve Angrisano tearfully relating the story of his encounter with his six-year-old son's birth mother, who had pulled up in front of an abortion clinic, only to decide that she couldn't go through with the abortion. If she had aborted, then Steve and his wife would not have the blessing of their six-year-old son.

The crowd exploded in cheers as the papal nuncio read an address from Pope Benedict XVI to those attending the youth rally. According to CNS, the message said, "The Holy Father sees a radiant sign of hope for the future in this yearly witness to the Gospel of life." The 20,000 attendees were on their feet in a standing ovation for Pope Benedict XVI, in hopes that their enthusiasm would be communicated to the Holy Father in Rome.

Mass was awesome, with dozens of priests, bishops and cardinals filing into the Center. I saw Fr. Michael Dosch (St. Gertrude) and Fr. James Reuter (Our Lady of Victory) from Cincinnati on the screen. Archbishop Donald Wuerl of DC was the presider, but Fr. Scott Woods was the homilist. He gave a wonderful homily about the gift of life and our responsibility to defend it. You can read a summary of the homily here.

After Mass, the enthusiastic throng filed out of the Verizon Center and headed towards the Mall area (not a shopping mall) in front of the Washington Monument. Along the way, pro-life signs and stickers were available to anyone who wanted them.

I didn't get to hear much of the rally, because I was rather far back in the crowd, but it was great to catch up with old friends and see so many young, enthusiastic pro-lifers. It took awhile for the March to begin, because moving more than 200,000 people isn't an easy task. Pro-life signs and banners were waving, rosaries were clutched tightly and feet began slowly moving.

Some people chanted (such as the class, "Hey, hey, Ho, Ho, Roe v. Wade has got to go"), and others chatted with friends. Some prayed the rosary aloud and others silently. There were seminarians, religious ordered priests and sisters everywhere. Parishes and schools were proudly holding banners to alert the crowd as to their associations. I saw a sign for Roger Bacon High School, and was thrilled to find a group of St. Ursula girls at the end of the March.

The March for Life begins near the Washington Monument, passes the Capitol building and ends at the steps of the Supreme Court. This year I was able to stay and listen to some post-abortive men and women who delivered their testimonies at the base of the steps. They were very convicting.
There were only four or five protesters at the March. It was interesting that CNN had their cameras focused on these few pro-abortion people and not on the crowds of pro-life advocates. The secular media didn't really cover the March at all, but I was upset to see such an unbalanced camera shot by a major media outlet.

Shortly before we headed for the Metro, we spotted a beautiful rainbow, with one end hiding behind the Supreme Court building. While discussing the phenomenon with 40 Days for Life organizer David Bereit, he pointed out that Noah saw the rainbow after 40 days of rain. We were all encouraged by this beautiful sign of God's love and faithfulness, even when the culture of death is so bleak.

And that would really sum up the March for Life experience. Even though we don't hear about this in the media and even though we see overwhelming evidence of the culture of death that surrounds us, there are signs of hope everywhere. God is with us, and in His time, a culture of life will flourish. Today's young people will be instrumental in ending legalized abortion. This fight for life isn't just about changing laws; it is primarily about changing hearts. The March was a great sign of hope that hearts are being changed and are embracing the beauty of the gift of life.

No comments: