A continuation of my thoughts on this year's March for Life ...
Monday, January 24
March for Life day began around 4:30 am, with layering, packing, breakfasting and cleaning on the to-do list. There was just enough time before loading the bus for a quick interview with the Son Rise Morning Show. By 6:30 am we were headed to the DC Armory for the overflow youth rally.
At the youth rally, we met up with other Cincinnatians, found old friends, belted praise and worship, prayed the Rosary and prepared for Mass. There were a couple of interactions that were particularly noteworthy.
1) A young man who was in the youth group with which I was traveling (as well as a former TOB for Teens student) is in his first year of college seminary. When he walked into the DC Armory, he was surrounded suddenly by dozens of teens who knew him from youth group. In his cassock, this young seminarian was beaming, as were his friends who saw his joy and peace. Another chaperone reported that an adult walked by and commented, "They are treating him like a rock star." Later, one of my brothers told me that it really was like a celebrity interaction because the joyous reunion was broken up by security, who had to clear the aisles before the beginning of Mass. Seeing this young college seminarian in his visible commitment to discerning God's will was such an inspiring sight for all of us.
2) Before Mass began, I noticed Archbishop Schnurr near the back of the Armory. Since my first March for Life in 2003, I have wanted to see my bishop present at the annual event. At the youth rallies, the bishops' names and dioceses are always mentioned, and I have long desired to hear, "from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati" in the list. This was the year! I thanked the Archbishop for his presence. He shared that he was present because last year the high school students attending the March asked when he would march with them, and he promised them he would do so in 2011. Not only was Archbishop Schnurr a concelebrant of the youth rally (in the picture to the right, he is second to last in the procession), but he also participated in the March for Life with groups of Cincinnati high school students. What a gift to be led by our local shepherd in the pursuit of a culture of life!
The Mass at the DC Armory youth rally was wonderful, with Cardinal DiNardo as the celebrant. The homily by Fr. Patrick Riffle was outstanding. Fr. Riffle issued a tremendous challenge to all present -- to be pro-life we must first be pro-Christ. He linked living chastely with being authentically pro-life, as both are expressions of an understanding of the dignity of the human person. The homily is available online, and I cannot recommend it enough.
After the rally, we headed outside to walk approximately 4 miles to the outdoor March for Life rally. As always, the sheer volume of people present was incredible. Yet, once again consistently with my weekend reflections, the beauty of this gathering is not the volume of people but the uniqueness and unrepeatability of each one present.
There were signs and smiles and tears and frustration and hope and youth and not-as-young and chanting and singing and silence. The walking was very slow to accommodate for all of the people. There were handwarmers and scarves of every color of the rainbow. There were new marchers and veteran marchers. There were Catholics, Protestants, Jews and other religions. What every person had in common was that they had received life as a gift. We were born. And each of us present on January 24, 2011 (estimates say between 250,000-400,000 people) want every human person to be given this gift as well.
When we arrived in front of the Supreme Court building, the Dominicans with whom we were marching, sang the Salve Regina as a closing prayer. We then walked to a House office building to meet the congressman and congresswoman who represent Cincinnati.
Eventually we were back on the bus with a nine hour overnight trip ahead of us. Early in the journey on Monday night, the youth were invited to share their reflections on the weekend. For an hour and a half we heard beautiful reflections, profound insights and moments of deeper conversions. We heard about the teens' attempts to consider the dignity of every person during our DC travels. We listened to appreciation for the youth rally homily. We were told of deeper understanding of the beauty of the pro-life movement. We were given hope and inspiration and encouragement and joy.
Every March for Life offers a new experience. This year my own reflections centered on the inestimable dignity of each human person, precisely as a unique person. And yet again I was reminded that when we view others as persons whom Christ deemed worthy of being saved, then the culture will be transformed. But the only way to pass from a culture of death and a civilization of use to a culture of life and a civilization of love is when we see the dignity of each and every human person -- from the unborn to the defenseless to the elderly -- as a life created by God and redeemed by Him.
Traveling through DC in the days preceding the March allowed us all to see more clearly that we can march for life in our daily interactions. By our joy, peace, and awareness of the gift of dignity and value given by God, we are proclaiming the beauty of life to all whom we encounter, whether we are eating lunch, walking through a museum, standing in front of a monument, riding a bus or strolling down a busy street. And in the daily march for life through life, we are witnessing that life is a gift worth defending.