Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Reflections on the March, part 1

The March for Life in Washington, DC, yesterday, was once again more than incredible. There is something so moving about standing amidst hundreds of thousands of people standing for life, making a statement not only with their presence but with their very lives, that life is a gift. This was my seventh March for Life, but my first as a chaperone.

In considering how best to "report" on the March, I decided that the best way might be to present my own experience on this year's journey. Rather than give a news report, I think it might be more interesting and more fitting to the message to share one perspective of the weekend. Yet, with a lack of sleep and waning intelligence, this reflection will take more than just this afternoon to write. For now, I give you day 1:

Saturday, January 22:

The morning of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade found 46 teenagers piling into a bus, clutching their pillows and loading their bags under the vehicle. It was 8 am when they began arriving in the church parking lot, eager to head to the nation's capital. For some, it was their first trip to the March, while others were veteran attendees.

So, we spent our nine hours on the bus, praying the Rosary, watching "Bella," talking, performing a talent show and enjoying the time. One young man later remarked that he found it interesting that most of the young people engaged each other during the entire trip, rather than leaning on the crutch of iPods and earphones in order to pass the time.

When we arrived in DC, there was much oohing and ahhing over the White House and Capitol Building, which we passed during our drive. Following dinner, we headed back to the bus and into the brutal cold for a nighttime tour of the monuments.

Walking past the World War II monument, seeing the names on the Vietnam War Memorial and looking at the statues of the Korean memorial made me think about the people that these landmarks represent. We could just focus on the idea of the war, or on the number of names represented. But no matter how many names there are, these are not simply words but people. And each person has a story to tell, an experience to share, a life that was lived. And in this case, a life that was sacrificed for our own freedom.

This was the theme of my weekend's reflections -- that a person is a person. That sounds ridiculous and possibly quite simplistic, but it's a profound truth we often ignore. People are not ideas or numbers or statistics. Each person is "unique, unrepeatable, someone chosen by eternal Love," as John Paul II described the person in Theology of the Body. But when we get bogged down in the ideas, the words, the statistics, then it can be hard to see the true personhood of others, and instead people become commodities or countable objects.

In front of the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, I was struck by the attention given to these two men for their defense of freedom. Yet, we were remembering the 38th anniversary of the legalization of the termination of the right to life of the unborn. How ironic that numerous people who support abortion might walk through these memorials and think nothing of the fact that unborn babies are killed each day.

At the same time, it should give hope, that at some point in our nation's history, Jefferson's articulation of the "right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" was unwritten, and Lincoln's leadership of the country during the battle against slavery was more than controversial. Many years later, we almost universally look to these men as leaders of our country, whose actions changed the world in which we live in today. Why would we doubt that one day there will be national monuments to the unborn and to those who defended them?

More March for Life reflections to come ...

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