Monday, January 28, 2013

March for Life 2013

It was the 40th annual March for Life this past Friday afternoon in our nation's capital.  When it was all over, I went to Google News to see if it ranked on the main page.  I think I found something from Fox News halfway through the page.  The next day, my brothers, their friend, and I were driving downtown to meet some family and friends at a Smithsonian museum.  One of the roads was closed as a small gathering of people held signs.  We wondered who they were and what they were protesting.  When I came home, I went to Google News.  Top story on the page -- gun control advocates march on Washington.  The headline said there were 1,000 of them.  At the March for Life, estimates say we had at least half a million.

At the rally before the walking began
So, to learn anything about the March for Life, it requires one of three things:
1) Watching it on EWTN
2) Reading Catholic blogs
3) Attending the March yourself. 

I have a spattering of pictures I'll share here too, though during the March, both my camera and my cell phone died, leaving me with no remaining ways to document the journey.  The good news, though, is that there are lots of other places on the web to see better views of the March.  St. Blogustine always has an impressive range of shots from different groups who attend the March.  The Catholic Beat has the local Cincinnati side of things.  Live Action has a photo album from Friday's event.  The Dominican Friars have a great video to document their presence by the Capitol Building.  

Living outside of DC makes the March seem a little more cushy ... a hot breakfast, running water, a short trip to the Metro with a SmartTrip card instead of a long line for a paper fare card .... This year, the Lord had something else in mind.  My husband and I hosted two of my brothers and a friend for the weekend.  We awoke on Friday to learn that the weather was so cold that a pipe outside burst the evening before, leaving us with no running water for the day!  We decided it was some involuntary penance for the March, giving us a little less comfort for the big day, but still a different experience from those who travel overnight on buses, only to begin walking for a few miles in the morning.

A Kenosis reunion!
The five of us arrived on the Mall (not a shopping mall, but a large grassy area surrounding the Washington Monument, just to clarify!) shortly after the rally began.  The tone this year was a bit different, since the passing of Nellie Gray, who organized the past 39 marches.  Jeanne Monaghan (a fellow John Paul II Institute alumna) is the new president of the March.  The rally included a speech by a college student, as well as music from Franciscan University alum Kevin Heider.  

To be honest, I missed much of the rally, because I was talking to the Dominican Friars or running into friends from pro-life work or from Kenosis: Teen Disciples for Love and Life or from my parish.  When 500,000 people gather in one place, it's impossible not to see a familiar face.  

We were hoping to meet up with some of my brothers who took a bus with their youth group for the trip, so we waited for a good 30-45 minutes to even begin marching.  Even if we had wanted to begin, we would have barely moved during that time.  When we finally did begin, even near the end of the throng, we made slow progress.

I think you can see the snow.
Along the way, we saw the University of Cincinnati banner, Aquinas College, the John Paul II Institute, the Diocese of Evansville, St. Edmund Campion Academy in Cincinnati, several Ohioans, and banners from afar for Franciscan University and Ave Maria University.  We passed printed signs, homemade signs, large professional banners and smaller make-shift ones.  We saw high school students, college students, families, senior citizens.  We saw people in wheel chairs and children in strollers.  We saw seminarians and many religious orders of sisters.  We passed people praying the Rosary, singing hymns, chanting pro-life slogans.  

The temperatures were quite cold.  I believe the wind chills were in the teens at times.  And then somewhere in the midst of the signs, the singing, the shuffling -- snow!  Tiny white flakes began dropping all around us, accumulating on coats, in hoods, on hats and gloves.  Gloves were getting wet, and hand warmers became more important.  

Still, everyone pressed on, climbing the hill to the Capitol, passing it to continue on to the Supreme Court building.  I think climbing that hill is possibly my favorite part of the March.  There, the sheer number of people before and behind is more evident.  One walks that hill completely surrounded by so many others who have dedicated their lives, their talents, their time at the service of life.  It's overwhelming and beautiful and refreshing.

The climb ends.  A corner is rounded.  And there is the Supreme Court building.  This year it is under renovations and had a fake "cover" over it to the look like itself.  It's passing those steps year after year that serves as a chilling reminder that forty years ago, lawyers ascended those steps in order to argue for a right to abortion, a right to privacy.  And they descended those steps to await the decision of the Supreme Court.  And those few lawyers, few justices have changed the shape of our country in innumerable ways.  Those steps, that building are significant.  

On the base of the steps, people pray.  The Dominicans sing the Salve Regina.  Silent No More organizes a group of women and men willing to share their stories, bravely holding signs that say, "I regret my abortion."  

On the base of the steps there are also the few "protestors" -- this year, a few college students who held posters.  One poster had a few obscenities and the girl holding it tried not to laugh as she screamed, "It's my choice!"  

It's that place, by the Supreme Court, that shakes us out of our momentary bubble.  We are not alone, true.  But we are also not unopposed.  There are so many people in our world who have been wounded, who don't understand, who think that ending the life of an unborn child will solve their problems, fears, hurts and insecurities.  They need to see a group of people who celebrate life, who protect it and witness to its sanctity.  We need to see that there are people in the world who still need to hear the message, who need to know that life is beautiful, and isn't so much about being a choice, but rather about being a gift to be received gratefully and with joy.  

And that's the March.  The numbers have grown incredibly in the last ten years (more than doubled, I believe).  I've lost count as to how many "record Marches" I have attended.  We come in peaceful protest of injustice.  But it's more than a protest.  It's also a recognition of the dignity and beauty of life, and a plea that we all open our eyes to the wonders the Lord has done for us and given us.  

 As I told a friend who mentioned that abortion must end soon -- I hope that someday, when there is no more March for Life, we will have an annual celebration for life ... on a Saturday ... in the spring or summer.   

[Update: This video from EWTN shows the magnitude of the numbers on Friday.]

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