At a few years short of half a century, I was the second youngest on a bus that departed before any sign of dawn’s early light. I’d joined a priest, another man, two nuns, a teenager, and a handful of older women heading to the March for Life in Washington, D.C. I’d hoped to meet people and celebrate life, but the atmosphere was quieter than I’d expected. Predawn darkness may have had something to do with that.
Our first stop was about 30 minutes down the road. Here, a family with two children, a couple of men and more older women, and a small youth ministry group from a local and very liberal college, joined us. The newcomers smiled as they moved to empty seats at the back of the bus; we couldn’t help but smile back. The outside world may still have been shrouded in darkness, but inside the bus, things already felt brighter.
Faith Displayed at a Rest Area
We stopped at a rest area about halfway from New York to D.C. where I was reminded of a favorite part of Harry Potter in which the good wizards come out of hiding to celebrate Valdemort’s defeat. They laughed and embraced. They set off fireworks and did silly things. Their behavior left muggles, or unmagical folk, perplexed.
I entered the building noticing it bustled with celebratory, prolife marchers. No one set off fireworks, but people adorned in Crosses and sporting proGod and prolife tee shirts erupted in spontaneous laughter with strangers, and greeted one another with wide smiles and hearty embraces.
We might have been wizards in our joviality and belief that good would eventually triumph over evil, but differences stretched farther than our unwillingness to light explosives. Marchers celebrating life were real. They had no special powers but had worked especially hard. They lived without belief in magic but with belief in miracles. While they celebrated the old ruler’s defeat a bit, most celebration was for love of life and triumph of their God, who always wins in His time.
I wondered how perplexed nonfaithful folk would view such open love of life. I wondered why nonfaithful folk wouldn’t want to be part of that love.
Arriving in Washington, D.C.
The rest of the trip flew by, and we exited the bus near the Lincoln Memorial where we stopped to pay respects. The reality that we were a people standing for freedom of life more than a century after the Civil War impacted me. It saddens me to think of how hard minorities fought to keep their children 200 years ago while today many fight to kill them.
We made our way to the Washington Monument, where the Secret Service had set up barriers to check bags and do their best to ensure everyone’s safety. Maybe it was because we were too late to hear Vice President Mike Pence and Kellyanne Conway speak, but the mood among law enforcement officers seemed more lighthearted than at other venues. I prefer to hope their demeanor was due the atmosphere of love and celebration of life. We were strangers united in celebration of all that is good.
With each new speaker, I thought I couldn’t like another more. Eric Metaxis, a favorite Christian author, kept the crowd enthralled. Mia Love spoke of how society favors the abortion of a black girl over the life of a black girl, and how she and another had beaten the odds. To hear Mia Love talk of “beating the odds” and know what that means when you’re a black girl in a proabortion world, and then hear her talk of all those who didn’t beat the odds, is beyond powerful.
As a single mom of five boys, I look to connect my kids’ interests to things of importance like faith and family. For this reason, Baltimore Ravens player Ben Watson may have been my favorite speaker. The fact that my fourth son is a huge Ravens fan piqued my interest. The fact that his message was so inspired blew me away! I could not take notes fast enough. Every line was worth remembering, and I quickly texted my four older boys to ask about him. I knew his was a video my boys would watch without the eye rolls that usually accompany such requests , and I thanked God for him.
Too soon, it was time to gather to march. Our group walked toward Constitution Avenue as Bishop Vincent Matthews took the podium. His voice rang with a passion I wished more Catholics displayed. As I listened, I thought of how united we are as one Body in Christ, of the lessons we could learn from each other, and how unstoppable we’d be if we worked together and relied on the Lord instead of ourselves. I walked like a child stalling at bedtime. I had to follow my group but wanted to hear this man. I left quietly considering the depth of prejudice American Christians face as Bishop Matthews used the word “Christophobic,” something I’d never heard but knew personally.
One speaker made my jaw drop by simply saying “we may see an end to ALL abortion in America.” The crowd burst into applause. Surely this didn’t mean we could, in my lifetime, see an end to the slaughter of even the tiniest babies, those in the womb for only a few days? For the first time in my memory, it seems a possibility.
I thought about that statement later and how I’d never dared consider such a thing. I thought of how old I am and the reality that entire generations have grown up with and after me believing abortion was “normal.” Even I, who is prolife in every circumstance, had never dared to hope for an end to ALL abortion. Yet the idea was out there for the world to hear, and it was met with hope and possibility rather than dismissal and ridicule.
Scenes along the March for Life
We waited for a long time to start marching. Fortunately, it was warm for January in D.C. and the mood was light. It amazed me how such a sad and evil topic can create such positive hope when faith leads. The March finally began, and I realized “march” was a misnomer. We moved at a snail’s pace up Capitol Hill toward the Supreme Court building.
The March for Life is something I’d wanted to do for years, but I didn’t want to take my boys. The political climate has been so bad and people can be insane. I didn’t want to risk my children’s safety. I shouldn’t have worried. Families pushed strollers and wheelchairs holding the elderly and the infirm, proving that being prolife isn’t always easy. Everyone made way and lent a hand. I know without doubt I will take my boys next year if I possibly can.
Two Disturbing Points on the March for Life
There was a short portion of the March where people held banners depicting an aborted child. We walked past photos of bloody fingers and toes attached to limbs that had been ripped from dismembered, discarded bodies. Giant posters showed tiny heads, with eyes closed so they would never see the beauty of our world. Shrunken, but well-formed children, lay in fluid on cold, hard counters.
I can never decide how I feel about those photos. As former abortionist, Dr. Bernard Nathanson, says in Aborting America, “Fewer women would have abortions if wombs had windows,” so maybe we need to see such reality to save an unborn child and her mother, but part of me can’t accept such displays.
The only negative part of the March was the anti-Catholic speech shouted at us through bullhorns as we walked peacefully past. In America where so many resources are dedicated to LGBTQ rights, minority rights, immigrant rights and so on, nothing is told of hate of Catholics. I experienced it to some degree when we lived in the south. I’ve felt it when talking to openly hostile Christians. And my children have been victimized by it, repeatedly, in their schools.
As I walked past those men shouting anti-Catholic things at us through their bullhorns, a group of young people quietly began praying the Rosary. Passing another anti-Catholic group, some marchers responded with shouts of, “We Love the Pope! We Love the Pope!” At one point, I turned to look back because of something those men shouting hate said, and caught a conversation between a fellow marcher and his son. The father asked what was wrong with what the men were shouting. The teen said simply, “God doesn’t hate anyone.” They continued peacefully.
Catholic Beliefs are Worth Defending
I’d expected there to be several Catholics at the March for Life, but I’d also expected there to be a bigger mix of Christian denominations. I was hoping to see fellow Jewish and Muslim prolife advocates too. I saw none.
The call to protect life was raised by Catholic prayers more than any other. I thought of all the social justice programs implemented by the Catholic Church in America over the last few hundred years. Catholic voices led the way in education, healthcare, and outreach. Now Catholics lead the way in a battle with powerful opposition where life is at stake. I wondered what America would look like if those men with their bullhorns had gotten their way 200 years ago.
We finally reached the Capitol Hill. The Supreme Court Building was to the right. Our group moved left to catch the bus and celebrate Mass at the Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary, in the National Shrine. I wouldn’t get to hear more speeches, as I’d wanted, but I knew I’d be back to the March for Life again. Next time, I will get there early and stay for the whole event. I will take my boys and some friends because those babies rely on marchers, and Catholics cannot rely on others to be marchers. We must lead by example.
Today, Catholics are leaving the Church in great numbers. They are falling to temptations of this world, and weak catechism. The March for Life showed me that this March is more than a March for the unborn. It is a March for all of us. It is a March for Catholics to unite for Good, for Life, for Righteousness, and for Love. For too long we’ve allowed ourselves to be shouted down and have our beliefs picked off one at a time. It was clear that if Catholics fall, there will be no one left to stand. We will watch our own abortions – abortion of Worship, abortion of free thought, abortion of Catholicism, abortion of America, and abortion of all that is right and good in our world.
God doesn’t abort. He creates. He doesn’t want abortion in any form. And, for the first time, prolifers have hope in seeing an end to ALL abortion, and saving more than just the unborn. But we must get out there and march.