Is the March for Life a waste of time?
It seems like every year some people ask the question, even as around half a million folks take over the National Mall of Washington, D.C., and dozens of other marches challenge the complacency of state capitals around the country.
The answer, by the way, is “no.” The March for Life in DC and the many other marches around the country are a necessary action when such radical injustice becomes the norm. Not that the question is necessarily asked in bad faith – there is certainly much more to be done than demonstrations. But these events are valuable both in themselves and in how they energize and bring together people who are more serious about doing something to stop the killing of innocents.
There is a solid theological case that can be made for the value of these events, one with strong precedent in Scripture, and not only in Jericho and Nineveh. The short version is this: We human persons are made in the image of our Creator, unique in the order of creation in that each of us is both rational soul and body. As such we share in the creativity of God the Father, especially in the marital embrace of husband and wife, the source of new life. This also means that although we are created as individuals, we are never merely individuals – that is, we are in our very being oriented to communion with God and with one another. This is what we do because it is who we are as human persons made in the image of God, the Most Blessed Trinity, the three Divine Persons in one God.
It is in our very nature to come together to love and serve, to witness in truth to the love of God. Sin separates us from God and wounds our nature, though it does not fundamentally alter our nature. So our imperative is directed toward unity in Love and Truth, in Jesus Christ. We come together as a matter of necessity to build the good and oppose evil. There is no more grave and widespread evil in the world today than abortion, which consumes some 50 million innocent lives around the world every year, and more than a million here in our own country.
As Cardinal Wuerl said just days ago, this is also the fundamental issue of our upcoming national elections. One could add that the attack on marriage, now also far advanced, has an equal demand on our attention in our society, and at the polls. And since Cardinal Wuerl is a close advisor to Pope Francis, let us be done with the lie that the Holy Father’s words, though at times confusing, can be used to justify sitting out the fight for life and family.
It is true that there have been many victories for life, in state level law, in the closing of many abortion mills due to prayerful witness. But it is also true that by federal law, certainly in practice, a baby can be killed at any point in pregnancy for any reason, and this fact can be discouraging. Polls show that this reality is extremely unpopular, yet the slaughter continues due to the corruption of our politics and the loss of any sense of shared morality in our broken country.
All the more reason to come together, my dear friends! You will not find counsel to despair in the Scriptures or in the lives of saints. You will find plenty of righteous anger in the face of such evil, but you will not find any justification for discouragement. Because our joy and our hope lies beyond our politics and societies, with the One who made us in His image, we have no right to be discouraged, to fracture and remain solitary, despairing at the inability – so far – to stop every single abortion.
No, the peaceful and prayerful witness is very good, very necessary. It is not all we have to do, but it does represent a minimum, a chance for us to step outside of our own schedules in solidarity and remind the corrupt powers of our country that the defense of innocent life will not go away.
I will conclude here with a special call to my brother priests: We must stand together and lead God’s people in this important fight. You may not know how just seeing a priest in his collar – praying the rosary, joining the chants, thanking others for their witness – lifts the spirits of the faithful who are witnessing in a way that leaves them ostracized by friends and family. I can truly not think of a single reason that an able bodied priest, short of inescapable obligations in his primary duties, would not join a local or regional March for Life.
And when the faithful see bishops! It is important for bishops to be visible at these events, just as it is important that their prayers join those of the flock in a powerful plea that God end this evil in our midst. And while it is true that politics play a role in the fight for life, the fight is not merely political – it is social and spiritual, its manifold effect on our society touching every person.
I am so blessed in my vocation, and in my work with Human Life International. I get to meet literally thousands of people around the world who may have begun their pro-life witness slowly, showing up to a march or a talk, but who become inspired and who become more active and courageous. Many who begin by silently following end up confidently leading.
Yes, the March for Life is very important. We are made to come together to witness in truth, even if our witness cannot end with a walk down a street. The ultimate victory will be Gods, and will be hastened to the extent that we conform our wills to His. Let’s stand together next weekend, prayerfully and peacefully telling our political leaders and fellow citizens that they are indeed accountable for the ongoing and legal slaughter of innocents. And let priests and bishops lead the way.