Now, as in every January stretching back for four decades, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from across the country are traveling to Washington, D.C., for the annual “March for Life.”
Our family has marched many times over the years. Sometimes our entire family could make it. Sometimes just one parent took some of the children. Sometimes our parents had to stay home while children went with other families or in parish buses or with college groups. This year will be no different, with siblings traveling from different parts of the country, using different modes of transportation, with different groups of people.
We three oldest decided to write this blog post to share reflections of the impact this annual event has had on our own lives.
In my junior year in high school, the most memorable part of attending the March for Life in D.C was the youth rally the night before the march. At the rally there were thousands of youth from all over the country. As a teenager, I found it incredibly encouraging to see other people my age who were also actively pro-life. We all sat together and listened to about 35 speakers give inspirational speeches and testimonies that specifically targeted our age group. The upbeat and cheerful environment of the youth rally was an amazing way to launch that year’s March for Life experience and reminded me that everyone is called to fight for life, regardless of age.
The next day at the March, I was surprised to discover that I recognized many faces in the huge crowd. The March through D.C felt long and slow, but was not boring for a single second. As we marched, we passed through different mini-rallies, each with a unique way of spreading the pro-life message. These small rallies really brought home to me two things: first, that there are many, many different ways to be involved in the pro-life movement and, second, that the harms of abortion are infinitely many. Every time I attend the March for Life in D.C., I am always reminded that no matter how busy, difficult, or complicated life can be, I should be thankful that I am, in fact, alive. Going to the March for Life not only reminds me of the value of each individual human life, but that I should not take my own life for granted.
During high school, the National March for Life was always like a big Catholic reunion. After moving away from friends and having friends move away from me, it was always exciting as a high schooler to meet up with those separated friends who congregated from all over at the March! During high school, I always took it for granted that I would have friends who were pro-life and recognized the importance of protecting unborn children. Not only did I have these strong friends, but I also was able to attend the March for Life multiple times and always looked forward to these joyful reunions and the experience joining together to urge a change to our laws to celebrate the promise and potential of every human being.
When I went away to a secular college, I realized how much I had taken that for granted. How much I missed going to the annual March and being able to receive encouragement and support from over half a million other pro-lifers when I lived daily surrounded by those who think differently. It is easy to assume we can stand strong on our own in a hostile environment. But a strong community is absolutely crucial in the current political culture of this country–we take confidence and encouragement from our friends, from joining in the fight together.
For me, the March for Life will always be an important part of reassuring me of that community that supports me, which I must support in return.
This weekend, hundreds of thousands head to Washington D.C. to stand up for life and show the world that a vast wave of Americans from sea to sea accept as a personal mandate from God the responsibility to call everyone of goodwill to join us in demanding protection for the most vulnerable among us. Let us pray that this March will strengthen the resolve of each one of us in the pro-life movement to bravely speak up to change the hearts and minds of our fellow citizens.
I have walked in four annual Marches for Life, but my favorite one was last year – the March for Life 2016. DC was hit by a gigantic snowstorm, so the turnout was much smaller than usual. However, thousands of pro-lifers still showed up! I saw and spoke with two groups of marchers who told me how important this event was to them and how even a snowstorm was not getting in their way – even if it meant riding (many extra!) hours on a bus, cold and wet marching, and then immediately riding back (through whatever weather awaited them).
As always, I was also moved by the ecumenism shown by the diverse gathering of marchers. The primary participants of the March have traditionally been Catholic, but I met and saw Evangelical, Eastern Orthodox, and Jewish participants. My favorite moment was when a prominent Evangelical leader, Jim Daly, thanked Catholics for their leadership at the pre-March rally, telling us that Evangelicals may have been “late to the party, but we are with you.”
Well, actually, that was my second favorite memory. My first favorite memory was running to get to the front of the masses of people marching to try to take a picture. So many people had come that I couldn’t see the end of the sea of people! I think this illustrates the most incredible thing about the March for Life: how thousands of people of different faiths and ages from all around the country come together to stand up for the lives of thousands of other little people.
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