Photo: Deacon Jim McCormack, MIC
Held on the 37th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion, the annual March for Life Rally was held in Washington, D.C., on Friday, Jan. 22. Peaceful protesters turned out by the hundreds of thousands. Before the March itself, many prayer services were held Friday morning, including a Catholic Youth Rally and Mass at the Verizon Center.
What was especially heartening about this year's March was the vast number of youth who were present. In fact, it appeared that the majority of protesters were young, including seminarians from the Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception.
The following are reflections from several Marians who took part in the day's events:
Brother Angelo Casimiro, MIC
Between 17,000 to 18,000 people were in attendance at the Verizon Center, including young students from various schools, as well as seminarians and brothers and sisters from different religious orders. Popular Christian praise and worship music was played at the Youth Rally, which got the arena rocking.
A veritable sea of deacons, priests, bishops and cardinals were involved in the Mass, which was celebrated by Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. At the end of the Mass, the Archbishop gave special recognition to the seminarians and brothers and sisters in religious life in the congregation. He also asked those young men who were discerning the priesthood and the young women who were discerning the religious life to stand up. Each group got a thunderous applause.
I found the Youth Rally and Mass for Life to be positively energizing. The musicians were incredible and allowed the crowd to give all they had in praising and worshiping our Lord. I especially enjoyed watching my fellow Marians just "praising it up," especially Br. Richard Mary Dolan, MIC, and some of our novices. Sometimes it was more fun watching them.
For the first time, the Marians had a "Marian" banner to march under. Our banner had images of the Immaculate Conception and The Divine Mercy. There were a dozen of us Marians who marched. Our house superior in Washington, D.C., Fr. Mark Baron, MIC, played the contemporary version of the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy on a loud speaker from the beginning to the end of the March. Afterwards, many people told us how much they appreciated it. It set a prayerful tone to the March.
Deacon Kenneth M. Dos Santos, MIC
Many others and I headed down to the Verizon Center for the annual Youth Rally and Mass, which take place before the March for Life. This year, the diocesan organizers of the event decided to run a short video of a young woman named Madeline who has Down Syndrome. The video made clear that Madeline was like many of her peers — sharing similar concerns, similar struggles, and having similar desires for what the future might hold for her. But, in all that she shared, it was apparent that she had hope. The video ended with her voice saying, "My name is Maddy, and I'm a life just like yours."
The witness of Madeline was beautiful and moving, and as soon as the video ended, it was announced that Madeline and her mother were present for the Youth Rally and Mass and were invited to come up on the stage. At this point, another announcement was made that the more than 17,000 people gathered would pray a Rosary together before the Mass was scheduled to begin. Madeline was one of two people asked to lead the crowd in prayer. I was speechless; the beauty of the moment was overwhelming. Madeline led every other decade with ease. Her life, her precious and unrepeatable life, had made a profound impact on our own lives that day. She had done something, had imparted something, to us that no one else in the world could have, because her life, just as every human life, is unique.
Brother Michael Opalacz, MIC
It was my 36th time I had attended for the March for Life in D.C. This year, I had the chance to pray the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy during the March with my fellow Marians from the D.C. House. We had the chaplet on loudspeaker so that others could pray it with us during the March. It was good to be with the some 300,000 who attended.
Brother John Luth, MIC
On the morning of the March for Life, I went to serve Mass at 8:30 a.m. in the Crypt Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of The Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. I arrived early in the Crypt Church for morning prayer offered before the Holy Eucharist. I was joined by the Dominicans. One of the Dominican students rose to give a brief talk. He identified that someone in the Federal Judiciary had pointed out that the March for Life in Washington has been the safest of all the "protests" ever put on in the capital. Brother John Marie, O.P., attributed this fact to The Divine Mercy, and he went on to deliver one of the loveliest talks on life and The Divine Mercy ever given.
As we joined the March down by the National Gallery later in the afternoon, looking out on the sea of happy humanity amassed all around us, I found myself reflecting on Brother John's words. I looked upon those thousands of people, young and old, cheering and chanting. I look couldn't help but to notice the exuberance of the youth and the faithful and the perseverance of seniors. Everyone seemed to be experiencing the fullness of the joy of living, and it was so clear that when we are faithful to God's gifts and goodness, when we keep faith with His covenant, God will bless us. It may take many more years before the day for life is won for good, but each year, as the numbers swell and the cheer in the voices rises, the witness of those present in the hundreds of thousands, in every March For Life to come, will be part of the legacy of life that will ring out with even more significance than the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the United Nations Charter for Human Rights. More importantly, those marching, and all of life to follow, will share God's blessing. That is The Divine Mercy!