and therefore shows each of us the way towards the future.
we are experiencing the joy that the Risen Lord promised his followers.
On January 24 a group University Catholic pilgrims trekked to Washington, DC to participate in the 40th
Annual March for Life
, as did about 500 others from our Diocese. Led by our chaplain, Fr. John Sims Baker, we piled into the bus at midnight on Thursday to make the long journey to the cold northeast. Arriving in the early afternoon at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, we thought for certain we would get a seat for the Vigil Mass for Life. No such luck! But we staked out a spot on the floor, joining the other 13,000 pilgrims for the incredible Holy Mass celebrated by Cardinal O’Malley of Boston, Chair of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities. The procession of seminarians, priests, bishops and cardinals took 45 minutes and made a huge impression upon everyone!
The next morning’s private Mass at the Franciscan Monastery, in which we celebrated the conversion of St. Paul, afforded another opportunity for us to enter in to the meaning of the March – to acknowledge that standing up for the truth has a cost, but that we are never alone in defending the truth. That is because the Truth is a person - Jesus Christ - who is always with us! After a tour of the Monastery and a quick visit at the Poor Clare Sisters of Perpetual Adoration down the street, it was off to the March! For most of the group, this was their first experience of the March for Life. The students were overwhelmed by the enormity of the crowd (650,000+) and by how young the crowd was!
“Everyone thinks the Church is old and fading away,” one student remarked, “This experience shows how young the Church is; how vibrant the Church is!” Another added, “I thought I was done with aha moments in my faith… I suppose I shouldn’t underestimate God, but it is the experiences and the nuggets of wisdom [I got here] on the March for Life that help me grow in my faith and keep it strong…”
After the March, some headed back to the warmth of the hotel, while others braved the cold and snow to honor the sacredness of human life in a different way, by visiting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. Sprinting up the hill to the Tomb in order to catch the last changing of the guard for the day, we stood in solemn silence to pay our respect to the brave soldiers “known only to God.” Walking through that cemetery, we had a profound sense of gratitude for every life buried underneath each of those thousands of crosses. It made us wonder what the cemetery would look like for each of the lives lost to abortion these past 40 years - over 55 million. It’s hard to imagine all of those crosses…
Saturday morning our group was thrilled to join over 400 other college students at Georgetown University for the Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life. The inspiring messages from leading women in the pro-life movement, such as Helen Alvaré, Lila Rose and Marjorie Dannenfelser, demonstrate that one person can make a difference in the lives of so many.
That evening we went back to the Basilica for Holy Mass, and we were astounded to find ourselves once again without a seat. We managed to find our “spot” from two evenings before! How beautiful that Jesus kept getting a standing-room only crowd! We were happy to be part of it.
Sunday morning we were on our way back to Nashville – tired, worn, and stressed from having missed school. Bu even more so, we were inspired, grateful and humbled by the experience.
The story that never gets reported is perfectly summed up in Pope Benedict’s quote above: “The Church is alive and the Church is young!” It was so encouraging to see so many young people – gathered in prayer – gathered to give a joyful and exuberant witness to the dignity of every human life! Indeed, there is great reason for hope because the future of the Church is young and alive – “alive because Christ is alive” and active in our lives! I have no doubt that this trip has left a life-long impression on the students who attended and will help form them into committed pro-life adults.
By Caroline Duffy, Director of Campus Ministries for University Catholic