Rallying, Praying and Marching for Life

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Tomorrow morning we will gather for the Youth Rally and Mass for Life at the Verizon Center and D.C. Armory. Every year this is an unforgettable experience for the tens of thousands of animated young people who fill the two venues, and for me in my role as the principal celebrant of the Mass at the Verizon Center. This prayerful witness to life precedes the March for Life in our nation’s capitol on or near the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion across the United States.

In our culture, abortion is often cast as a matter of “personal choice,” but that choice does not occur in a vacuum, nor is it entirely personal – it involves the killing of an unborn child, and it has consequences for those who choose it as well. We as a people have a choice too between being part of a culture of death or a civilization of life and love. On this day, we choose to remember and pray for all those affected by the abortion culture including the women and men, family members and friends who are emotionally and spiritually scarred by abortion, and their need for God’s mercy and healing. In a special way, we recognize that the death toll has risen to 56 million unborn children for whom we also pray.

The Rally and Mass present an inspiring scene of youth and young adults from across our Archdiocese of Washington and from throughout the country, all standing together for God’s gift of life. At that very moment, adults and families are attending a special rally and Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle.

In solidarity and communion with each other, we renew our commitment to work for the value and dignity of all human life, and to carry out the call for Christians to manifest Christ’s merciful love in today’s world. These missionaries for life are saying, “Let us embrace every mother, let us embrace every child, let us embrace every life.” In the struggle for the soul of America, they support the best of the American tradition – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Looking out at their faces, I cannot help but be filled with joy and confidence and hope for the future.

A highlight of the Rally and Mass comes when a blessing and a message of support from Pope Francis is read. Just four months ago, we were graced by the Holy Father’s visit to Washington. During his historic address to Congress, Pope Francis reminded us that “every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity” and we all have a responsibility “to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.”

Another highlight occurs when seminarians, religious and those discerning priesthood or religious life stand and receive spirited applause from the youth and young adults. Some of them will rise themselves moments later, when those who are considering a vocation are invited to stand.

The strong faith and joy of those attending the rallies and Masses for life is palpable. Many of them will join the lines to confession areas to acknowledge their own sins and receive God’ mercy. Like last year, they will again give public witness to life using social media on their phones and mobile devices, via #iStand4Life and #Mass4Life, both of which trended nationally last year. In their joyful, loving commitment to life, they demonstrate selflessness in an era and a media known more for “selfies.” They have traveled by buses, cars, trains and planes to come here, and they inspire us and the youth and young adults back home to join the cause.

In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, as we seek and then share God’s love and mercy, we rally, pray and march for life with renewed conviction that our witness to the Gospel of Life can transform hearts. Together, we can change our culture to a civilization of life and love, inspired by our young people who are leading the way.

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