I just watched the Opening Mass for the National Prayer Vigil for Life coming from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception as broadcast on EWTN. As always, it was an impressive and inspiring gathering, with Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston as the celebrant and homilist. The basilica which seats at least 5,000 was overflowing, again, as usual. Cardinal Sean's homily I found to be powerful in its challenge to not only continue to stand up and witness to LIFE but to also bring the mercy of God and the comfort of God's People to those who have been caught up in the terrible experience of an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy or an abortion. Our mission is to defend life at every moment from conception to natural death, to restore, protect and defend all aspects of existence and law that promote the dignity of human life, and to challenge this secular and self centered society to see and embrace the Gospel values of Jesus. This March for Life eve falls on the feast of Saint Agnes, a young girl of twelve in the early days of the Church who dedicated her life and her virginity to Christ in a culture that was rooted in the flesh (what I desire is what is right, no matter what), and who, because she would not consent or give in to being married off, was tried and put to death. Her symbol is a young lamb, a reminder of the sacrifice of the spotless victim who was the Lamb of God - Jesus. Agnes and the Latin word for lamb - agnus - play off of each other.
It has been at least ten years since I have attended the March for Life on January 22nd. This is due primarily to personal physical limitation regarding walking and the cold. But I always found the Opening Mass a truly rejuvenating experience as a priest. Processing in and out at the end in that jammed Basilica filled with people who sacrificed much to be there and who unreservedly show their love for the priests and bishops and their great love for life, was humbling and overwhelming. That, even more than the march, was the most important aspect of the trip to DC. I never made it to the Mass at the Verizon Center for youth, but I understand that the same spirit is found there.
Pray for those who travel to DC for this witness to the sanctity of human life; pray for their safety, health and warmth in what looks to be another cold and snowy day; and pray for this nation and those who provide leadership, that they may do so with the wisdom and the guidance of the Word of God; and pray for the conservatively estimated 55 million unborn children legally put to death in this great nation since Roe vs Wade on January 22nd in 1973. The Church in the U.S. calls us to a "Day of prayer for the legal protection of unborn children" and for reparation for those lives lost in this inhuman decision of forty-one years ago. They are the holy innocents of our day.