By Fr. Chris Ballard
Every year, hundreds of pilgrims from the Diocese of Syracuse travel to Washington, D.C. for the March for Life. This year’s events included a trip to St. Mary’s Mary’s Seminary for Mass in the seminary chapel, a guided tour of our Capitol City (in the snow…unique for D.C.!), the Life is VERY Good rally at George Mason University (with Music by Matt Maher!), and the March itself. On the day of the March, our Diocesan group was supposed to have Mass in the crypt of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Due to a cancellation, we were able to move up into the main church with other groups from all over the country and our very own Bishop Cunningham was the main celebrant and preacher for a packed Basilica! Youth from the Diocese also served as lectors and gift bearers while seminarians of the Diocese were acolytes and Deacon Jason Hage was the assisting deacon.
After the Mass, our group headed out into the frigid cold to join hundreds of thousands in Marching up Capitol Hill. Layers on and hand warmers at the ready, we marched. There was an amazing joy among the marchers, despite the cold. Some people sang and chanted while others prayed the Rosary. It is immediately apparent, upon looking at the faces in the crowd, how young the demographic is at the March for Life. Also, one cannot help but notice the leadership that the Catholic Church takes on this cause. The March is populated by diocesan, parish and university groups from all over the country. Despite the cold, people showed up in droves for the 41st year in a row.
Pope Francis (@Pontifex) tweeted his support from afar:
I join the March for Life in Washington with my prayers. May God help us respect all life, especially the most vulnerable
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) January 22, 2014
If your parish does not have a trip to the March for Life, consider starting one! Vocations can be found at events like this. The gathering of the young Church at the March is like none other. It makes one proud to be Catholic, and it may make many youth more open to service as a priest or religious. One of the young men on the trip said that he was especially moved by the Mass at the seminary. Another young lady said that she was moved by the silence of the thousands of youth during Adoration at the Life is VERY Good rally.
As a priest, I was so encouraged in my vocation and it makes me very excited to lead this enthusiastic, young Church! The first reading at Mass at the Basilica was the story of David slaying Goliath. The “throwaway culture” as Pope Francis has called it or the “culture of death” as Blessed Pope John Paul II has called it, is a Goliath. It seems impossible that we could ever overcome it. David slew Goliath with five small, smooth stones from the wadi. It was with the strength of God that David was able to slay Goliath. It is going to be God’s grace that allows us to have any victory in this battle for life. With God’s grace, we will find ways to support women who are facing crisis pregnancies. With God’s grace, we will reach out and love the handicapped, the sick, the elderly, the imprisoned. With God’s grace we will support life every day of the year. With God’s grace, we will transform our culture.