Love on the March
“We shall overcome,” Cardinal Timothy Michael Dolan said, invoking not only the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. but the Gospel for which he lived and died. Dolan was in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, by the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. It was packed, with over 10,000 people, many of them high-school or college students, most of them having come on buses from places like Florida, Ohio and New York.
Dolan, the cardinal archbishop of New York and outgoing chair of the bishops’ pro-life committee, noted a number of issues that threaten the dignity of human life and do violence to the body and soul, community and nation — including issues involving race and immigration. But there’s a perniciousness that’s so intimate about abortion.
“We shall overcome” promised a renewal, bringing fresh air to an issue that often provokes calcified, rigid positions — partisans ensconced in political loyalties, each with their own ready-made slogans and talking points. Dolan delivered his homily at the annual March for Life Mass, speaking to people who traveled to the January event that is part pilgrimage, part protest and part celebration of human life, all marking the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.
This year’s march came on the 50th anniversary of a clarion call by Pope Paul VI to consider what the sexual revolution might be doing to men, women, marriage and life. Dolan’s “We shall overcome” seemed like a call of hope during the first of these marches to occur since the uncovering of all kinds of sexual abuse in Hollywood and the media.
Dolan’s message seemed, with a few familiar, powerful, confident words — to change the dynamics of our impoverished politics surrounding these issues. While people often view the Church as a place of prohibition, Dolan offered a positive alternative: There is another way to live.
To appreciate the full meaning of Dolan’s invitation, take a moment to consider the scene. Year after year, and increasingly, these young people who attend the March for Life are joyful. They want something better for themselves, their friends and people around the world they’ll never meet. They come from Catholic schools and they come from the likes of Harvard — Kelly, a gal from that institution’s right to life group, had one of the most radiant smiles I encountered at the event. And it is not just the young people. One of the most tender moments I witnessed during Mass was an older, ailing woman in a wheelchair, participating in the ceremony, aided by a young woman whom she embraced with loving gratitude as they reached her spot in front of a row of pews. The message here was love.
The March for Life, which includes politicians and activists, isn’t about partisan politics. It isn’t even fully about opposition — though there is certainly clarity, determination and prayerful pleading about the pain and suffering that abortion has brought. It’s about love (the theme this year was “Love Saves Lives”) — about wanting something better, insisting on something better, and most importantly about extending a hand to anyone who has been hurt by four decades of this pain inflicted on women, men and generations. “We shall overcome” are words for a people in need of hope. “We shall overcome” expresses confidence that peace and justice will flourish, even when things may seem darkest. And when there is doubt, the faith of the suffering and the young — fresh and bold, but never Pollyannaish — serve as such remarkable encouragement. Seeing this, standing among them, is believing at the March for Life.
COPYRIGHT 2018 United Feature Syndicate