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March for Life 2014

January 25, 2014

It was a cold one. That’s what everyone was saying. Forecasters had announced days before it was going to be a cold one. The archbishop who made the opening remarks at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception began by remarking what a cold one it was — and said that it had been ordered specially for the Canadian archbishop so he’d feel at home. Cardinal Sean O’Malley from Boston resumed the theme from the presider’s chair, reminding the thousands of people swelling the pews that, yes, indeed, it was cold outside. But, he went on, “the weather is perfect. It tells people that we are serious.” It might be seriously cold outside, but, hey, we’re still gonna march. Seriously.

We met the cold coming down to D.C. from Boston. Six guys in a Pilot, on the road by 5:15 AM, and hoping to skirt around this rumor of a storm and make the District in eight hours. Massachusetts passed us by in the darkness, Connecticut opened up in the slow sunrise. New York just looked at us and yawned. Then we hit New Jersey, and the storm hit us. After twelve hours on the road crawling through the snow we rolled thankfully into the driveway of the Franciscan Monastery with the flakes swarming the air thicker than flies.

“Gee,” someone said as we staggered out, “it sure is a cold one.”

Seriously, it was.

That did not stop thousands of people from traveling to Washington D.C. to the 2014 March for Life. Seminarians from Boston had taken the train, other groups had taken buses or packed themselves together in carpools; together we converged at the Immaculate Conception Basilica for the Vigil Mass the night before the March. The crypt beneath the church was filled with young people with backpacks, group leaders with colored flags, priests in their collars and sisters in their veils. At the far end the seminarians congregated in a vast crowd of white surplices. It took some time, but finally the Mass began and that excited flock of men were processing up the stairs into the main church as steady and solemn as any ace crew of altar boys.

During his homily, delivered to a packed Basilica still warming up from the unusual chill, Cardinal Sean O’Malley emphasized the importance that the March for Life had for the American Culture and for the Catholic Church. His illustration of that fact was the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes — the vain monarch in question being the prevailing mindset of convenience and deceptive self-interest, awakened to the folly of its actions only by a child’s prophetic voice. The Church, concluded the Cardinal, must be that prophet. Not only must Catholics stand up against social wrong — even more importantly, they must stand up to proclaim the positive, joyful message of the Gospel. Only the resounding thrill of gladness can shake the world of its icy coat of cynicism, of egoistical self-destruction. Cold must give way to fire in the end.

Having been inspired by this powerful Vigil Mass, we went home, ate pizza, and went to bed.

The day of the March itself was sunny. Windy, too. Once we had gone to Mass at the Church of the Sacred Hearts — a gathering of all the Boston groups, presided over by the Cardinal — a quick stop at the Monastery to get more layers and a quick bite to eat brought us to the beginning of the actual March. Flags waved. Breath steamed from cheering mouths. Somewhere, a band played. Thousands upon thousands walked the sloping road up to the steps of the Capitol: a tide of human beings beating once more on the marble shores of the nation. Drops of water hollow away a stone, they say. How many drops will hollow the Capitol enough to make room for change?

What more to say? We came, we marched, we went home. The cold remained, as it always does — but, as the Cardinal says, it is our job to breathe just a little more warmth into the cold around us. If one more March has injected just that ounce of grace and hope into the country and the world, then we will have marched seriously. For reals.

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