The March for Life’s official social media campaign this year’s was #WhyWeMarch. With this chronicle, we want to share why the Religious Family of the Incarnate Word marched this year, and ultimately #WhyWeMarch every year.
We marched Friday, January 22nd, 2016. All week weather reports had been forecasting the Friday afternoon arrival of “Jonas”—a snow storm big enough to merit a name. Sure enough, he arrived mid-way through the march, but all things considered, the weather was not a factor. Why? We were there to march for something bigger.
We marched with fewer numbers. Due to the eminent arrival of Jonas, fewer numbers came to this year’s March for Life. The evidently smaller-than-normal turnout was not enough to dampen our resolve. Why? We were there to march for something more important.
We marched on Friday, but for our Religious Family, the “March” really began on Thursday evening with the National Prayer Vigil for Life, alongside thousands of other Catholics. The evening before the March for Life, Catholics gather at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to pray for end to legalized abortion and for the growth of the culture of life. The Vigil began with Mass in the Upper church of the Basilica, presided by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York. The Basilica, which is the largest Catholic church in the U.S. and North American, was “standing room only”, packed with cardinals, bishops, priests, deacons, seminarians, religious, and lay faithful, especially youth. Just to have an idea about exactly how many clergy and seminarians were represented, the entrance procession alone lasted at least 30 minutes. In addition, faithful packed the crypt church and lower basilica chapels to participate in the Mass via live feeds. After the Mass at the Basilica, the Religious Family gathered at the seminary for dinner and a show prepared by the St. Philip Neri Group.
On Friday, we marched…for real. After a morning that consisted of the essentials—Holy Hour, Mass and breakfast—we loaded the vans and headed to downtown DC. When we arrived downtown, at first we were a little confused. Small groups were walking the route, but it seemed far too few to actually constitute the “March”. Needing to gather all our “troops” together under the IVE banner we decided to wait on the corner of Constitution and 7th Avenue. The decision could not have been better. When the whole group arrived, we decided to start warming-up our voices and drums for the March. Unintentionally, these warm-up sessions going on along Constitution Avenue served as a welcome cry to the front line of the official March for Life and its signature banner.
Before we joined in on the March, we chanted, sang, drummed, and greeted the March participants as they passed by our smaller-than-usual-group. “Ole-Ole-Ole-Ole-Pro-Life-Ole!”, “We love babies yes we do! We love babies how ‘bout you?”, and “IVE for Life!” chants filled the air the marchers passed by, with a picturesque snowfall filling the air.
This little act that began our march, in essence, shows why we the Religious Family of the Incarnate Word marches. We march to give witness to the joy of life. We march to motivate young and old to share in the joy of life. We march so that by our presence, Christ—who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life—may once again be a sign of contradiction to the world.
We march to give witness to the joy of life. In a country that continues to seek its happiness in material things, our presence in the streets of DC is meant to bear witness to the fact that life, recognized as a gift from God, fills us with a superabundant joy. Why? Because the life that God gives us is more than earthly, it is supernatural. We are called to not only have life on earth, but life in heaven. The life that began at conception, was meant to endure into eternity! Only in heaven, will the joy we have on earth be complete. This is why we march; we march to share our joy! We march to motivate young and old to share in the joy of life.
Every year, more and more youth are turning out for the March. It’s a sign that the culture of life and the pro-life movement is in fact gaining ground. It’s not every day that these youth get to see and meet religious priests, seminarians, and sisters. Much less do they get to see them sing, chant, and beat on drums in the streets of DC. Simply put, it’s not what they expect to see from us. They expect to see us praying, which we most certainly do as we recite the Rosary mid-way through the March. They expect religious piety, but they receive it some unexpected ways—with energy and excitement, singing and shouting in favor of life, something that is not on their radar. Our joy motivates theirs. We march not to be seen and heard for the sake of ourselves, but to be seen and heard for the sake of motivating others to share in the joy of a Christ-centered life. Our joy is not of the world, and the youth—even the youth at heart—recognize that.
Finally, we march to pro-long the presence of Christ. Our Directory of Spirituality says in number 29 that, “Not only are we to live Christ’s life looking for God in everything, but we are to spread that life to others, and to endow the cultures of man with Christ’s life in order to elevate him.” One concrete way that we live this out in the United States is through our participation in the National Vigil and March for Life. We would be foolish not be present at these national scenes in support for the Gospel of Life. We march to carry out our commitment not only to the Gospel, but also to our charism. We march to inspire joy and to do it authentically and fruitfully, we march to bear witness to Christ, the source of our life.
As members of the Religious Family of the Incarnate Word, this is #WhyWeMarch.
-IVE Missionaries in Washington, DC