By David Ortega
My family and I were privileged to attend the March for Life in our nation’s Capital
where an estimated 500,000 were in attendance. It was the first trip to the East Coast
for my wife and 4 oldest children ranging in age from 11 to 16. The age group of our children reflected and represented the strong and encouraging youth presence in DC.
Prior to the march, we participated in the Catholic Youth Rally and Mass at the Comcast Center where we were joined by other parishes from the DM Diocese and abroad. Organizers expected 28,000 students and split the rally into two Centers to accommodate.
The Spirit of the Lord filled the arena with anticipation and enthusiasm. Numerous priests
and nuns were present. Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington DC celebrated the Mass. Bob Perron, former director for the Catholic Youth Camp in Panora, was the emcee for the Youth Rally prior to Mass. He told how he and his wife were very open to life and desired to have 8 children. This struck a chord within me as that is how many children I have on earth with a ninth in heaven. However Bob and his wife could not have children and decided adoption was the loving option. Through his powerful testimony, participants were awed by how God answered the couple’s prayers. They now have 5 children, 3 of whom are adopted.
A beautiful Mass with uplifting music immediately followed. Students sang and participated with waving and performing other hand motions to the lyrics. During the liturgy of the Word, the homilist stated, “We are pro-life. It does not just mean that we are anti-abortion. It means that life is a gift from God, a blessing, a joy. We don’t go out thinking ‘they’ are the enemy. We are in a spiritual battle: Life vs. death, light vs. darkness. And our weapon is prayer. The greatest weapon is the rosary. How perfect that we come here before the march and we pray.”
At the conclusion of the Youth Rally and Mass, participants headed to DC for the march. Our family stopped for a quick bite at a restaurant and watched the early TV coverage. My 13 year old son Michael noticed how the news media called those gathering for the Rally for Life, “abortion rights opponents” instead of pro-life advocates. Undaunted, we drove to the National Mall, found an open parking spot and walked to Constitution Avenue. We were quickly surrounded by thousands of people from all over the Nation.
Catholic churches and organizations were well represented. As you might expect, the Knights of Columbus had a noticeable presence. Many people, especially the youth were holding the “Defend Life” signs courtesy of the KCs. Michael asked a person where we could get one and the young man gave his up for us. The week before the march, Michael’s 7th grade class as St. Joseph’s School voted on a slogan for a sign, “If God were pro-choice, would you be here?” There were other similar slogans. A lady handed us stickers that said, “I’m worth waiting for.” We funneled our way to the edge of the National Mall. A youth group from Indiana surrounded us cheering, “We love babies, yes we do, we love babies, how ’bout you?” The crowd echoed this chant several times.
Soon the march kicked off and the sound of cheers, drums, horns and hymns filled the air along with a set of yellow
balloons. As we walked towards the Capitol and Supreme Court buildings, a group of about 4 young adults were praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. I felt compelled to join them in response, “For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”
We noticed several images of Our Blessed Mother, angels and saints on signs and fliers. Echoing the words of Peter on the mountain during the transfiguration I felt my spirit saying, “It is good that we are here.” As our section of the parade finished the march at the top of the hill, I turned around and snapped a photo overlooking a sea of pro-life supporters, most of them much younger than me. My wife thanked a group of women for their courage in holding signs that said, “I regret my abortion.”
I have a sense that the graces of being a part of this march are yet to be fully realized by my family and all those who gathered. I am very encouraged about the future of the movement. I know many people prayed for this event. I thank you. I ask you all to persevere in prayer asking God to grant us a greater respect for all life from the moment of conception to the point of natural death.
[Thanks to David Ortega from Altoona, IA, for attending the March for Life and sharing his reflections on the event with Quiner’s Diner.]