This year, my fellow CUA students and I have the honor of helping lead the hundreds of thousands of pro-life advocates participating in the 43rd Annual March for Life in Washington, DC. The March for Life is one of my favorite events of the year. While the hope remains that one day we won’t need to march, the event remains a beautiful witness of women and men, clergy and religious, various peoples of culture and faith, the old and the young alike.
Throughout high school, I remember identifying more as “anti-abortion” rather than “pro-life” (the former focusing on fighting attempts to normalize abortion; the latter upholding the dignity of all human life, from cradle to grave). I was all too aware of the evils of abortion, such as the exploitation of women for money, the promotion of sexual promiscuity, and the intentional termination of the life of the unborn child. Even more so, I resented the continuous attacks on the dignity of the human person— whether in utero or with physician-assisted suicide—and found myself compelled to and justified in fighting back with a passion similar to that of those I deemed my opponents. After all, the God-given rights of the human person were at stake, and demanded a strong defense— I perceived anything less than that as scandalous of a human being.
When I attended my third March for Life as a freshman in college, however, I experienced a shift in the focus of my pro-life activism; it was just that— pro-life— in short, recognizing and promoting the wondrous beauty, goodness, and dignity of life itself. While attending the March for Life affords you the amazing opportunity to meet many, many others who are energized (in spite of the cold and often snowy weather) to make their pro-life witness heard, that year I recall paying closer attention to the speakers on stage during the rally prior to the March. In a recurring theme, speaker after speaker stressed to the crowds the importance of not only standing firm despite perceived setbacks or difficulties, but to also continue to love, especially if none is being offered back.
“Love is not passive,” I remember hearing, “If you’re passionate about loving life, then that love is what moves you— it’s the driving force behind your actions.” Authentic love demands recognizing all of humanity as good— even those opposing pro-life work. Now, pro-life work also includes issues pertaining to end-of-life care, the death penalty, and so on, but here I’m focusing on the life in the womb. All of humanity has this incredible dignity because our Lord Himself became human, sharing in our earthly life. All of humanity, then, is connected to Christ: “By His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every human being” (Pope St. John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, 2).
Just as Jesus exemplified in His ministry, we must seek out souls and love them. To truly become promoters of life, we must fearlessly speak the truth, not just to win an argument, but out of love for each unique and irreplaceable person. For example, we have to look with compassion on those who are facing difficult situations with pregnancies, end of life care, and facing the death penalty. We must love those who speak with hatred toward us. Above all, we must witness with lives of love to a society enthralled by the “culture of death.”
It is out of love for the beauty and gift of human life that we stand up against the evils that are offenses against it. Being pro-life is not about a personal agenda or political stance. Each life is a miracle created by God and continuously loved into existence by Him. Being pro-life isn’t about marching one day, writing a blog, or having a debate. It is about being humbled by the miracle of life, recognizing the dignity of each person, and living in a way that witnesses and defends the love of Christ:
“At this stage of history, the liberating message of the Gospel of Life has been put into your hands. And the mission of proclaiming it to the ends of the earth is now passing to your generation. Like the great Apostle Paul, you too must feel the full urgency of the task: “Woe to me if I do not evangelize” (1 Corinthians 9:16). Woe to you if you do not succeed in defending life. The Church needs your energies, your enthusiasm, your youthful ideals, in order to make the Gospel of Life penetrate the fabric of society, transforming people’s hearts and the structures of society in order to create a civilization of true justice and love. Now more than ever, in a world that is often without light and without the courage of noble ideals, people need the fresh, vital spirituality of the Gospel” (Pope John Paul II, World Youth Day 1993).
That is why we march.