By Caitlin Thomas
The annual March for Life in January in Washington, D.C. and other events like it across the country, such as the "9 Days for Life" novena, raise awareness and bring pro-life supporters together in solidarity. We join in prayer and penance in reparation for the injustices committed against the lives of our brothers and sisters, and to replace what Pope St. John Paul II called a "culture of death" — what Pope Francis terms the "throwaway culture" — with a culture of life.

During the other 364 days of the year we continue to march in spirit, celebrating the goodness of human life and sharing the mercy that our Holy Father has brought into special focus in this Jubilee Year—the mercy that must be shown by and shown to everyone.

This year, countless people once again flooded Washington, D.C., and many cities across the nation, witnessing to the reality that all human life is precious and merits honor and protection, and reflecting the theme of the March that being pro-life means supporting women and their unborn children together.
The night before the March for Life, I had the privilege of attending the Opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life, celebrated by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and a seemingly endless host of his brother priests, bishops, and cardinals.  At the heart of Cardinal Dolan's homily, a brief anecdote captured both the theme of this year's March for Life and the quiet work of these other 364 days.

In November a young pregnant woman was living with her aunt in New York.  Her child's father was away in their native country. Poor and presumably uninsured, she delivered her child at home.  With her son's umbilical cord still attached, she placed him in the crèche of the nativity scene in her parish, Holy Child Jesus in Queens, New York.  He began crying and was soon found by parishioners. The baby has found a good home, and has been named José after Jesus' foster father. The mother came forward later and spoke to reporters.  Cardinal Dolan cited the mother's own words of faith that in that parish, where she had been welcomed and embraced, and where she knew her child would be cared for.

This example of a truly Christian community immediately called to mind Pope Francis' message for Lent of last year, announcing the Jubilee Year of Mercy we are now in:

Dear brothers and sisters, how greatly I desire that all those places where the Church is present, especially our parishes and our communities, may become islands of mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference!

This is work that every person can and must do in our parishes, of course, but also in our homes, schools, workplaces, and social circles.  By radiating charity and mercy to all our neighbors, we provide those much-needed islands of mercy. Together, we stand against the wind of the throwaway culture, and brave its sea of indifference, sustained by Jesus who is, as Pope Francis has called Him, "the living face of the Father's mercy."
After marching together, let us now be merciful wherever we may be, especially towards those who are most fragile and in need.

Caitlin Thomas is a staff assistant for the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.  For more on the "Moments of Mercy" we can foster during the Year of Mercy, see www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach/new-evangelization/jubilee-of-mercy/moments-of-mercy.cfm.