Planting the Seed
(February 21, 2014 Catholic Calendar)
Last month I had the honor of accompanying 250 of my fellow Catholics from the Diocese to Washington on the 41st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, January 22. The weather was intimidating. It was bitterly cold. The streets were blanketed in snow. The sub-zero wind chill cut through warm clothing. But as inclement as it was, the frigid temperatures and difficult road conditions didn’t keep over 100,000 from coming to demonstrate for human life. And five busloads of men and women from the Diocese of Lake Charles were there.
On the morning of the March, we began, as we should, with Mass. Our group was large enough to book a church, Holy Trinity in Georgetown, the oldest Catholic parish in Washington, established in 1787. Gathering around the historic altar to celebrate the sacred mysteries of our redemption, we prayed and sang asking God’s blessing on our endeavor and well-being, as well as petitioning for a greater respect for human life in this country.
The readings from Sacred Scripture assigned for that Mass were extremely appropriate. We began with a passage from the First Book of Samuel. It spoke of David defeating Goliath. A seemingly helpless youth conquered the hero of the Philistines with a stone and a sling. My favorite verse was this one: “All this multitude, too, shall learn that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves. For the battle is the Lord’s…” (I Samuel 17:47). It is not human strength or “sword or spear” that conquers but the Lord himself. When faced with the Goliath of public opinion and indifference, it is good to remember this.
The second Scripture reading was taken from the Gospel of St. Mark. Against the indignation of the Pharisees, Jesus dared to cure a man of a withered hand on the Sabbath. In doing this, Jesus commented, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” (Mark 3:4). A democratic republic is a marvelous system of government, but it crosses a perilous line when it ignores and eventually opposes natural law. We have not only a right but also a moral obligation to ask the question if saving life is a value.
Some, including elected leaders, would argue that the Roe v. Wade decision articulates a fundamental principle, i.e. “that every woman should be able to make her own choices about her body and her health.” They see this as necessary in a country “where everyone deserves the same freedom and opportunities to fulfill their dreams.” How remarkable! Does the American “dream” now include abortion? For some it would appear so.
In a scientific age, so enlightened by experimentation and discovery, we have learned that the fetus can feel pain. We can hear the heartbeat. Ultrasound permits us to view viable organs developing. Reformed abortionists will describe to us how the fetus appears helplessly to defend itself against the surgical instruments that would dismember it in the womb. And what of discrimination in a society that prides itself in equality? The disproportionate number of abortions performed on minorities and handicapped children speaks for itself.
The final commentary on this sad chapter is found on the steps of the Supreme Court building where the March for Life ends. There women, who have experienced what some would call their “dream,” gather to tell their stories of abortion. They are courageous. They are, as they describe themselves, “silent no more.” Their witness is compelling. Only the callous could remain unmoved.
The marchers who braved the cold were witnesses, as Cardinal O’Malley referred to them in his Vigil Mass homily the night before the March. Pope Francis sent his blessings and prayers. The peaceful demonstration of hundreds of thousands that the Holy Father endorsed was a calm witness, a peaceful statement. Contrast this to the police canine patrols that we spotted along the route of the March or the woman who spit on one of our Lake Charles people while she knelt to pray the rosary in front of the White House. Let us not forget that the word for witness in New Testament Greek is translated “martyr.”
A remarkable witness of the March for Life is the overwhelming presence of young people below the age of 30. Cynics would say they just want a few days off from school, but only someone who has never been to a March would say that. The voices and faces of the youth tell a different story. They are convinced of their witness. They are there for a reason, and they know it is important. I asked someone once why so many youth participated in the March. The unforgettable answer was, “Because they are thankful to be alive.” Their parents told them of the “choice” offered them, and they chose life—“to save life rather than to destroy it.”
Planting the Seed