On a breezy and cold Washington, DC day, I, and many thousands of others, took to the streets of the Capital city to stand up for the dignity of human life. Each year, I marvel at the crowd’s joyful and friendly nature. Where else can you find a protest that includes babies in strollers, religious men and women in habits, and a seemingly endless stream of high school students from across the country?
The day includes Masses across the city, as well as a Youth Rally and Mass at the Verizon Center (where the Wizards and Capitals play at home) and at the DC Armory (where the beautiful and thoughtful homily was presented by St. Jerome graduate, Fr. Shaun Foggo). These venues are packed to the rafters with families, schools, and parish youth groups from all over the nation. The concourses, where hot dogs and French fries are usually sold, are converted to confessionals as dozens of local priests arrive early to provide the healing and mercy of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The Archdiocese of Washington organizes these events and does so with the intention of inspiring the young who truly are, as their signs indicated, “the Pro-Life Generation”.
This event is both an invitation to reflect on the responsibility of Catholic schools to nurture the “Pro-Life Generation” and a reminder of the great fruits that come from participation in such events. As I walked in the streams of thousands of witnesses to life, I had time to reflect on these fruits and what they teach our children:
1. In 2 Thessalonians 3:13, St. Paul exhorts “you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good”. While it is certainly hopeful to see so many young, it is downright touching to talk to those who have attended March for Life for 44 years. The road is long and the progress has been slow, but these are faithful and persistent witnesses to a fundamental truth.
2. While the March has a Catholic vibe, it’s wonderful to see so many different faiths represented. We saw Orthodox patriarchs, a large “Lutherans for Life” contingent, and a Jewish group whose signs simply read, “L’Chaim” (to life). It is a gathering of the children of God, unified in our commitment to God’s first gift to us: our very lives.
3. When I reached the top of Capitol Hill, I turned back and saw Pennsylvania Avenue clogged with people, standing shoulder to shoulder in some spots. I don’t know the official number of March participants, and that’s okay because the number doesn’t matter. In fact, Christ warned us about being distracted by crowd sizes when he said: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14).
What does an event like the March for Life mean for schools engaged in forming
children in the Catholic classical approach? Certainly, this event provides an opportunity to reaffirm that the concept of human dignity is taught throughout the curriculum and is reflected in the very methods we use to instruct children.
Our schools are also dedicated to forming good citizens by giving them a solid foundation in the principles that govern a healthy society. In the exercise of our right to assemble, our students see a demonstration of responsible citizenship and the fact that religious beliefs should not be consigned to a private corner, but rightfully inform the conscience.
We all pray for the day when a March for Life will no longer be necessary in this
great country. Until then, however, come to our nation’s capital and join a joyous and hopeful throng, standing up for life and encouraging one another in the walk of discipleship.
Mary Pat Donoghue is currently the Director for School Programs at the ICLE. Previously, she was principal of St. Jerome Academy in Hyattsville, MD, a parochial school that converted to the classical approach in 2010.