The unrelenting traffic in and near the parking lot of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception combined with the herds of people outside the Shrine’s doors should have prepared us for the number of people attending the Opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life. And yet, when at 5:15 p.m. we stepped inside the side door how amazed we were to see that there was no room left in the Upper Church to even stand for the 6:30 p.m. Mass! We then found out that the Crypt Church in the lower level, where television screens had been set up to watch the Mass being held in the Upper Church, had been filled to capacity by 4:00 p.m.!
Hundreds of people had traveled many miles to attend the Opening Mass and prepare for the next day’s March with the all-night Adoration, also hosted at the Shrine. Many families and lay organizations who work to defend life were present. As were several religious congregations of various apostolates. The Little Sisters of the Poor, Sisters of Life and Missionaries of Charity all sat together during the Vigil Mass as all three orders endeavor to preserve the worth of all: the aged, the young and everyone in between. It was also beautiful to see the great number of seminarians, brothers and deacons, who attended and abbots and priests (including, local and visiting cardinals and bishops) who concelebrated the Vigil Mass.
However, it is the number of youth and young adults in attendance that is most of note. How inspiring to see that the current and future generations are so actively committed to preserving and standing up for the right to life! Their presence in the movement to reclaim the dignity of all human persons is essential and one that was very much felt at the Vigil Mass. The importance of the youth and young adults in attendance was highlighted in the homily given by the principal celebrant, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo.
The next day, on Monday, January 24th, the morning of the March for Life, we attended the 10:30 a.m. Youth Rally & Mass for Life, where we were overwhelmed again with joy by the thousands of young people who filled the Verizon Center to capacity. The Mass, celebrated by Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, was preceded by various youth and young adults giving testimonies about their convictions about the right to life and sharing testimonies about right-to-life issues that have directly impacted their own lives.
After Mass the thousands of people at the Verizon Center walked to the National Mall for the March for Life Rally. Joining the youth from the DC Armory (where the overflow Mass celebrated by Daniel Cardinal DiNardo was held) and other places, our numbers greatly increased. It was impossible to see over the crowd of people.
We were blessed not to come across any people protesting the March for Life and were edified by the presence of so many people of various ages who, though of different faiths, united together to defend the defenseless and to stand up against those who put the lives of others at risk.
The Little Sisters of the Poor are dedicated to safeguarding the rights of and protecting the inherit dignity of the Aged Poor—how wonderful it was to see that there are thousands upon thousands of people, our future generation, who too are fighting for the same cause! May God bless all those who attended the March for Life and who supported it with their prayers. May we all persevere in the prayer that this nation will come to recognize that all human life—from conception to natural death—is precious and of immeasurable worth.