I began a new job at the beginning of the year, but was still able to take a load of the parish Youth to Washington, D.C. for the National March for Life.
We arrived early Friday morning & attended Youth Rally & Mass at the Comcast center (U. of Maryland), which is really an overflow of the Verizon Center Mass closer to D.C. Just 20-thousand or so...
There was also an opportunity to go to Confession; an operation run by squadrons of fantastic religious sisters (Sisters of Life, Domincans, etc.), shepherding untold thousands of folks through the Confession lines.
Then we rode the Metro down to the Mall. There were so many people & groups on the streets leading up to the March that I felt we had already participated in it by the time we actually got to the Mall! There were so many Catholic parishes, schools, & other groups there - no question that this is a Catholic movement above all. Yes, plenty of other folks from various religions participate. But why is it so Catholic? I think it is because of Mary. The Church sees herself as not only the Bride of Christ & her members not only as brothers & sisters of the Lord, but as sons & daughters of Mary, who bore, loved, protected, nurtured, taught, & guided our Lord Jesus & continues to do it for us today, but also wants us to do it for her other children - those yet to be born.
If one sees life itself as a gift from a loving God, then he must fight for life at all costs.
I ran into so many great people during the March itself - a lady from Lansing passing out Rosaries (see above), my catechist Sr. Mary Michael of the Nashville Dominicans, a few wonderful older sisters originally from Tennessee, but long-time members of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor, MI. There were all kinds of speakers & preachers. It was almost like a giant Catholic rally - if this had been a hostile crowd, we could have taken the place. But everyone was so joyful!
Then it started to snow heavily with a stiff wind. I know that will stick in the minds of our Youth:
We - all 14 of us - stayed the night at the house of the brother & family of one of our parishioners. Their Christian hospitality was extraordinary. I felt like we were on retreat!
The next day, we toured the Smithsonian, they attended Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, a house devoted to Mary as the Radix et Porta of Christ.
The National Shrine has, perhaps, the finest sacred music program in the country. This is just a taste - the Gloria:
The celebrant was Abp. Di Nardo (I think) & his homily was straightforward & spot-on - How do we discern the will of God?
He noted that most people who ask, "What would Jesus do?" are really asking, "What would I do if I were Jesus?" Then he suggested the following points for understanding God's call for young people (& old) in today's ever-shifting religious, philosophic, & moral landscape:
- Study the Scriptures
- Stay true to the sure & certain teachings of the Church as found in the Catechism
- Participate fully & rightly in the Sacramental life of the Church, esp. Holy Mass
- Cultivate a life of prayer
In this way, one will always know what is truly from God & have the strength to choose it, what is not of God & reject it. Sounds like a plan. I know this was a powerful, even life-changing experience for our Youth - & our adults.
Since then, I've had to cram for several exams & write several papers for my Franciscan U. coursework - the big I am still working on, overdue as it is.
We've also seen the surprising abdication of Pope Benedict - who truly has been a blessing to me & other millions, I'm sure - & the election of Pope Francis, whom I am sure will likewise be a blessing. I am eager to see how his pontificate plays out.
It is has been sad to see the media malign Francis for not buying into their agenda of the re-creation of man in his own fallen image (read: total sexual license), even as they pat him on the head for being a champion of the poor. "Oh, look honey, he rides the bus with all those dirty, poor people." Like any CNN anchor person or Hollywood celebrity has ever taken the bus to work.
New beginnings all around, because our God is a God of new beginnings.