Posts Tagged ‘March for Life’

Remembering Nellie Gray

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

The pro-life movement lost one of our great figures the other day, with the death of Nellie Gray.  Most people have never heard of her, yet she was the driving force behind the annual March for Life. The march is the largest, longest-lasting public witness in the history of the United States (even if it is regularly ignored by the media).  Nellie helped found the March in 1974, she hosted the rally itself, and she proudly lead the way down Commonwealth Avenue, regardless of the weather or the political climate.  She was a force of nature in the pro-life movement, and the March is a seminal event for us — it’s a combination of rally, party, and requiem.

I never met Nellie, but I have been to many Marches.  I was asked to contribute to a memorial for Nellie, and here was what I offered:

Nellie Gray and the Gifts of Constancy and Renewal

One of the many things to consider about the life and work of Nellie Gray is how she, and her beloved March for Life, represent what is so great about the pro-life movement, and what continues to confound its opponents.

Anyone who has been to the March will quickly notice several things.  There are so many stalwarts there who have fought to defend life for years — just like Nellie Gray.  They were out there when the states started legalizing abortion, and when Roe v. Wade was decided.  They have shown the strength of the movement by their fidelity to the cause over many, many years.  Constancy — staying the course in a just cause.

They also notice all the young people who are filled with passion for defending life — just as Nellie Gray was.  The March is a rally and party, remarkable for an event about such a lamentable reality.  This atmosphere, particularly the energy of the pro-life youth, lifts us up and encourages us that there is hope for the future.  Renewal — transforming new hearts and minds and culture.

No movement in America is less fashionable and fancy than the pro-life cause.  Its opponents cannot understand its appeal and its longevity. The March for Life is hardly a glamorous event.  There are no movie stars, rock musicians, or A-list celebrities in sight, and there is little likelihood that it will become the next big fad.

But Nellie understood.  The truth of the pro-life movement is very simple — every life has value.  This drove Nellie Gray — and millions like her — to be steadfast defenders of life, and it continually renews the cause.  Nellie Gray was an ordinary woman called by God to do exceptional work, with constancy and hope for renewal.  The March goes on.

We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12:1), and Nellie Gray was one of them.  Please pray for the repose of her soul and her eternal happiness with God, and for the consolation of her many friends and colleagues.

Rejoicing in the Rain

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

It is an old cliche that you can’t really appreciate something just by having it described to you — that you have to experience it yourself.  I’m not sure I believe in that, but when it comes to the March for Life, I think there’s something to it.

I think that many people expect that the March is a political event, a “protest march”, and that it is an expression of outrage and anger over the legalized destruction of unborn human beings.

Actually, the March is a prayerful pilgrimage that celebrates life.  The outrage is there, but joy is the dominant emotion.

Yesterday, I went to the March for the eighteenth consecutive year.  It was the first time that I can recall it raining on us — and it really rained on us.  Together with the chilly temperatures, the precipitation would have put the damper on just about any outdoors event, and kept the crowd down to a minimum.

Not the March for Life.  It was as huge, exuberant crowd — hundreds of thousands, from all over America and abroad.  We talked to people from all over the East coast, and from places as far away as Michigan, Kansas, Illinois, Florida, and Missouri.  There were groups from Canada, and from every religious traditions — mostly Catholics, but Evangelical Christians, Lutherans, Anglicans, Orthodox Christians, and Jews.

The dominant spirit of the event came from the teens and young adults.  They were everywhere, tirelessly praying, chanting, singing.  We old-timers were a bit worn out by the time we got up to the Supreme Court, but the kids were still bursting with their love for the gift of life.  It was enough to uplift even a cynic like me.

Again, it’s hard to get a feel for the event unless you see it for yourself.  You can check out some great pictures here and here, and there are some great videos up on YouTube (including this one, which leads off with some very lively kids from Chicago who were giving great witness to life on the steps of a Senate office building, and goes on to give a good sense of the March).

Even better, mark your calendar for January 23, 2013 (the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade) — and join us for the largest, longest-lasting, and most uplifting event of public witness in our nation’s history.

Truly a blessed event.

And So We March

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Tomorrow, January 23, thousands of people will make a pilgrimage to Washington, DC, to give witness to the dignity of every human life.

If you’re going, I hope to see you there — you can’t miss me in the crowd, I’ll be standing with some Sisters of Life.  If you can’t make it, please join us in prayer.

You may also wish to watch this video from Students for Life, to get a sense of the spirit of the March:

Why Do We Do This?

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

When you think about it from the world’s perspective, the pro-life movement makes little sense.

The Supreme Court has ruled against us, repeatedly, and there’s no change in sight. Congress can’t do anything about it, even if they wanted to.  When they do act on abortion, they spend millions of taxpayer dollars to pay for it. We currently have the most pro-abortion President in history, and even when we had a pro-life President the essential law went unchanged. Nominees for the Supreme Court give homage to this state of the law, referring to it as “settled law” and “binding precedent”.

In 1992, in the Casey decision, the Supreme Court called on us to stop arguing, stop marching, and just obey:

“Where, in the performance of its judicial duties, the Court decides a case in such a way as to resolve the sort of intensely divisive controversy reflected in Roe . . . , its decision has a dimension that the resolution of the normal case does not carry. It is the dimension present whenever the Court’s interpretation of the Constitution calls the contending sides of a national controversy to end their national division by accepting a common mandate rooted in the Constitution.”

The premiere elements of our popular culture are dead-set against us.  All the major newspapers routinely extol the right to destroy unborn children, as to virtually all of the broadcast networks.  Few leading commentators mention the issue on a regular basis.

The statistics continue to be appalling.  Well over a million reported abortions each year.  Untold numbers of abortions caused by “emergency contraception” or hormonal contraceptives.

So, why do we do this?  Why don’t we just give up, as our culture would prefer?

The answer can be found, every year, at the March for Life.

In a sense, it can’t be called a March any more, now that the authorities in Washington have shortened the route — more of a “Stand and Then Stroll for Life”, the way it works out.

It really should be re-named as the “Celebration of Life”.  That’s because the atmosphere at the March is such a rejoicing in the wonderful gift of life, and there’s such a positive, uplifting spirit in the crowd.  For an event that is motivated by such an evil issue, it’s a remarkably joy-filled day.

This joy, of course, does not come from any sense of self-satisfaction.  Rather, it comes from a deeper, more profound source.  Whenever we do the will of God, whenever we freely choose to conform our will to His, we experience this joy.  It’s like when I found that special someone and convinced her to marry me.  Or when a priest, deacon or religious embraces their vocation. Or when we drop our selfish objections and set out on a cause that we know is pleasing to God and demands a serious self-sacrifice.

There is, ultimately, only one reason to be pro-life, to ride the cramped bus for hours, to stand and walk in the cold, to witness outside an abortion clinic, to write our legislators, to mentor a scared expectant mom, to have hard discussions over the kitchen table with our relatives.

God is pro-life, and He loves this cause.  That’s why we do it.