This past Friday, I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. to attend the annual March for Life with our graduating class and some of our formators. St. Joseph College Seminary has been a part of this peaceful and prayerful protest since our founding five years ago – offering our time there for the conversion of hearts and the safety and dignity of all unborn children. Despite this year’s challenges, we once again peacefully marched the streets of our nation’s capital in defense of the most vulnerable.
But it was a very different year.
What did we see that was so different? Recall that the most basic truths of our faith are now not just challenged but threatened. It has been said that, not content to proclaim Christianity false, the modern media moguls desire to proclaim it wicked. We witnessed all our federal buildings surrounded with fences, barbed wire, and countless soldiers and police officers, armed with shields and automatic weapons. Washington D.C. has become a militarized state. What were they protecting and from whom? Scattered groups of faithful Christians and non-Christians alike walking, praying, singing, and beseeching our Lord to come to our aid and defend the defenseless? Herein lies the irony. All those defenses around our buildings and no defense around the innocent. The contrast was stark.
The March for Life is usually a joyful time. The reason for which we march admittedly sets a tone of severe gravity. We allow the slaughter of our innocent children. At least once a year we must proclaim to all that this is not and cannot be normal – it is wicked. So how is it joyful? When you bring together so many faith-filled families, thousands and thousands of Catholics fingering their beads, it cannot help but have a tone of joy. In truth it always feels like a family reunion.
But, again, this year was very different.
Not only were we unable see the faces of others due to the pandemic restrictions, but the March was also officially canceled, so there were not too many to see. People didn’t know where to gather. It looked like scattered sheep without a shepherd.
In short, we didn’t know how different our experience would be prior to making our journey, but I am happy we went, despite these uncertainties. The Diocese of Charlotte, led by Fr. Winslow, our Vicar General, was the only Holy Mass still offered at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Normally the Shrine is packed for two days. It was good that we went. It was good that we represented all those who could not be there just as we prayed for those who have no voice.
What will next year look like? The right to assemble, the freedom of religion, and the need to come together are essential for the common good. There is strength in numbers and Catholics are currently being atomized. Let us not allow this. Zoom does not admit the genuine communion we all need. FaceTime does not convey Sacraments which are incarnate realities. Physical presence is necessary to convey the communion of mind and heart we share – a communion that is simply and beautifully conveyed by the simplicity of a smile. "Show us your face O Lord and we shall be saved!” cries the Psalmist. We must do the same for our neighbor.