WASHINGTON — Teens and young adults from the Archdiocese of Washington and a few other locations faced freezing early morning temperatures to gather at St. Matthew the Apostle Cathedral to pray, sing and express their support for the life.
Several hundred young people attended the 33rd Archdiocesan-sponsored 33rd Youth Gathering and Mass for Life on January 21, which took place ahead of the annual March for Life in the nation’s capital.
Due to the ongoing pandemic, the gathering and mass had limited seating and offered a scaled-down version of previous gatherings.
“It is a special joy to welcome each of you, the young people of our archdiocese … (and) all those who join us via the nationwide live broadcast,” Washington Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory told the start of the event.
Noting that it is God alone “who has the power to grant the breath of life,” the cardinal prayed that “we remain constant in safeguarding the dignity of every human life.”
Cardinal Gregory was the main celebrant of the Mass and Father James Morrison, parochial vicar of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Bethesda, was the homilist. Concelebrants included Auxiliary Bishops of Washington Mario E. Dorsonville and Roy E. Campbell Jr.; Bishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States; and a dozen priests.
Archbishop Pierre read a message from Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, issued on behalf of Pope Francis before Mass.
“His Holiness is grateful for this outstanding public witness to the sacred value of every human life” and reminded those attending the gathering that “it is only when the dignity of the human person is respected…that the many forms of injustice can be overcome,” said Cardinal Parolin’s message.
In his homily, Father Morrison reminded those attending Mass that as they walked, they were “chosen to be those who will reveal his (God’s) glory, to be a light that will enlighten the darkness. Since 1973, our nation was able to murder 63 million children. That’s a lot of darkness.”
Father Morrison urged young pro-lifers to march for life and fight abortion with love.
“God’s light, God’s love shines through us. We are that light when we love like God,” he said. “In defending the dignity of the unborn child, we do so with love.”
Father Morrison added that “we may not make friends by being pro-life”, but those who support abortion need to know they are loved. “We love others with that same radical love that we learned from Christ,” he said.
Quoting the words of Jesus in Matthew 18:14 – “It is not the will of my Heavenly Father that any of these little ones should be lost” – Father Morrison said abortion providers, women facing difficult pregnancies, the homeless and those who are often seen as “different”. are “those little ones whom the love of God embraces.”
“We’ve gone into darkness with the best news in the world, and it’s ‘God loves you’. It’s the easiest thing to say and the hardest thing to believe,” the priest said. “Everyone you meet should hear this today.”
The annual rally and Mass for Life takes place each year in conjunction with the National March for Life, which marks the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton decisions that legalized abortion in all 50 states.
Since 1990, the Archdiocese of Washington has held the event on the morning of the walk to give young people the opportunity to pray together, learn Catholic teaching on life issues, and stand firm in their support for the life.
The rally’s keynote speaker, Josh Brahm, president of the Equal Rights Institute, a national organization that trains life advocates, told attendees he believed the Supreme Court would overturn its centuries-old abortion rulings. decades later this year.
On Dec. 1, the court heard oral arguments in a case about Mississippi’s ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. A decision allowing enforcement of the Mississippi law could lay the groundwork for abortion restrictions in other states.
“It’s a cool year to walk,” Brahm said.
He noted that “pro-choice people are scared, they’re angry” because of the very real challenge to legal abortion. He also encouraged pro-lifers to civilly engage those who support abortion to “bring down the walls and make them more receptive and less defensive.”
He called on the young people at the gathering to “make a big impact on life in your sphere of influence this year”.
At the end of the Mass, Cardinal Gregory encouraged the young adults at Mass to consider a religious vocation or a vocation to the priesthood, as “the church is in great need of thoughtful, happy and zealous young men and women.” He also thanked the seminarians present.
“These are wonderful days to bear witness to life and hope for tomorrow,” he concluded. “Let this be the blessing we all derive from this Eucharist.”
Szczepanowski is editor of the Catholic Standard, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.