This January we’ve seen a great intersection of two events which had young people as the main demographic; the March for Life in Washington, D.C., and World Youth Day in Panama.
Every January, those committed to the protection of the unborn and their mothers march on Capitol Hill, showing that many Americans will not lie down while innocent human being are slaughtered. The March for Life drew between 200,000 and 300,000 people this year. Most of them were young, and many of them were Catholic, but as many non-Christian and non-theistic groups have also called for an end to abortion.
This year was special with Catholics from around the world also celebrating the thirty-fourth World Youth Day just a few days later in Panama. It’s truly inspiring to see so many young people at both of these events, and it’s even more inspiring to see them standing up for the right causes: the dignity of human life and the glory of God.
The continuity between the two events is especially important to note this year, with the theme for World Youth Day being:
“I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38).
The Pearl of Great Price
This, of course, comes from our Blessed Mother. As she is our model for holiness, Catholics young and old also must model her firm “Yes” to doing God’s will.
To be a servant of our Lord Jesus, we must keep his commandments. That’s what love of God entails (see John 14:15). So at these two events, which happily fell within days of each other this year, we see many young Catholics being good stewards as they serve the unborn and their mothers with a robust defense.
The same is true for those on pilgrimage at World Youth Day propagating the Faith, showing the secular world that young people still long for God, and that they have found him in the Person of Jesus Christ, eager to tell the rest of the world about that pearl of great price.
We Will Not Be Forgotten
Now I do use the term “young” somewhat broadly. That includes all Millennials, some of which were born in the early 1980’s and are now pushing forty. But as many Millennials and Generation Z’ers said earlier this month with loud voices, “WE ARE THE PRO-LIFE GENERATION!”
Far from being comprised of aging persons who yearn for a past that is long gone, the people we see at the March for Life are overwhelmingly young, great in number, and are working tirelessly for a future where both mother and child are protected from unjust laws that work to destroy lives instead of offering support. No matter what one’s world view is, young people have a desire to get out and do something. Young people have a desire to work toward the betterment of their society, and when those young people embrace the truths which are proclaimed by Jesus Christ through his Church, the witness to the world is palpable.
Commentator Ben Shapiro made some excellent observations during his speech at the March:
“Righteousness does not have to be popular, it just has to be righteous. And so we march, we march for those who cannot. The media will ignore us because they always do… They bet that the tens of thousands of us who braved the cold every year to stand here with the souls of the future America will be forgotten. We will not be forgotten…
“Our children standing here with us, the ones who are here today, they will remember too. They will remember and they will march until they no longer have to march.”
Witness Leads to Conversion
Shapiro is absolutely right that the media will gloss over the event. This can be plainly seen from the international coverage given to the students of Covington Catholic High School. The media did not focus on any of the wonderful things that came from the March for Life. Regrettably, even many Catholics, including those in the hierarchy, focused more on the narrative written by the media to discredit those defending children and their mothers than on the powerful witness given by those people proclaiming their fiat, their “yes”, to God just as our Blessed Mother did.
Those present at the March gave their “yes” to almighty God, signaling that they would uphold the commandment that directs us not to kill, and also signaling that together with prayer they would work to make abortion unthinkable. And yes, making abortion unthinkable in our society is possible, just as we have made the idea of slavery unthinkable in America. With God, all things are possible, which means that “deep changes in society” can certainly happen and are happening.
The younger generations are waking up to the fact that abortion is grotesque, abhorrent, and inhumane. It would seem that where some people, even Catholics, appear to think “deep changes in society” are close to impossible, the young pro-lifers at the March have great hope and trust in God that hearts will be converted. And it is this witness which will lead to conversion.
Lord, Teach Us to Love
Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Pro-Life Activities Committee, called on the people at the March to give an effective witness to others:
“We must do all we can to be God’s witnesses of merciful love in the world. We know and give thanks for the great dignity God has given to us from the moment of conception, to be made in his image. We also must pray for the grace to remind others of this inherent dignity, in our words and in our actions.”
This hopeful message was also front and center at World Youth Day, with the pope greeting the exuberant crowd by reminding them that they were present at “a celebration of joy and hope for the whole Church”. He assured those in attendance that “Peter is with you, to celebrate and renew you in faith and hope.”
That’s exactly what both of these events have done. Let’s not focus on what the secular media wants us to focus on. If we need to unplug from all the negativity we see in the wake of the abuse scandal or in the Covington controversy, then do so. Focus on the wonderful hope that is alive in the younger generations, the love for God which is still burning brightly in the hearts of many of our peers, even if it seems sometimes like the entire world is apostatizing. Pope Francis asks us to fix our gaze on the Blessed Virgin Mary, because by doing so, we see that she tells us to do whatever her divine son tells us to do:
“Do you believe in this love [of the Lord]? Is it a love that makes sense?
“This is the same question and invitation that was addressed to Mary. The angel asked her if she wanted to bear this dream in her womb and give it life, to make it take flesh. She answered: ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Mary found the courage to say “yes”. She found the strength to give life to God’s dream. The angel is asking the same thing of each of you, and of me. Do you want this dream to come alive? Do you want to make it take flesh with your hands, with your feet, with your gaze, with your heart? … Do we have the courage to say to the angel, as Mary did: Behold the servants of the Lord; let it be done?
“Wherever we may be and whatever we may do, we can always look up and say, ‘Lord, teach me to love as you have loved us’.”
Through Prayer, Action, and Witness
To love is to will the good of another. We do this when we preach the gospel, telling our peers, neighbors, and friends the Good News of our Lord Jesus. That we have a Savior who gave everything for us on the Cross. We also love when we protect the defenseless, and we saw that happening throughout various Marches for Life across the country in just this first month of the year. It’s this kind of love that will convert hearts and bring about great change. It’s this love of the human person, both in this life and in the next, which makes us emulate the love our Lord has for us.
Again we see that the Church always thinks in “both/and” terms instead of “either/or” terms. We love the human person so much that we want to ensure each and every one has the right to life here on this earth. And on the flipside, we as Catholics care about the salvation of these people. We care that they enjoy the beatific vision in the next life. Our focus is on both this life and the next life. It’s why we march. It’s why we go on pilgrimage. Both actions give a witness to the world: that we desire life to be lived to the fullest on earth, and that all will enjoy eternal life with our ever-loving God. Let’s give our “yes” again to God today, and pray that in some small way we may be able to love our neighbor the same way that he loves us through our prayer, our actions, and our witness.
Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash
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About Nicholas LaBanca
Nicholas is a cradle Catholic and hopes to give a unique perspective on life in the Church as a millennial. His favorite saints include his patron St. Nicholas, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. John Mary Vianney, and St. Athanasius of Alexandria.