It’s probably the most cringe-worthy question I have ever heard at the March for Life, and as happy as people sound when they ask it, it’s a question that is blatantly pessimistic at its core.
As much as I enjoy seeing my Catholic friends at the March, no, I don’t want to see you next year. Not at the March at least. In fact, I don’t even want the March to happen next year. And neither should you.
The March for Life. It’s one of the most anticipated events on the Catholic calendar every year. It’s a reason to travel down to our nation’s capitol and squeeze in some sight-seeing when you’re not standing around waiting for things to start or marching through the city. It’s an excuse to miss a day (or two) of school, with absolutely no penalty. It’s a way to see some of your best friends, because events like the March are the only times that you can get together. The March for Life. It’s a highlight of every Catholic’s social calendar, and unfortunately, in many cases, that’s the end of the matter.
Let me remind you why we march every year. We march because we want to see an end to abortion. We march because we want the country to see how strong the voice of the unborn can be. We march because we want to know that we’re not alone in our desire to see all life protected from conception to natural death. We march because it’s one of the few ways that we can defend the defenseless. But is that why you march?
I’m going to be completely honest- I’ve been going to the March for Life for over a decade, and if there is a march next year, I intend to be there. I’ve always looked forward to the March for Life, but my reasons weren’t always noble. In high school, I looked forward to two days off from school and a school-wide trip to Washington, D.C. I vaguely knew what we were marching for, but I was more interested in getting the day off than praying for the unborn.
When I got to college, my intentions were less shallow, but they still weren’t admirable. More than anything, I continued to attend the March because it was expected of me. I was a good Catholic, and all good Catholics attended the March for Life. Granted, it’s not like I went dragging my feet. I enjoyed the time with my friends, I participated in the prayers and songs, and I was amazed by the amount of people who were willing to show their support. It was always incredible when you’d look up at the tall office buildings and see Pro-Life signs in windows and people cheering and waving as we walked by. I felt good doing what I was doing, and I enjoyed the praise.
As I matured, so did my reasons for attending the March. It became less about socializing and more about praying. It was less about a day off of school (though I still got that), and more about joining my voice with the thousands of fellow Americans who felt as I did. I was in graduate school when an off-handed remark made me rethink the efficacy of the March for Life, or at least the general public’s perception of it.
I was working at the National Shrine Bookstore on the day of the March, which meant that I was not able to attend myself (for the first time in eight years). That being said, I was able to interact with a remarkably high percentage of marchers who stopped at the Shrine throughout the day. They came into the Shrine seeking shelter from the rain, and many of them strolled into the bookstore while they were waiting for their buses. As I interacted with customers, one comment predominated over all others: “I’ll see you at the March next year.” Even as I nodded in agreement, I was mentally frowning at the connotations of such a remark. Yes, I probably will see you next year for the March, but you don’t have to look so happy about it.
Ideally, we wouldn’t see each other at the March next year. Ideally, there would be no March next year. Ideally, we would see an end to abortion, and there would be no reason to gather together to march for life. Ideally.
Yes, that’s the ideal, and it’s highly unlikely. Yes, I most likely will see you at the March next year. It’s good to be optimistic, but we must also be practical and realistic. Chances are that we will not see an end to abortion in the next 365 days and we will all gather together in the same place at the same time next year. But that’s not something to get excited about.
For many Catholics, the March for Life is a social event and a reason to skip school. It’s a day for friends to reunite at our nation’s capitol. But that’s ultimately not what it should be. The March for Life is a reminder that we are not alone in our fight to end abortion. It’s an opportunity to pray for all those lives that have been negatively impacted by abortions, and for those who have it in their power to put an end to it. The March for Life can be a very powerful experience- it’s a testimony to the thousands of people who want to see equal rights for all, born and unborn. It’s a reminder that we are not alone, and that we need to keep fighting. But it’s also a reminder that we are still at war. There have been little victories over the years- and every victory is a reason to celebrate- but the war is still on. We have not won. Millions of children are still dying before they even have the chance to live.
If the March for Life is going to be fruitful, if we are going to be victorious in this war, we must remember the real reasons why we march for life. We must remember that it is ultimately not about reuniting with friends, getting a day off of school, or visiting a far-away city. It’s about the millions of children who have died, it’s about the millions of women who suffer as a result of abortions, and it’s about the millions of fathers who have lost their children to these so-called “reproductive rights.”
It’s ultimately not about us. It’s not about our desire for a day off from school, or our hope to reunite with friends. If we’re going to talk about us, we should focus on our prayers and our efforts to end abortion. We should make sure that our Pro-Life efforts do not end at the March for Life, but continue throughout the other 364 days of the year. January 22nd is not the only day that we should be Pro-Life. We should be Pro-Life everyday. We should act in ways that affirm the dignity of every human life. We should continually pray for the unborn, who are constantly in danger of being aborted. And we should hope that next year, we won’t have a reason to come down to D.C. for the March for Life. We should hope that our prayer and work brings about a change of heart in our country, a change of heart that can lead to a change in legislature. Because the change of heart will come first. And after a change of heart, anything can happen.
So even if I’m the only one who ever says it, here it goes: No, I hope I don’t see you next year at the March for Life. I hope there is no March next year.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!