Peter Jesserer Smith is a staff reporter for the National Catholic Register. He covered Pope Francis’s historic visit to the United States in 2015, and to Jerusalem and the Holy Land in 2014. He has reported on the Syrian and Iraqi refugee crisis, including from Jordan and Lebanon on an Egan Fellowship from Catholic Relief Services. Before coming on board the Register in 2013, he was a freelance writer, reporting for Catholic media outlets as the Register and Our Sunday Visitor. He is a graduate of the National Journalism Center and earned a B.A. in Philosophy at Christendom College, where he co-founded the student newspaper, The Rambler, and served as its editor. He comes originally from the Finger Lakes region of New York State.
Will thousands march in celebration of the Church’s social teaching on the dignity of human life, in all circumstances, from conception to natural death? The 10,000 people who turned out in Los Angeles for Saturday’s OneLife LA event give a resounding yes to that question.
OneLife LA is a unique pro-life march. While pro-life marches in the U.S. generally focus almost exclusively on the injustice of abortion, OneLife LA took a different approach by celebrating all human life, and encouraging participants to commit to doing something concrete to build a culture of life in their families and communities. Instead of providing a forum for activists and politicians, OneLife LA gave a platform to national and local speakers who had made a choice for life and human dignity, inspiring others to do the same in their lives and the lives of those they meet.
The pictures show the dynamism and vitality of the OneLife LA march through downtown Los Angeles. The celebration kicked off at La Placita Olvera. Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez led the crowds in prayer at the gazebo, right before the march.
More than 10,000 marched one mile through the city, past the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, and the City Hall, to Grand Park. The OneLife pink and white signs had slogans of “Proclaim Life,” “Every Life Matters” and “Be Somebody to Somebody” on one side and images of the unborn child and his mother, a parent with a small child, an elderly person with a cane, a person in a wheelchair, a person with a “hungry” sign, emphasizing their commitment to a holistic culture of life founded on the whole of the Church’s teachings on life.
Archbishop Gomez addressed the crowds at Grand Park. “My friends, we are being called to build a culture of life — a culture that loves life and defends life. A culture where every human life is welcomed and wanted and cared for.”
In the very next sentence, the archbishop made clear that it must be a culture that truly embraces all human life: not one that picks and chooses which lives it will defend, or prefers some lives over others. “Every life, at every stage and in every condition. From the moment life is conceived in the womb, until the moment life reaches its natural end in death.”
The archbishop sketched out what this means in concrete terms: “This duty to protect life begins with the life of the child in the womb. There is no one more innocent, no one more defenseless in our society than the unborn child. So we need to protect the unborn. That means ending legal abortion. But it also means reaching out in love to support the mother who carries the unborn child in her womb.
“The duty to protect life means that we need to stand with all those who are suffering and exploited and vulnerable in our society, especially those who are elderly and terminally ill. We need to protect them against the false compassion of euthanasia — which suggests that the sick would be better off dead than to be loved and cared for.”
Echoing Pope Francis’ condemnation of a “culture of waste” that discards human lives it sees no value in, or excludes from society, Archbishop Gomez also added, “In God’s eyes no one is a stranger — and there are no lives that are not worth living. No lives that we can leave behind or throw away.”
“That’s the beautiful truth that we’re here to celebrate today, that’s what OneLife LA is all about.”
Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, whose fellow Knights of Columbus, were part of the coalition that helped the Archdiocese make OneLife LA a reality, said this in his speech following Archbishop Gomez:
“St. John Paul II taught us that only a civilization of love is worthy of human dignity, and so creating a civilization of love, built on a culture of life, must be the goal.”
He went on: “We know that every human being should be loved, respected and aided. This is true of the cold child in need of a coat, the hungry family in need of food, the poor in need of education, and the child in utero waiting to be born.” After quoting Pope Francis about how attention to life has “become a real priority of the Magisterium of the Church,” Anderson reminded the crowds, “My friends, we know we cannot abandon some and help only others. We must see the face of God in every human being.”
OneLife LA also featured community partners on site providing participants with concrete, life-affirming ways they could build that civilization of love: helping pregnant mothers and the unborn, opening their homes to fostering older children, fighting human trafficking with their purchases and raising awareness in their communities, serving the homeless, helping kids of incarcerated parents, being involved with those with intellectual disabilities, and much more.
Angelus News, the online newspaper of the Los Angeles Archdiocese has more about this amazing event, which you can read here.
All photos are courtesy Victor Aleman/AngelusNews.com.
Peter Jesserer Smith is the Register’s Washington correspondent. He can be reached on Twitter here.
In lieu of comments below, feel free instead to check out some of OneLife LA's partners and their life-affirming action ideas, resolve to do one thing to respond to the invitation to build a culture of life, and spread the discussion on social media.