What I Saw at the March for Life

We celebrated life. We celebrated hope. We celebrated love.

John and Lisa Clark with Bishop Michael Burbidge at the 46th March for Life, Jan. 18, 2019.
John and Lisa Clark with Bishop Michael Burbidge at the 46th March for Life, Jan. 18, 2019. (photo: Register Files)

I attended my first March for Life when I was about 13 years old, and went pretty regularly for the following three decades. For various reasons, however, I had not been to a March for a few years. This year, I felt called to go back, and I’m very happy I did.

Some Catholics—in fact, tens of thousands of Catholics all around the country—would never consider missing the March. For many, it’s become a facet of Catholic life. I love how Catholics refer to the March for Life simply as “The March.” In the middle of summer with the event months and hundreds of miles away, you can ask a fellow Catholic “Are you going to the March this year?” and he will know exactly what you’re talking about.

It’s easy to see why, since there are so many Catholic elements to the March. As my wife Lisa and I waded through the sea of marchers, we’d hop into a group saying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and then move up and hear another praying the Rosary. We saw hundreds of priests, religious sisters, religious brothers, and bumped into Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia.

As someone who has been going to the March since the early 1980s, this was the biggest crowd I’ve seen. I suspect that the crowd size is routinely underestimated by a media that would rather dismiss the very idea of the March for Life, and I have no special way of counting the numbers in such massive crowds, but I make the following observation. When Lisa and I walked to the top of Capitol Hill, there were already a sea of people ahead of us. When we looked back, the crowd as far as the eye could see. I’ve seen estimates as high as 300,000 attendees, but that might be very, very conservative.

If you’ve never been, you might be amazed at how much joy there is at the March. We bumped into friends we hadn’t seen in decades. We smiled and laughed with people we had never met, but seemed like we had known for a lifetime. We cheered on kids who had traveled hundreds of miles by bus to be there and march in the cold. We celebrated life. We celebrated hope. We celebrated love.

Of course, the March must seem a walking anachronism to the world. It brings together the very young and the very old in the middle of winter to peacefully demonstrate in what seems to be not only a losing cause, but a lost cause. But if they looked a little closer, they would see that a cause with so much passionate support can never be lost. More than anything, today’s event reminded me of that. And however many marches we have attended, we all need reminders.

One last point. For all you young Catholics who spent days taking buses from all around the country, and who are now making the long drives back home, it will probably cross your mind as to whether attending today’s March for Life mattered.

Consider this. The heroic pro-life pioneer Joseph Scheidler liked to relate a speech delivered by Rep. Henry Hyde, delivered only a few years after the Roe abomination. One passage bears special consideration today:

When the time comes, as it surely will, when we face that awesome moment, the final judgment, I’ve often thought, as Fulton Sheen wrote, that it is a moment of terrible loneliness.

You have no advocates. You are there alone standing before God. And a terror will rip your soul like nothing you can imagine. But I really think that those in the pro-life movement will not be alone. I think there’ll be a chorus of voices that have never been heard in this world but are heard beautifully and clearly in the next world—and they will plead for everyone who has been in this movement.

They will say to God, ‘Spare him, because he loved us!’

Whenever you get discouraged in the good work you do to help the unborn, whenever you witness the love of God and the love of the unborn to the world—such as you witnessed today—please remember these awesome words of Henry Hyde. And keep up the good work.

See you next year!