Over the past several years, I have become increasingly aware of the large number of young people who take part in the March for Life. Filling the Verizon Center and other venues to maximum capacity very early on Friday morning for the Youth Rally and walking in step in the afternoon with an estimated hundreds of thousands of Americans who have been upholding and witnessing to this fundamental right to life, beginning at conception, for decades, these youth offer us tangible hope. Moreover, they point to a very real responsibility that each of us exercises in virtue of our Baptism, regardless of age.
Young people offer us hope because they seem to understand inherently the inestimable value of the gift of life. They have not necessarily studied embryology, they may not have read encyclicals about the sanctity of life or books about the evil of abortion; nevertheless they “get it.” Perhaps this is because they have not experienced the same cultural or political baggage that people of older generations may have, that of living through the Roe v. Wade decision and all that resulted from it. These young people, both because of and in spite of their age, grasp that the sanctity of life exists in the youngest among us – the unborn. When I see children and teenagers in the thousands, maybe even more than half of all who witness at the March for Life, I am inspired by the clarity with which they speak and the enthusiasm with which they proclaim the Truth.
It is my fervent hope that these young people, with their clear vision, will steadfastly hold to their conviction as they mature into young adults. Last week, I also marched alongside thousands of young adults who have done just that. Many of them traveled from different universities and cities or took vacation days in order to defend the dignity of life in the public sphere. They witness to the Truth and have not succumbed to secularism. Naturally, these young people eventually become priests, religious, parents and working professionals. A number of our diocesan priests led groups at the March, demonstrating the connection between faith and the defense of life. Parents led children by the hand, manifesting their love of life by their devotion to their family. Professionals willingly witnessed to those with whom they work that protecting life is a priority in their personal and public life.
So what is the responsibility that we have to young people? As they grow into adulthood, these children will be exposed evermore to society, including pro-abortion points of view. Therefore, we must bolster them with solid catechesis and prayerful support. By laying a firm foundation through education, our youth will be prepared to encounter all points of view and to convey articulately the moral and life-giving teachings of the Catholic Church.
The March for Life happens once a year, but each day we have the opportunity to stand for the dignity of life. Pray for our young people and unashamedly surround them with a pro-life culture without shielding them from the reality of society. Become stewards of life through your prayers, your dialogue with public officials and your conversations with family and friends. Recognize that every person whom you encounter is a child of God who has inherent dignity. In this opening month which begins 2010, and throughout the year, I ask you to join me in praying that the minds and hearts of our country’s leaders will be affected by the witness of those who know the value of life.