Youth at Mass for Life thanked for offering sign of hope for the future
By Mark Zimmermann Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) — They came from near and far, and even from Down Under, united in prayer and in standing together for life at the Archdiocese of Washington’s annual Youth Rally and Mass for Life, held Jan. 18 at the Capital One Arena in Washington.
The estimated crowd of 18,000 came from the Washington area and from across the country and were joined by young adults from Sydney on their way to World Youth Day in Panama.
The main celebrant at the Mass, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, entered and left the arena smiling and waving a blessing to the spirited crowd of teens and young adults, many of whom wore colorful, matching hats or sweatshirts along with their school uniforms.
They had come, the archbishop said, for a day of prayer for the legal protection of unborn children and to stand up and speak out for all those who are vulnerable in society, and also “to give thanks to God for the gift of life.”
“Dear young people, thank you for the witness of your Catholic faith, both now in holy Mass, on the streets of Washington, and more importantly, when you return home to your families and neighborhoods,” he said.
Archbishop Pierre read a message from Pope Francis, who said he was united in prayer with the thousands of young people who had come to Washington to join the March for Life. The pontiff in his message said the challenging task for each generation is “to uphold the inviolable dignity of human life.” The pope’s message said respect for the sacredness of every life is essential in building a just society, where every child, and every person, is welcomed as a brother and sister.
Fifteen other bishops concelebrated the Mass including the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher who was accompanying the Australian pilgrims. About 175 priests also concelebrated the Mass, assisted by about 30 permanent deacons.
The arena crowd also included an estimated 500 seminarians and 100 women religious.
Opening his homily at the Mass, Father Robert Boxie III, the parochial vicar at St. Joseph Parish in Largo, Maryland, said, “To see this arena filled with the Body of Christ, I’m looking out and seeing hope for the future of our church, and hope for the future of our country. It’s an awesome and beautiful sight!”
Noting that the first reading at the Mass included the passage from Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you,” the priest added, “The womb is the first place God encounters us. God encounters us in the womb and seeks to encounter us in each moment of our lives.”
He said abortion is a symptom of a sickness in society and it shows “our failure to encounter one another and see the image of God and the face of Jesus Christ in our brothers and sisters. Simply put, it’s our failure to love.”
Echoing concerns raised by Pope Francis, the priest called on young people to counteract society’s culture of indifference with a culture of encounter.
“Truly building a culture of life depends on how we encounter each other,” he said, encouraging people not only to march for life, but to “stand up for every human life inside and outside the womb,” including people in all stages of life, and also the poor, the neglected, immigrants and refugees. “All of these lives,” he added, “are sacred and precious in the eyes of God.”
Archbishop Fisher then greeted the young people at the arena with a friendly, “G’day!” and jokingly added that is the Australian way of saying, “The Lord be with you.”
He said it was a great joy for him to accompany the young Aussies on the March for Life.
The Australian prelate said he hoped some of the young people in the arena would become priests or women religious or become “spouses and parents of the next generation of Christians… Whatever God’s plan for you, know you are precious in his eyes,” from the moment of conception until death, he said.
Sister Maria Juan, a Religious Sister of Mercy of Alma, Michigan, served as a master of ceremony for the youth rally, and at the end of Mass, she noted the bishops and the large numbers of priests, women religious and seminarians there, and the crowd gave them sustained applause. Some of the young people stood to indicate that they were discerning a vocation, and they too were applauded.
The sister noted that “in the church today, we are experiencing a lot of trials,” but she added through the 2,000-year history of the church, “at those exact moments, God also raises up great saints to be light in the darkness.”
She added, “Always remember it is Jesus Christ calling you to this, the church loves you and the world needs you.”
The Mass’s program encouraged young people to continue their advocacy for life after the march, by doing things like volunteering at a pregnancy center, starting or joining a pro-life club, educating peers on chastity and the church’s teaching on life, being open and loving to teens in crisis, and praying for mothers, fathers and unborn children.
The Mass ended on a joyful note, as the congregation sang the song, “Your Grace is Enough,” and some of the bishops and priests as they processed out, waved to young people in the different sections of the arena.
‘Deception’ guided court cases that legalized abortion, archbishop says
By Mark Pattison Catholic News Service
“The late Norma McCorvey, Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade, lied about being gang-raped,” said Archbishop Naumann, new chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities. “After her pro-life conversion, Norma acknowledged that she was deceived by her attorneys about the reality of abortion. For the last 20 years of her life, Norma McCorvey labored tirelessly to overturn Roe v. Wade.”
In his homily at the Jan. 17 March for Life vigil Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, Archbishop Naumann said, “The late Sandra Cano, the Jane Doe of the Doe v. Bolton decision, never wanted an abortion.”
He added, “Her lawyers, whom she had engaged to assist with regaining the custody of her children, used her difficult circumstances to advance their own ideological goal to legalize abortion. She actually fled the state of Georgia, when she feared that her lawyers and family members intended to pressure her to actually have an abortion.”
Archbishop Naumann also touted another early figure in the abortion debate, Dr. Bernard Nathanson.
“Nathanson, one of the founders of NARAL and himself an abortionist, became pro-life not because of theology or any religious sentiment, but from his own study of the scientific advancements in embryology and fetology,” he said. “While it is true that Dr. Nathanson eventually became Catholic, it was long after he had become a pro-life advocate because of science.”
Archbishop Naumann criticized one of the consequences of legal abortion.
“Protecting the life of the unborn children is the pre-eminent human rights issue of our time, not only because of the sheer magnitude of the numbers, but because abortion attacks the sanctuary of life, the family. Abortion advocates pit the welfare of the mother against the life of her child,” he said.
“Every abortion not only destroys the life of an innocent child, but it wounds and scars mothers and fathers who must live with the harsh reality that they hired someone to destroy their daughter or son. In reality, the welfare of parents and their child are always intimately linked.”
Archbishop Naumann also took note of the legal and political landscape surrounding abortion.
“We assemble in 2019 with some new hope that the recent changes in the membership of the Supreme Court may result in a re-examination and an admission by the court of its tragic error 46 years ago,” he said, referring to the addition of Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch. “We pray that state legislatures and the people of this country will again have the ability to protect the lives of unborn children.”
He added, “At the same time, we are sobered by the ferocity and the extremism of the proponents of legalized abortion as evidenced in the recent confirmation process to fill a vacancy on the U. S. Supreme Court. Recently, two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned the suitability of a judicial nominee because of his membership in an extremist organization” — and here he paused to make a face, as if he couldn’t believe what he was about to say next — “the Knights of Columbus.”
The Mass, which brought an estimated 10,000 people into the basilica’s Great Upper Church, was not as filled with pomp and grandeur. The entrance procession, for instance, lasted 17 minutes — less than half the 35 minutes recorded in some past years.
Also, after the prayers the faithful, all at Mass read aloud a “Prayer for Healing Victims of Abuse,” which read in part, “Gentle Jesus, shepherd of peace, join to your own suffering the pain of all who have been hurt in body mind, and spirit by those who betrayed the trust placed in them. Hear our cries as we agonize over the harm done to our brothers and sisters.”
Archbishop Naumann also mentioned the abuse crisis in his homily.
“For all Catholics, the last several months have been profoundly difficult. We’ve been devastated by the scandal of sexual misconduct by clergy and of past instances of the failure of bishops to respond with compassion to victims of abuse and to protect adequately the members of their flock,” he said.
“The abuse of children or minors upends the pro-life ethic because it is a grave injustice and an egregious offense against the dignity of the human person,” he said. “Moreover, the failure to respond effectively to the abuse crisis undermines every other ministry in the church.”