Death, death is all around us. You could feel it in the air.
This past Monday H and I went with friends on the bus to Washington D.C. for The March For Life. This was my first time, Helen's third. From CT is took us 7 hours, driving through the night and arriving just on time to attend the Mass at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. This was only my second time in D.C., the first this past August to go to the Restoring Honor rally. Let me say this; The Basilica is truly beautiful, inside and out, with all the altars off to each side. We ended up getting lost right at the end of our ride into D.C., the Basilica not registering on the bus drivers GPS. Go figure. We found seats in the side altar dedicated to The Miraculous Medal. A large video monitor provided us with the Mass, so we didn't miss a thing. But even though this event was part of the larger event, The March, I want to focus on what stood out and still stands out to me. Like I said, I'd never been to The March, never even protested at an abortion clinic. This was all new ground for me. Even the bus ride was disconcerting to me; there were no overhead lights on my side of the bus, and the none of the seats at all would recline. Needless to say, no sleep came to me Sunday night into Monday morning. No matter, I survived. After Mass, a different bus brought us to an abortion clinic, no, not a clinic, a mill. I didn't know what to expect. When we stepped off the bus there were already people standing on both sides of the sidewalk, I think praying and singing, I can't quite remember. A middle aged priest with that group showed us where to stand. Almost immediately this group left, and we moved down closer to the entrance. Young women dressed for the weather wearing yellow bibs that said Clinic Escort walked back and forth , up and down the sidewalk in front of us, I guess in order to keep the sidewalk open. This must happen all the time, and if not, on this day at least. A member of our group, R, one of the most spirit-filled people I know, began The Sorrowful Mysteries in a voice that was clear and strong in that cold morning air. At about this time, the leader of our group, Hal, the retired gentleman who organizes this bus every year began to walk behind one of the women escorts. For a sign he had two pieces of cardboard held together with twine, hung around his head. For the next hour he took turns walking behind each escort, silently, never saying a word, walking as we prayed aloud. I was called upon to lead The third Sorrowful Mystery, The Crowning of the Thorns. I remember starting to have a feeling of being swept up, of being a part of something that for some reason I'd never acknowledged, this feeling of, for lack of a better way to put it, Spirit of Christ, of doing something with others that, even in it's own small tiny way, was a voice. I felt a great sorrow for what we were here for, but sorrow mingled with satisfaction. Satisfaction in knowing that at least for this hour, the voice of God was being spoken here through His vessels, however unworthy. We ended the rosary and began The Divine Mercy, led by D in her soft quiet voice. We took turns leading this prayer, one leading, the rest of us following. We finished, and our bus had not yet arrived, so we began another, this time singing. God is so good. Even in the face of death, just footsteps from the entrance He shows Himself to us in the witnesses to our faith. Hal, walking silently, following the footsteps of the consorts of death. He was joined by an older woman, holding her own old sign, like Hal's a sign they use here every year, which just read Abortion Kills. And finally a young mother with her 9 month old baby, another member of our group, she began to march on the sidewalk holding her bundled baby in her arms. Talk about witnesses. As we were finishing the last prayers of The Divine Mercy the bus arrived, and we all formed a line and got on board, still singing. I was numb, but not from the cold. As I sat down I knew that He had been present with us on that sidewalk in a very strong way, and in thinking back, probably in one way or another present to everyone who was there, from the escorts to the five motorcycle policemen who showed up halfway through our protest to all of us in our group. Evil verses Good, right before our eyes. The veil lifted, just a little bit.
After the speeches, (which were very good) we began the march toward the Capitol. R had told us to stick together, and we'll pray all twenty decades of the Rosary. R has a beautiful melodic voice, and when he leads us in prayer his brogue comes through just a little bit. On that day the Holy Spirit was with him especially, for I'd never seen him with such purpose. We stuck close to him as best we could, answering him as he lead our prayers in the cold waning day. Two priests joined us, and for awhile a young nun also walked along, replying to the strong voice that lead us above the din. I don't recall if we made it through all 20 decades. I don't think so. Near the end, climbing the hill, I was cooked, my back done in by the bus ride and all the standing and walking. We stayed only a few minutes at the top, near the end point of the march, mainly so the young kids who were with us could see the whole thing. We turned our back on the Capitol, and made our way down to Union Station to find our bus.
The ride home was uneventful, and I made it to work on time the next day, going with 3 hrs sleep. I felt fine, really, still caught up in the excitement of my first march. I really hope I don't have to go back again, but I'm afraid I will. The culture of death is so ingrained in our society, it may never be eradicated. During the week I thought about the whole event, the bus ride, the cold creeping into my feet as we stood listening to the speakers, the March. How uncomfortable the whole thing had been. How just days before last Sunday I'd moaned to myself that I'd have to gulp! sleep on the bus, something I'm not good at. But you know where I'm going with this. He is always here with us, leading us, comforting, us, teaching us, giving graces to those who will listen. Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear. I heard, and saw, with my inner eye I saw. All of what I'd complained about is nothing. Nothing compared to the silent scream of a baby in the womb who feel the first prodding of the needle. Nothing compared to the guilt of the mothers and yes, the fathers who finally feel the truth to what they had done. The unregrettable remorse. The sadness that fills my own heart thinking of the event in my life, so long ago. Yes, I finally heard. A long bus ride to stand in the cold? Nothing, nothing at all to stand a be counted. Nothing at all to raise voices together Heavenward to counter the culture of death.