March for Life. This coming Friday, January 22, hundreds of St. Raymond’s parishioners will join hundreds of thousands of pro-life folks from around America gathered on the Washington Mall for the 44th annual March for Life. The parish is sponsoring three buses to take us down to the Mall, so please sign up and join us (sign-up sheets are in the narthex). Or join us down there, taking the metro or coming from your workplace in DC. And if you can’t come down to the Mall, join us in spirit and prayer wherever you are. Perhaps you can start discussions at work or school, always with charity, about the right to and dignity of human life. Or maybe you can watch the March live on EWTN (the global Catholic cable network), while saying the Rosary. Or maybe the best alternative to attending the March: while we’re marching you spend time in Church praying before the Blessed Sacrament.
We are at a crucial point in the pro-life movement. We’ve made great strides in convincing our neighbors about the dignity of human life, and in convincing ourselves of the need to stand up for life. But I am greatly concerned about the direction our country will go in the next few years, since there are so many issues that rightly concern Americans. Issues that, especially on the political level, may distract from the key issue of the right to life. We seem engulfed by mounting fears of terrorism, military and diplomatic threats abroad, global economic instability, historical unemployment and underemployment, growing racial tensions and violence, concerns over illegal immigration, big-government infringements/suppression of individual rights, increasing dependence on technology, rising healthcare costs, the downward spiral in education, the dramatic deconstruction of societal institutions such as marriage and family, the collapse of basic moral values, and on and on…
All these concerns understandably and necessarily demand our attention, but at the same time may potentially so disorient us that we may lose sight of the underlying importance of defending the right to life and rebuilding a culture of life. If you don’t have the right to life you certainly don’t have the right to safety from bodily attack (by terrorists or criminals or an overreaching government), much less a right to a job, or healthcare or marriage or anything. Without life, there are no rights.
I’m especially concerned this presidential election year because there seems to be a movement to abandon or compromise pro-life principles, especially in the historically pro-life party, the Republican Party. I won’t go into my personal opinions of the various candidates, but I will point out that Donald Trump, the current leader in the race for that party’s presidential nomination, is only a recent convert away from an apparently strong pro-abortion position, and that his current commitment to a pro-life position seems rather ambiguous. Even more troubling to me is that his supporters seem to be focusing on some of the issues listed above, especially the economy, immigration and terrorism, and ignoring his commitment to life. If elected, will he appoint officials to his administration, at all levels, who will defend life, the most basic human right? Will he appoint judges who defend life (not to mention traditional marriage and family), especially after he told a reporter in August that his sister, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, who is a Judge of the United States 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, would be a “phenomenal” Supreme Court justice. The only problem is, Judge Barry is a notorious pro-abortion judge, once issuing a ruling strongly in favor of the right to infanticide, partial birth abortion. Maybe this was just a brother praising his sister, and maybe this was just another example of Trump speaking without thinking it through. But…
My point is not to criticize Mr. Trump, or to oppose or support his nomination. Nor is it to pass judgment on the depth of his pro-life convictions—people convert, people change. Nor is it my point to oppose or support any candidate or political party. My point is that Americans are clearly understandably concerned about many important issues, and may be losing sight of one key and uncompromisable issue: the right to life.
And so we March on Friday. To defend and proclaim the dignity of human life, and to make it clear to politicians, to our neighbors, to each other and to ourselves, that the culture of life must be restored to our nation, or our nation will collapse. And that no issue on the political landscape “trumps” the need to protect the right to life. And that protecting that right must be an uncompromised priority whenever we elect our representatives in government, from president to school board member.
Children at Mass. Speaking of babies… Part of a commitment to a culture of life is supporting families who have chosen life, and are raising little ones. As spiritual father of this parish, this takes on a concrete meaning in how I and my spiritual children (of all ages) support families with babies. One way we attempt to do this is to welcome babies to our Masses, including being patient with crying or noisy babies at Mass, and their parents. We also remember that parents are under greater stress from all sides than parents were just 10 or 20 years ago, and don’t need to be scolded by us. So in charity, we strive to be patient and supportive, especially at Mass. Babies cry, and tiny children talk out loud at the darnedest times. We have to understand and be patient and supportive.
On the other hand, over the last few weeks there’s been a noticeable rise in the noise level at Masses. This happens every few months, like the seasons. But I knew it had reached a critical level when a little child asked me after Mass last week: “how do you say Mass with all the noise?”
Parents, we know how hard it is to raise children, especially the tiny ones. And I know I don’t need to tell you that charity goes both ways. But please remember that when a child gets out of hand, or continues to cry or speak out loud (much less shout) at Mass it’s time to do something, perhaps move to the “Family Room” or the narthex. It’s understandable that you let the tiny ones play quietly during Mass, but they shouldn’t play making loud noises (e.g., pounding on the pew, especially with hard objects, including shoes). And please remember, for example, there are other families with slightly older children who are easily distracted and discouraged when a baby continues to be disruptive. God bless you for your love for your children and all you do for them.
Traveling. If all goes as planned I will be out of town this Sunday, driving back from a family wedding in South Bend, IN. Lots of ice and snow and traffic. Please say a little prayer for me.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles