A young woman prays at a youth rally in Washington, D.C., prior to the annual March for Life in January. (CNS)
Seven years ago, my wife and I were both university students and were joyfully expecting the arrival of our first-born child. In terms that left scarce room for interpretation, my wife’s supervisor in the master’s degree program told her that she would soon have to make a decision: the baby or her studies.
This episode sadly demonstrates the situation in Quebec and in Canada overall: Children are often seen as a hindrance to one’s career, marriage, social life and bank account. The culture of life and the idea of family are largely rejected.
Needless to say, my wife and I do not subscribe to this rationale. On Jan. 18, we set off — accompanied by our two children — to Washington, D.C., to attend the 37th annual March for Life and other pro-life activities. Of the experience, we have retained three conclusions.
The first concerns the cultural context. For many Canadians living in Quebec, Americans seem to live in a favorable socio-political environment where it is easy to support pro-life values. Nevertheless, it is wrong to assume that the pro-life movement in the United States magically appeared out of nowhere and with little effort. While visiting various booths at a pro-life convention coinciding with the march, I had the pleasure of speaking with a dynamic activist from Kansas, Mark Gietzen. He explained to me that nothing has been simple for the advocates of life in building their movement since the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973. Gietzen and his colleagues were first seen as marginal, but they have showed determination and resilience. Their hard work in the vineyards of the American public sphere has borne fruit: For the first time, Gallup polls in 2009 showed in Americans a clear disposition toward the pro-life position.
Secondly, we were impressed by the youth Mass and rally that was held at the Verizon Center. The enthusiasm was comparable to that of a hockey game, and we felt like it was World Youth Day all over again. These radiant young men and women gave no impression that they were obliged to be there, or that they had endured a long bus ride to the U.S. capital for the pleasure of simply eating pizza. With passion, they carry the Gospel of Life that Pope John Paul II tirelessly promoted. Indeed, the culture of life is not solely the affair of elderly people with nostalgic or old-fashioned feelings. In not conforming to the hyper-sexualization of our society, these youth are not scared by Catholic teachings of fidelity and abstinence. They also comprehend the fundamental truth that a fetus is not just a mass of cells but a human being.
Finally, the March for Life in Washington allowed us to meet numerous Catholics — as well as Orthodox Christians, Jews, Evangelicals and Protestants — from not only the United States, but also from France, Italy and Brazil. Said in another way, the culture of life is not the sole prerogative of the Knights of Columbus or the Church of Rome. It is essential to unite every man and woman of goodwill to fight against the culture of death that is omnipresent in our society. In this respect, we were particularly touched by the testimony of a woman representing Silent No More, a group founded by Anglicans and Catholics dedicated to allowing women and men who have experienced abortion to openly express the harmful effects this procedure created in their lives.
During our presence in Washington, we were not Canadians on foreign soil, but four individuals eager to carry high the flag of the pro-life movement. The culture of life is not the exclusive territory of Americans, Canadians or any another nationality; it rests on the firm will of all those willing to defend life from conception to natural death. In short, it concerns us all.
Let us now hope that every Knight in Canada will actively promote the pro-life marches that will take place throughout our country this month and will pray for their resounding success. Life is priceless. It is our calling to invest ourselves to promote and defend it.