WASHINGTON, D.C., JAN. 25, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., had a new energy this year due to a significant youth presence among the hundreds of thousands of protesters.
Each year since the Jan. 22, 1973, Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States, marchers from across the country have taken to the streets in the nation’s capital in protest. Although the protest is traditionally held on the anniversary date of the Roe v. Wade decision, this year, since that day fell on a weekend, the March for Life took place on Monday, in order to allow for the interchange of the people with their representative lawmakers.
This year’s protest, which drew up to 400,000 people, featured a majority of young people born after the court decision.
One participant, Richard McGill, of Elmira Heights, New York, a regular participant at the annual March for Life since the beginning, told the National Catholic Register that there has been a “dramatic change the last few years.”
“Try to find the old-timers,” he said. “It’s mostly young people now.”
McGill added: “Something is going to change sometime. You can see it in the young people.”
As is tradition, the march was preceded by a youth rally and Mass on Monday morning. This year, however, a second venue was added to accommodate the growing numbers of young people.
Some 34,000 gathered in the Verizon Center and the D.C. Armory for the rallies, and six additional Masses were held at churches around the capital city.
Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States, addressed the youth and shared with them a message from Benedict XVI.
In his homily at the armory, Father Patrick Riffle, parochial vicar at St. Peter Church in Olney, Maryland, observed the energy in the crowd: “The Church is young; the Church is alive! Man, I love being Catholic!”
He acknowledged that “what we are dealing with here is something much greater than just the issue of abortion.”
The priest continued: “It is a state of mind; a way of thinking that fails to recognize the beauty and dignity of the human person. It is a mentality that says that it is all about me.”
“If I am only seeking my good, and you are only seeking what is good you, then all we are doing then is simply using each other,” he stated. “What we are dealing with is, as the soon to be beatified Pope John Paul II rightfully named it, the culture of death.”
Father Riffle explained: “This is the mentality that lies behind violence, terrorism, and discrimination. It is what is behind drug and alcohol abuse, pornography and pre-marital sex and contraception.”
“If we are going to rid our nation of the tragedy of abortion,” he added, “if we are going to be truly pro-life, we are going to have to rid our society and ourselves of this culture of death.”
“The Gospel of life is proclaimed first and foremost in the living out of our Catholic faith in daily life,” the priest affirmed.
He urged the young people: “If you as a Catholic want to be pro-life, you must be pro-Christ. That means that you must seek to live out your Catholic faith in its entirety.”
“The best way that you as young person can really be a living witness to the Gospel of life is through living lives that are chaste and pure,” Father Riffle said.
He continued, “Keeping sex within the context of marriage, not viewing pornographic materials, keeping your Facebook page free from inappropriate materials all reaffirm your belief in that the dignity that belongs to each and every person.”
“Men, you need to take the charge in this,” the priest asserted. “So often the media and advocates for abortion would like to portray life issues as a woman’s issues, but it is an issue for both women and men alike.”
“We are naturally the protectors of life,” he affirmed. “Never do anything that seeks to objectify or lessen the dignity of anyone, yourselves included, but most especially the dignity of a woman.”
At the Verizon Center, Father Mark Ivany, parochial vicar at the Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda, Maryland, gave the homily.
He underlined the need to know what it means to be human as God created us, in his image and likeness.
“As Catholics we all know the One who created us, the One who knows us and who loves us,” the priest affirmed.
He stated, “We must remember that our mission is not just to change one law in our country; our mission is to change the whole culture of our country.”
Father Ivany underlined the need “to create a culture in our country that recognizes and protects human life from conception to natural death, a culture that sees the importance of purity and chastity before marriage and the gift of openness to life in marriage.”
“You do this every time we live our lives the way Jesus intended humans to live,” he encouraged the youth, “every time you say no to sex before marriage, and yes to purity, every time you say no to materialism and yes to helping the less fortunate, every time you help a friend to say no to abortion, and yes to life, and every time you help someone who has been involved in an abortion to get help.”
In this way, the priest said, “you are setting an example that will lead to the end of the culture of death and the beginning to a culture of life, the culture that we were created to live in.”