In Washington, the site of the oldest and largest rally, participants will walk through the streets, en route to the Supreme Court building. Despite the challenges of a midwinter outdoor event, the March is always held in January to commemorate the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that opened the doors to legalized abortion. This years March is especially significant: January 22 marks the fortieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
Does It Matter?
I began attending the March while I was in elementary school. As I reflected on all the different times Ive gonethis will be something like my tenth yearI remembered a lot of things. Youth rallies, pro-life club t-shirts, sack lunches. That time there was a foot of snow on the ground. Riding the Metro to and from DC, packed like sardines.
The time that most stands out to me, however, is the one year that I didnt attend the March at all. That was three years ago, when I was a freshman in college. Id bundled up, packed a drawstring bag with bottled water and a handful of snacks, and headed toward my universitys bus stop, where a shuttle would be waiting to take me to the Metro.
I got there and discovered that the shuttle had already left, taking all my friends with it. Rather than wait for the next one, I turned around and went back to my dorm room. That afternoon I got a handful of texts asking where I was, but only from the friends with whom Id planned to go.
Ill be honest: Id felt obligated to attend the March, but with participation so high, I wondered whether my presence made any difference. When youre in a crowd of three or four hundred thousand people, its hard not to ask yourself whether it really matters that youre there. So when I didnt go that year, I didnt have much trouble rationalizing my guilt and assuaging my disappointment. As far as I could tell, my presence would have made no more difference than my absence had. And that was as trivial as a friends missing me as a seat partner on the train.
Fueled by Faith.
Despite my nagging doubts, I continued to go to the March for Life in the years that followed. And eventually I realized Id been missing the point. God doesnt ask us all to be the most important or influential activists for life. But he does ask us to be active.
We belong to a church that doesnt stay home in the face of social injustice. Service, so often brushed aside, is not an optional part of our call as Catholics. Whether its by attending the March or praying the rosary in front of an abortion clinic, we participate in the life of the church by defending the vulnerable. And when we participate in a community of believers, we receive the grace we need not only to keep serving, but to keep serving with great love.
Does my service make a difference for the movement? I cant answer that. And thats hard. Volunteers at homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and homes for the elderly are blessed with the ability to see the faces of those they serve. Since that one year when I missed the March, Ive prayed in front of abortion clinics, Ive interned for pro-life organizations, and Ive led the pro-life activities at my campus ministrybut I dont know if Ive ever saved a life. The movement necessarily runs on faith.
It Is Good
But this idea is nothing new. Were very familiar with Jesus words to his disciples in the upper room: Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed (John 20:29).
Miracles do happen, and the pro-life movement does save lives. Some people are even fortunate enough to meet the babies whose lives theyve saved. But Jesus didnt intend for his miracles alone to sustain our belief in him, nor should the miracles we experience be the only source of our motivation. Whatever our own estimation of our success, it is good that we serve the unborn. Even if were just one pair of feet among four hundred thousand.
Laura Mitchell is a senior economics student at George Mason University. She also serves as the student campus minister at the schools Catholic Campus Ministry.