The March for Life was in many ways, as always, a rousing success – thousands of zealous pro-lifers of all ages and all walks of life coming together to witness to the dignity and protection of life from conception to natural death, to pray, and celebrate together. I have been going every year since the inception of the March over twenty years ago, missing only a few times due to travel and such, and I always look forward to stand for life, to see friends, and make new ones.
That said, if there was any downside, it was that numbers, which just aren’t what they used to be. This, perhaps, was in part a post-covid effect, but I think there is more to it than that, which should prompt us to ponder the nature and purpose of the March.
For one thing, there were far fewer school buses – I saw almost none, where in previous years, they were lined up all along Wellington Avenue. Someone mentioned to me this afternoon that various Catholic school boards forbade their students to go, and many others just did not seem to bother. In past years, teachers mentioned that the only way they could get their students to attend was to promise them a day off school, and time at the mall afterwards. But, mixed motives aside, they were still there on the Hill. And now, there were few.
One young family spent all night on a bus, with a gaggle of little children in tow. They said that in previous years, they could fill three buses, with a waiting list. This year, six people signed up, and it was only after a flurry of exhortatory phone calls that they managed to get thirty.
Another veteran, who has been a pro-life warrior since she was a young Mum, now a grandmother, said also that people of her generation – those who began the pro-life movement after Trudeau Sr.’s disastrous 1969 legalization of abortion – have lost hope. The March began with primarily a political motive, which is why it takes place on Parliament Hill. The hope was that politicians would see the thronging thousands, and their votes, if not their hearts and minds, would change, out of expediency, if nothing else.
That hope is almost gone. Few politicians want to touch pro-life legislation, and the few that do get burned. Canada is deep, deep in the culture of death, and not many government apparatchiks will be moved looking out those windows of Parliament. If they’re in their offices at all, they’ll just close the blinds, mirroring the blindness of their minds and hearts.
Which brings us back to the purpose of the March, which to my mind is not primarily political – at least, that’s not why I go. It’s spiritual, a pilgrimage of prayer. Even if only two or three showed up, it would be worth it, for there would God be in their midst. When in Ottawa, I often do my own solo ‘march for life’, walking – sometime rollerblading or cycling – from the Saint Patrick’s or the Cathedral (should we not begin all things with prayer and the Eucharist? And I’m heartened to see the March still does so). I then make my way to the Supreme Court, to Parliament, and to the abortion clinic on Bank Street, also perhaps the War Memorial to remember those who died for the good of this once-great Dominion, which might yet be so again.
That to me is the March for Life. As John Paul II teaches in Evangelium Vitae, the pro-life battle is primarily an eschatological one, taking place deep within the human soul – so perhaps we should make the March mirror that. Urge more bishops and priests to attend, not just on the Hill, but on the full walk. Carry statues of Our Lady, perhaps even full Eucharistic Procession with all the Latin hymns. Exorcise and consecrate the entire city and region and country. Go full Catholic sacramental triumphalist gusto. If it has political gain also, all to the good. That may be wildly unrealistic, but the world has become un-real, and what is more real to bring the world back to reality than the Real Presence?
One way or the other, we must persevere in the fight for life, and keep hope that some politicians and all those pro-abortion, are moved, even one inch, towards the truth.
For the Truth is what it’s all about, and only in Christ, and His Gospel of Life, will we conquer the culture of death.