The Unexpected March
I always believed that the March for Life was a misnomer. The Stroll for Life seemed more appropriate. This cockiness set me up quite well for some well-deserved divine justice. The March for Life 2016 wasn't a stroll or a march. It was closer to a trudge. This was my first time at the National March for Life in DC and it's true that I didn't know what I was getting myself into, but I don't think anyone foresaw the struggle that would be involved. Departing for DC, there were rumours of an impending snowstorm circling amongst the attendees, but the rumours were quickly dismissed. We are Canadian! We are born in the snow and live by the snow. Knowing how quick some US news sources are to exaggerate, we assumed we would probably see a sprinkling of snow before watching it melt in the morning sun.
Flash forward to the start of the March. We’ve just been interviewed by EWTN, laughed and joked with super bowl champion Matt Birk and even took a group selfie with him. We’re sitting pretty! We’ve got clear skies, no wind, and enthusiastic red white and blue friends. As the March began and the pavement trembled from the feet of tens of thousands of uninhibited activists I felt the old familiar kiss of a snowflake. It started of as a gentle, life giving snow but it quickly turned to a flurry the likes of which McDonald’s has never produced. It was a beautiful sight, seeing thousands and thousands of faces forging on amidst the storm especially when this was the first time seeing snow for a couple of dazed Southerners. The obvious parallel between weathering the physical and metaphorical storm speaks for itself, but what really leapt out at me was the determination that ignited behind the eyes. There’s nothing like a shared enemy to bring people together.
The March continued and we pushed on behind the tens of thousands of pro-lifers. After climbing Capitol Hill and spending some time listening to the moving stories and testimonials of the Silent No More campaign we decided to head to our hotel. We had to hustle, since the DC metro was going to close due to the snow. I was still optimistically dismissive of the storm. When we got off the train, there was more than 8 inches of snow on the ground. I was surprised. As we made the lengthy hike to our hotel from the subway station, I began to lament the lack of my snowshoes. When we finally arrived, we heard that Students For Life of America (SFLA) had cancelled their massive conference due to the snow and that our flight was cancelled too. I started to take the storm slightly more seriously. The grocery stores had empty shelves and were closing early, with no firm plans or when they would reopen. Most restaurants were closed and the few remaining ones had many hour waits.
Thanks to the storm cancelling our flight we got to explore Georgetown. Through the snow, we saw St. Stephen Martyr Church across from our hotel. While looking for mass times, we realized that there was a pro-life conference happening in the hall underneath the church! Megan Healy, a smart, courageous 17 year old put the pieces together and saw that with SFLA’s cancellation there were wonderful pro-life speakers in town and snowed in pro-lifers. In the blink of a sleepless eye, Megan and her friends under took the massive job of coordinating all the SFLA speakers with a venue and then publicising it like crazy over social media. They did in hours what most people do over a year. Thanks to her quick thinking and hard work we were blessed to hear Jason Jones and Abby Johnson speak in a church where the Kennedys used to go to mass. It was an unbelievable moment. I had expected to be back in Canada at that point. I hadn’t planned to be snowed in, or to hear Jason Jones talk. God works through the most surprising things.
When we finally were headed home, another cancellation and delay later, we reflected as a group on how amazing the trip was. The March was a pilgrimage in a way that I hadn’t expected. There was actual marching required through a surprising amount of snow. There was time for waiting, struggle, thinking and praying. It reaffirmed what it means to be the pro-life generation. We will end abortion, but we will end it God’s way, not ours. That means it’ll happen in mysterious, challenging and miraculous ways.