Tuesday, January 29, 2013

(109) The 2013 March for Life Pilgrimage: Thoughts and Lessons Learned





            This is the 40th March for Life since the Roe v Wade Supreme Court Decision of January 22, 1973 legalizing abortion in all 50 states.  “Abortion is still legal and over 55 million babies have had their lives snuffed out since that day of infamy.  It is so evil because little human beings --created for eternity according to the image of God and along with the angels His most magnificent creation-- are destroyed.  What have we accomplished in 40 years?” my wife Jaga asked.  The answer is: a lot.  During Republican administrations, abortion funding was struck out of our foreign aid programs.  A number of states have mandated such rules as parental consent, informed consent regarding alternatives to abortion; a waiting period; prohibitions against partial birth abortion; etc.  The majority of the American people actually favor some restrictions to abortion as opposed to abortion on demand.

        A Prayerful Pilgrimage. I realized that the March for Life is much more that a protest or demonstration to our leaders and representatives in Washington advocating that they do something to combat one of the greatest affronts to human dignity in history alongside the Nazi slaughter of the Jews as well as numerous Christians; the Communist Gulag of Russian Siberia (read the story of a Polish-American priest in the Gulag at http://www.ciszek.org/About_Ciszek.html); and slavery.  The March for Life is not simply an excursion; it’s actually a pilgrimage which is a prayerful journey to a place of prayer.   The actual 45 minutes or so march should consist of silent prayer or song and meditation.  It must be a prayerful pilgrimage because hearts must be changed in order to stop abortion..  Politicians can’t do that; only God can.  However, God can use politicians as His instruments.

            Our bus of people from St. Louis Church Gallipolis, Sacred Heart Pomeroy, St. Ambrose Belpre; St. Lawrence Ironton, and the few of our separated brethren accepted the pilgrimage concept.  Fr. Tom Hamm, the pastor of St. Louis started it off with a Mass for Life at 6:30 pm Wednesday January 23 followed by all night adoration of the Blessed Sacrament until 4:30 am.  After boarding the bus at 5 am, Fr. Tom started the trip with a prayer and blessing. 
The Rosary. After getting a little shuteye, I explained what the rosary is: a meditation of the mainly biblical events involving Mary and her son with the repetitive prayer serving as background music.  The prayers include repetitions of the “Our Father” and the “Hail Mary”, both of which are biblical.  In the latter we also ask Mary to pray for us as I ask you to pray for me.  Also included in the rosary are the Apostles Creed and six repetitions of the “Glory Be” giving praise to the Holy Trinity.  For centuries Mary has advocated the praying of the rosary in her diverse apparitions through the centuries.  See my blogs #50, 73, 78, & 84 at www.paulrsebastianphd.blogspot.com for meditations on the 20 Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysteries with biblical references.

            We prayed for Divine Mercy upon those who have facilitated or committed the grievous sin of abortion and the countless many who have done nothing to stop this evil under the guise of “tolerance” and  fear of “imposing my personal belief” on those who see nothing wrong with the evil of abortion.  After I explained it, we prayed the “Chaplet of Divine Mercy” which Christ asked St. Faustina to promulgate during His appearances to her in the 1930s in Krakow-Poland preceding World War II.  The primary message is that Christ is not only a God of Justice, but also a God of Mercy and we should show mercy to others.  Our Lord also asked her to record what he revealed to her.  That included contracting an artist to paint an image of what she saw and the book “Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul” available from www.amazon.com.  For more detail, see my blog #80 by clicking on our visit to the Divine Mercy Shrine in Poland at http://paulrsebastianphd.blogspot.com/2012/04/blog-post_15.html.

            The Chaplet is a litany of repetitive prayer asking for mercy upon us and upon the whole world.  However, the focus again is on meditating upon the many events and aspects of Our Lord’s passion with the litany like background music.  Christ promised that if the Chaplet is recited in the presence of a dying person, He would come to him/her. 

            The rest of the trip consisted of great fellowship and watching a dramatic movie about a beautiful woman who managed to survive a botched abortion and her struggles over being rejected by her birth mother after her loving adoptive parents revealed that fact.  Again, the Stapleton and Lewis babies were as well behaved as angels and added so much to the pilgrimage.  Noticeably missing were Mama Bernadette and Grandma Karen who attended the funeral of Great Grandpa Clifford Stapleton Sr.  Arriving at about 3:30 pm, we checked into the Red Roof Inn, the only motel in the area that did not support Planned Parenthood according to Chrissy Stapleton's computer search.
            The Mass for Life in the great Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on Thursday evening before the March was beautiful.  It was so gratifying to see so many high school and college students occupying every possible space allowed (aisles were kept open) both on the main floor and in the crypt where we could only participate in the Mass with enthusiastic prayer and song with the aid of many television monitors.  Also gratifying was the great number of  seminarians and young priests.  There is hope for the future of the Church!  My Blog #67 has more detail on it and the March.

             Praying in Front of Abortion ClinicsThe next morning we were on our way to the March with the almost “miraculous” appearance of Bernadette Lewis and Karen Davison Stapleton who could take turns loving each of her grand babies (about 8 of them) after all.  They came by car immediately after the funeral.  On the way to Washington I asked everybody to prayerfully consider during the morning rosary and the March itself the next step in combatting abortion……that is silently and peacefully praying in front of nearby abortion clinics.
I was inspired by a talk on EWTN cable, satellite, and internet television (www.ewtn.com) by an interview of Abby Johnson, a former director of a Planned Parenthood Abortion Mill (http://www.abbyjohnson.org/) and author of the book, “Unplanned”.  She repeated and emphasized that the single most effective thing that one can do for the Pro-life cause is to simply pray silently and peacefully in front of an abortion clinic.   The love showed despite some risk had a profound effect upon her and influenced her conversion together with the grace of God.  Sidewalk counseling is only effective if one is well trained. 
Also inspiring was hearing about a classmate of my daughter Stephanie at Thomas Aquinas College (she participated in the March for Life in San Francisco on Saturday).  Read about a martyr for the Pro-Life Cause, Andrew Kentiger Moore on my Blog #88.  He was killed by a car during an early morning fog while prayerfully walking across the United States to pray, witness, and educate people at stops along the way.

The March.  We had an hour and a half before our start at 1 pm at 7th & Constitution in front of the Federal Trade Commission.  So Steve Smith and I spent some time at the Archives, which is just across the street.  It had a great exhibition on the Cuban Missile Crisis when we came so perilously close to a nuclear holocaust in October 1962 (I remember it so vividly.  The fear was worse than 9/11).  I met my godson, Danny there.  It was a highlight for me since I haven’t seen him for years.  He’s a graduate of MIT in Civil Engineering and has done considerable work in development projects for the Interamerican Development Bank and the World Bank.  I’m proud of him and his desire to serve humanity, something he got from his parents whom I worked with in Peru.  Just seeing the mass of people on this very cold day really impressed him.  

His comment convinced me that the mere presence of over 400,000 people traveling in the cold from as far away as North Dakota and Florida must have witnessed to all of the Washingtonians who saw it.  Too bad that the mainstream media ignored it all; only EWTN television covered live the Mass, the speeches on the Mall, and the March itself. 

 The rest of our group decided to hear the talks on the Mall and couldn’t make it to our starting point.  So not finding them and the March having already started, I was on my own, not sure if they were ahead of me or behind.  I enjoyed hearing the seminarians singing in Latin and a band from the America Needs Fatima group.  There were people of all ages, including beautiful young nuns and young monks in their habits.  Many kids from the Catholic grade schools and high schools were enthusiastic and exuberant.  Even a Jewish group for life in conservative traditional dress added to the event.  The Knights of Columbus were there front and center, financing some of the signs.  I ran into Fr. Nelson Hegao, a Piarist priest from Colombia.  It was his order that educated my father in Timisoara, Roumania (then Hungary) before and during World War I.  I was thrilled to meet them and see that this small order has houses all over the world including Europe, USA, South America, and even Africa.

Lost in Washington: me or the bus?  I arrived at the Library of Congress at about 2:30 pm, about a ten block walk of some 45 minutes.  Then another adventure began.  For the next 2½ hours I kept walking back and forth at our meeting point to keep warm.  It’s a good thing I had long johns, thermal socks over another pair, and a house jacket underneath my overcoat.  With the hoard of people the group did not see me and I did not see them.  The March was over about 4 pm.  I just kept walking.  When a cop said that buses were not allowed in this area, I walked a block down to 2nd & Independence and back a number of times, hoping to stumble upon the bus.  

I figured that they had left me.  My cell phone was dead and I did not have the cell numbers of people on the bus (two counts of being dumb).  Although praying, I was starting to give up hope and asked a cop where the Greyhound Bus Station was.  Suddenly I remembered that Karen Stapleton once gave me her cell phone number which I had in my little pocket address/notebook.  I borrowed a phone from a cop and called.  We only got voice mail since he must have dialed the wrong number.  Since I had the phone, I decided to call up Jaga to tell her that after a half hour more I’m heading to the Greyhound Bus station and to pick me up in Columbus (that would have been really dumb since they would not leave without me).  “Copy down this number and call it”.  “OK……I love you; bye”.  So I called and Scott said that they are on 4th and Independence.  I wasn’t sure if I was going in the right direction since there’s two 4th & Independence north and south.  Luckily I spotted the bus and dodged traffic to cross the street.  Thank God; they were praying too…….one to St. Anthony, the patron of lost items.  All my life I’ve made him work overtime.  She said her son lost an implant in the ocean; they prayed to St. Anthony; and the next day they found it washed onto the beach.

It turned out that Steve, who also was lost, had my home phone number and called Jaga.  She was like an old fashioned switchboard operator making calls to get hold of a cell phone number of somebody on the bus.  Bernadette Lewis remembered my home phone number and called Jaga.  So Scott called Steve and I called Scott and we were finally together.  I walk about half an hour a day; that day in Washington I exercised enough for a week.  I guess I’m not that old after all.

Moral of the Story.  Last year everyone had a map……x marks the starting point and meeting time; y marks the ending and final meeting point to walk to the bus.  It also had a couple of cell phone numbers of people on the bus.  Why didn’t we do that this year?  I would add: and z for probable points where the bus might be.  In addition instruct everybody:  “STAY IN ONE SPOT BT THE FOUNTAIN IN FRONT OF THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS ON ITS SIDE OF THE STREET.  DO NOT LEAVE.  THE BUS WILL NOT LEAVE UNTIL WE FIND YOU”.  If a couple of people would have stayed there with a cell phone instead of going to the bus, we would have stumbled upon each other.

Our adventure still was not over.  The bus crawled out of congested Washington; it was snowing, but we were on our way.  I apologized to everybody as a group and one on one.  After stopping at McDonald’s, we watched a great movie underwritten by the Knights of Columbus, “For Greater Glory”.  It’s exasperating that Hollywood distributes mostly junk and won’t distribute a great movie like this even though it had top Hollywood actors in it.  I explained some of the history of the time relating to the Cristero Wars for religious liberty, a basic freedom against intense persecution of the Church.  Blogs #42 & a part of #105 relate to that bloody period in the history of the Church in Mexico.

The bus broke down and barely made it to the bus depot in Parkersburg, West Virginia.  So we had to unload our original bus and move ourselves and our gear to another one.  After stops in Belpre and Pomeroy, we finally made it to Gallipolis.  The driver keeps the bus in New Albany where he lives and Rio Grande was on the way.  He left me off in front of our home at about 2 am and I found Jaga sleeping on the couch ready to pick me up in the middle of the night.  Thank you Tim and Chrissy Stapleton for all of your work in organizing this and obtaining donations.  You work together as a great team in and out of your home. Thank you generous donors for reducing our bus and motel costs with one meal to only $30 for each of the 40 or so people who came. 

After a few hours of sleep it was off to the meeting of the Steering Committee for the Diocesan Men’s Day of Renewal in Caldwell, two hours away.  I called up our Chair, hoping that the meeting was cancelled because of the weather.  “It’s on” came the answer.  Then I sang:  “On the road again…..”  After the meeting I took a nap on the way back; got home; donned a suit; and off to Mass to be lector......two long days and a short night sandwiched in between.

It was an adventure, but pilgrimages are that way…….often difficult, involving sacrifice, but spiritually uplifting.  Thank you, Lord for getting us all back home safely.  Thank you for saving the lost.  Still we had it easy, sleeping, praying, and watching movies in a warm bus.  In ages gone by, people walked hundreds if not thousands of miles exposed to the elements and to robbers too.  I got a taste of a real pilgrimage in Poland when we and a thousand others walked 125 miles to the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa.  See Blogs #46, 47, & 48. 

You know, when you look at it, we are all on a pilgrimage on this earth on our way to heaven.  May we all meet there some day.  YOU BE THERE!   

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