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Journey to the March for Life
By Allison Welch
One woman’s journey to the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., changes her perspective on what being pro-life means.

Q U I C K S C A N

A Minor Miracle?
Room for Everyone
A Different View
An Awakening Experience
A Sign of God's Promise


Among the thousands of participants who attended the rally were young children such as these who braved the cold for a good cause.
PHOTO BY NAN STEWART

THE ALARM went off at 5:00 a.m. and I thought to myself, It’s much too early. It was cold outside and still dark when I pulled into the church parking lot an hour later. Quietly, I boarded bus #227, the comfortable coach that would transport me safely to the other side of the fence.

It is a fence I had been uneasily sitting on most of my adult life. This vantage point, I used to reason, allowed me to see both sides of the abortion issue. When indecision caused pangs of guilt that reared their sharp, painful prods, I assuaged the feeling by acknowledging that, while abortion would never be right for me personally, I nobly would not inflict my personal beliefs on others.

It is at this point that I must confess, and thank God alone, that I have never been tested on my conviction with an “untimely” or “unhealthy” pregnancy. I pray that I would have stood firmly by my belief. If, God forbid, I faltered, I pray that someone would have stepped forward, helping me to navigate safely the dark and scary waters of such a pregnancy.

I have heard it said that God never gives you more than you can handle. So, at 42 years of age, I got the kind of test that is apparently appropriate for a wimp like me.

A Minor Miracle?

On a Sunday morning after Mass, I approached a member of our church community who was organizing the trip to D.C. for the March for Life. Unfortunately, I already had plans for that Monday—the day of the March. Otherwise, I would have considered going, I told myself. Unable to attend, I decided to show my support with a small—and safe—donation of money.

“No,” he said, “the March is on Tuesday and there is still room on the bus. Why don’t you come?” In the quiet that followed, I heard the whisper of God that Isaiah described. Yes, Allison, why don’t you go?

“Tuesday, you say?” I replied, genuinely surprised. “I’ll have to check my calendar.”

Now I happen to know that it was divine providence that I attended. I am sure of this because I came home and immediately checked the date on my calendar. Because I am the mother of two little boys, a rainbow of red ink, blue marker and yellow highlighter covered my Gregorian game plan. But the only conflict I encountered was the one in my conscience. Two days away, a perfectly white square stared blankly back at me from the refrigerator door. Surely, this qualified as a minor miracle.

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I admit to being both anxious and excited as I boarded the bus. When I was a child growing up in the 1970s, protests conjured up images of embroidered bell-bottoms, hand-knit ponchos and long-haired men and women sitting in a circle and singing “Kumbayah.” As a teen in the 1980s, I remembered that the anti-abortion movement included clinic bombings and sniper shootings. Where did I fit in?

It turns out there’s plenty of room. On January 22, 2008, I climbed aboard a half-filled charter bus in Radford, Virginia, clad in L.L. Bean boots and yoga pants and carrying a monogrammed canvas bag that contained flare-legged Levi’s (they’re back in style, you know). My destination? Washington, D.C.

When we arrived there five hours later, the sky was colored a heavy, steel gray and filled with precipitation, seemingly reflecting the weight of the task ahead. The air was colder than forecast and we armed ourselves for battle in layers of cotton, wool and fleece, offering up all inconveniences to the Lord.

“Make note of our bus,” someone said, pointing to the handwritten sign that distinguished us from others. “St. Jude,” it proudly proclaimed, the patron saint of lost causes. Off we went.

Our nation’s capital enveloped me: magnificent white-columned buildings surrounded by sleek modern architecture, expansive grass lawns outlined in crude rope fencing, and sweet, innocent children laughing and holding signs larger than themselves: “Defend Life,” the signs said, pointing the way.

I have been to D.C. many times, but for some reason it felt as if I was in a foreign country, sojourners’ soil. Classical Roman architecture loomed large with massive white fluted colonnades and rows of symmetrically arched windows stacked one on top of another, immediately calling to mind ancient Rome. In a pensive mood, I imagined what our Capitol might look like one or two thousand years from now. I pictured the Colosseum, a place of bloody gladiator battles, where Christians were thought to be thrown to the lions and torn limb from limb.

What would remain of our culture, our civilization?

The March itself circled the Capitol building, passing by Senate offices and the Library of Congress and culminating at the steps of the Supreme Court of the United States. This was the end of the road, the pinnacle of justice as defined by humans. Within these walls, laws are determined, declared and upheld by the most powerful and advanced civilization in the world today.

We paused at the bottom of the wide, white staircase that was dotted with police officers in dark uniforms (“peace” officers, as my son used to say before he could pronounce it). It was not the police, but the words carved in stone at the top of the building that stopped me: “Equal Justice Under Law.”

A small, silent voice spoke from somewhere deep inside of me. Not for all, the voice said, endearing itself to me forever.

It was in that moment that I connected with something weak and vulnerable, eternally voiceless, faceless and nameless that reached out and grasped my finger, pulling me firmly to the other side of the fence.

I read the words again and sensed the presence of something larger.

“Equal Justice Under Law.”

These were more than words etched in stone by human hands. This was truth—inalienable rights endowed by our Creator.

As we left the city, I couldn’t help but feel sad and disappointed. Our efforts seemed as small, weak and unnamed as the babies themselves. I knew that as a society we were capable of more, of better, if only we could wake up and see it. My muscles twitched with the desire to “do.”

It was five p.m. and we were poised to cross the Potomac and return to our lives. I thought of the statistics I had heard earlier that day and I said to myself, It’s much too late.

Simultaneously, the sun broke through the clouds for the first time that day, saturating the sky above and the river below in streams of gleaming gold. I followed the rays to the right and witnessed the Washington Monument pointing heavenward. It was there that I found the hope for which I was longing: a sign of God’s promise, a symbol of God’s unending mercy. It was there that a brilliant rainbow shone for all to behold.

Allison Welch is a freelance writer from Christianburg, Virginia. In the spring of 2005, she “returned home from a spiritual retreat and heard a clarion call to write for Christ.” She says, “I feel blessed to have discovered this vocation and find great joy responding to the call.”


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