Why I march for life

Friday marks the 43rd March for Life in Washington, D.C. One might ask, "Does marching still matter after all this time? Is there reason to believe that one person's participation makes a difference?" As I prepare to walk in peaceful witness with hundreds of thousands of men, women and children tomorrow, I would emphatically answer, "Yes!" Here is why I am marching:

1. I believe in the inviolable dignity of all human life. I also believe, in accord with our Catholic faith, in the sacredness of every human life. What does it mean to say something is sacred? It means that the Lord has touched it. In the second account of Creation, we read, "Then the LORD God formed the man out of the dust of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being" (cf. Gen 2:7). This "breath of life" distinguishes us from all other living creatures.

The Incarnation also reveals the infinite value of every human life, as God Himself took on human flesh in His Son. Jesus experienced and redeemed every stage of human life - conception, gestation, birth, childhood, adulthood and death - because He lived it all.

2. A visible witness is invaluable. We live in a time in which social and political change can be advanced through digital and social media. People post their views and beliefs online as a way of showing their support for a cause. When it comes to the education and promotion of the defense of all human life, we, too, can and should use these fora. However, one cannot underestimate the power of the visible witness, of the sight of hundreds of thousands of faces walking on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves.

We know from the rapid spread of Christianity at its beginning that the personal testimonies and preaching of the apostles who saw the Resurrected Christ in the flesh were essential to evangelization. If we are to convert the hearts of those who promote and support abortion in our nation, we will need a convincing, visible witness and testimony. The March for Life is one such way to proclaim and witness to the Gospel of Life.

3. As a bishop, I cannot ask others to do what I am not willing to do. As a Successor of the Apostles, I am called to teach, govern and sanctify those who are entrusted to my care. The most effective teachers are not necessarily those who are the most articulate or the most educated, although those are important and helpful attributes. Rather, the teachers who have the most impact on their students' lives are those who are believable, whose testimony is credible. In other words, teachers must practice what they preach. I march not only to teach about the dignity of human life and the injustice of abortion, but also to encourage those who are also marching, to bolster their spirits in the face of any discouragement they might encounter. In turn, the joyful - and might I add, youthful - spirit at the March for Life encourages me. Yes, priests and bishops, too, need encouragement from time to time to continue preaching and teaching with fervor in such a culture as ours. The joy on the faces of those who march is inspiring. It speaks to the truth that life is very good and always worth living.

4. I march at the insistence of our Holy Father, Pope Francis.

There are times, as I have said, that even bishops' endurance can wane. Last September, I gathered with my brother bishops in Saint Matthew's Cathedral for an address by the Holy Father during his apostolic visit to the United States. During his address, Pope Francis said to us, "I appreciate the unfailing commitment of the Church in America to the cause of life and that of the family, which is the primary reason for my present visit" (cf. Pope Francis, Address of the Holy Father to the Bishops of the United States of America, Sept. 23, 2015). Our Holy Father's words rekindled the fire in my heart, and the hearts of my brother bishops, to be unflagging in our efforts to protect life and the family. He continued,

"The innocent victim of abortion, children who die of hunger or from bombings, immigrants who drown in the search for a better tomorrow, the elderly or the sick who are considered a burden, the victims of terrorism, wars, violence and drug trafficking, the environment devastated by man's predatory relationship with nature - at stake in all of this is the gift of God, of which we are noble stewards but not masters. It is wrong, then, to look the other way or to remain silent" (cf. Ibid.).

This year, I will follow the imperative of the Holy Father and refuse to look the other way. Along with several hundred thousand persons, I will unfailingly preach the Good News that every human life is a gift from God. Friday I will march for every human life. Will you join me?

Follow Bishop Loverde on Twitter @Bishop_Loverde.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016