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Peaceful witnesses to life

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“We are led to witness peacefully,” Bishop Michael F. Burbidge told those gathered for Mass in Thanksgiving for the Gift of Human Life at St. James Church in Falls Church Feb. 27. Approximately 170 pro-lifers gathered to be encouraged and recharge their spiritual batteries.

“The lives of all people unborn must be protected. We found out last night (from the Arlington Diocese Respect Life office) that the life of an unborn was saved. Never underestimate how God will use our prayer,” said Bishop Burbidge. He went on to ask that all in attendance understand how the decisions of the legislative system affects the principles of the church, with aggressive legislation coming forward in the Virginia passage of abortion expansion legislation. He strongly urged the congregation to register at the Virginia Catholic Conference to help “advocate on behalf of life.”

Bishop Burbidge concluded his message with a three-step process that all Catholics can follow to save unborn lives: prayer, witnessing and advocating. He noted that it was “necessary that we also pray for our enemies and those who have offended us and what we believe. As you receive Jesus, pray for those discerning an abortion, that God will transform their hearts and choose life.”

After Mass, congregants were invited to pray the rosary in front of a nearby abortion clinic in Falls Church. It was a cold morning with temperatures in the upper 30s, but that didn’t dampen the spirits of the people gathered to pray.

Men, women and children — young and old — from various ethnic groups and religions, arrived and stood along the sidewalk outside the abortion clinic. Some attendees smiled and carried signs, waving at cars and trucks passing by, rejoicing at the many horns that signaled agreement with the pro-life cause. Others were deeply focused and prayerful, reciting the rosary aloud either kneeling or with hands outstretched.

Bishop Burbidge arrived and attendees were invited to follow along the rosary by calling a special conference call number. The Bishop gave opening remarks and led the crowd in the praying of the sorrowful mysteries.

Attendees chatted among themselves afterward, hoping to speak briefly with Bishop Burbidge before he left.

Ruby Nicdao, a pro-life sidewalk counselor since the 1980s, put into context one unpleasant exchange with a passing car. “When people curse you, you say ‘bless you’ to disarm them.”

Attendee Beth Oswald, a parishioner of St. Joseph Church in Herndon, said, “I am here hoping to impact one heart … and help them recognize that life is within them.”

Socci is a freelancer from Alexandria.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021