Even with snow, life is still very good

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In previous years, the Life is VERY Good rally held at George Mason's Patriot Center, now Eagle Bank Arena, in Fairfax, was near capacity. Young people packed the floor and most of the seats in the arena clapping and singing to Christian rock bands.

This year, Snowstorm Jonas kept attendance at about a quarter of the past several years.

There still were bands Jan. 22, and students sang along, but many churches and schools cancelled their trips.

The local schools that were represented included students from the four diocesan high schools. But there were also groups from Illinois, Florida and the Diocese of Ogdensburg, N.Y., where Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde served previously.

Those who were there for the rally were energized.

There was a large group of Ireton students wearing school-color scarves.

Ninth-grader Annie Mildrew said, "We speak for those who don't have a voice."

Senior Isabel Anderson said, "It's everyone's right to be born, and no one can take that away from us."

John Paul junior Angela Brown said she's been to the march four times, but this was her first rally.

"I march because I believe that all life is sacred," she said.

Some people came a long way. About 25 students came from Mount Royal Academy, a private Catholic High School in Sunapee, N.H. Headmaster Derek Tremblay said that these students are the future of the pro-life movement.

"All life matters," said Tremblay. "They are the pro-life generation."

Christian singer and speaker Jackie Francois and the Josh Blakesley Band opened the rally at 9 a.m.

Christian speaker and musician Cooper Ray finished the entertainment before Mass was celebrated by Bishop Loverde and the priests of the Arlington Diocese.

In his homily, Bishop Loverde spoke about what makes life very good.

He said that things like money or power do not make for a good life.

"What makes life very good is mercy," he said.

The bishop said that some people think it's merciful to end the life of a baby in the womb in an attempt to end suffering, but he said that ending the life of an innocent baby in the womb is not merciful. Each child is a gift from God, he said.

"Whatever the weather," said the bishop, "life is very good when there is mercy."

After Mass, and before everyone returned to their buses for the trip to the march in Washington, the bishop spoke again.

He told the students to continue to defend life. He also asked everyone to pray for vocations.

Bishop Loverde said he is celebrating 50 years of priesthood, and as he often remarks, "I'd be a priest all over again in a heartbeat."

Before the blessing, he gave a shout-out to his former Diocese of Ogdensburg, thanking them for making the trip from New York.

Colleen Miner, Ogdensburg's respect life director, said they brought four buses called Youth Buses for Life. She said originally they were going to the march and then leave around 5 p.m. Instead, she said they planned to leave right after the march to try to stay ahead of the storm.

"It's a great experience," she said, "to have the youth experience the church universal."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016