Thursday, January 21, 2016

On March Eve, The Chairman's Call: "In the Culture of Life, We Need the Heart of Francis"

Even with some two feet of snow forecast to hit Washington tomorrow, it remains one of Stateside Catholicism's marquee liturgies of the year – before hordes of priests and seminarians, the lion's share of the American hierarchy, as many people as the nation's largest church can fit and tens of thousands more at overflow locations and watching on TV, the National Vigil for Life opened in DC's Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception tonight before tomorrow's March for Life on the 43rd anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade.

Despite the looming conditions in the capital – where untreated roads and a thin coating of snow last night already managed to cause widespread havoc – the March will go on as always. If anything, getting home from Washington's biggest annual demonstration will prove the tough part; with the capital's Metro system planning to halt service tomorrow night as the storm arrives with blizzard conditions of an inch an hour expected, at least some of the thousands of groups who bus in from across the country for the events will have little choice but to either head home early or extend their stays through the cleanup. To one and all, safe travels.

Against the already fraught backdrop of a presidential election year (albeit one in which, among other unusual aspects, abortion has largely taken a backseat role to date), tonight's liturgy was celebrated for the first time by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, now two months into his three-year term as USCCB chair for Pro-Life Activities – the lone conference slot whose prominence always sees a cardinal elected to it.

Echoing Dolan's written message for this year's Roe anniversary, his preach focused on the tone and credibility of the pro-life movement's witness, taking a recent story in New York media as a poignant springboard. That said, while in times past the Vigil homily has taken on the flair of a "State of the Movement" address brimming with applause lines, with Dolan maintaining the more understated style employed by Boston's Cardinal Sn O'Malley OFM Cap. over his term in the Shrine pulpit, any cheering tonight was conspicuous by its absence.

Here, the homily in full:

In the Stateside church, January 22nd is designated in particular law as a day of prayer and penance "for the legal protection of unborn children." The Votive Mass for Justice and Peace or the new proper texts "for giving thanks to God for the gift of human life" may be used.