Service as an essential component of the pro-life movement
Fifty-year anniversaries are typically moments of celebration. In the United States, where institutions are rather short-lived — especially compared to establishments of much longer standing throughout the rest of the world — 50 years is almost a mark of durability. January 22 of this year marked the 50th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.
On the one hand, this anniversary does not mark durability. One can rejoice in the fact that, at this 50th anniversary, the Supreme Court ruling in favor of abortion no longer stands, struck down in June of last year. On the other hand, one also must acknowledge that in this past half-year, the pro-life movement has suffered significant setbacks on the level of the states; in fact, the pro-abortion movement scored victories even beyond neutral expectation.
In the November elections, every pro-life ballot measure failed while every pro-abortion measure succeeded. The legacy of Roe v. Wade hangs over the country still.
It was with pained joy, then, that I found myself at the March for Life in Dallas the Saturday before school began, protesting an atrocity that is no longer legal in Texas. There was pain, of course, because political action has only gone so far; abortion continues to claim lives by the hour. But there was joy there, too, because despite the continuing horror, political setbacks and momentary disappointment, a sense of thoroughgoing, absolute commitment to the cause for life reigned.
This commitment has been kept in the hearts of so many for so long, but now that the focus of the last half-century — the Roe v. Wade ruling — has fallen, this commitment has been able to manifest itself bravely and wholly. More than ever before, the pro-life movement will be able to show itself in its all-encompassing creativity.
Commitment was displayed in a particularly beautiful way on the first Saturday of this semester when Crusaders for Life joined the monthly service day at In My Shoes, a haven for pregnant, homeless mothers. For the University of Dallas’ pro-life club, Saturday mornings used to be taken up by prayer and silent protest outside a Dallas abortion clinic, a clinic now closed. Now, we clean a home.
This transition is good, not only because it indicates the real lessening of legal murder in our country, but also because through such service, the pro-life movement shows itself as fundamentally pro-being. And this is what it really means to be: to be in a home, to be in community, to be a parent. Pulling weeds may not be the paradigmatic action of the pro-life movement, but in its own grace-filled way, it is a wholesome witness to the beauty of being.
Before the March for Life in Dallas, the bishop celebrates a mass in the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe. I have seldom visited the church for other masses, so perhaps I naturally associate the architecture of the place with the pro-life cause, but the building seems to speak in a special way to the current moment in the pro-life movement.
The cathedral was originally dedicated to the Sacred Heart, and the remnants of this former dedication remain. A statue of Christ stands above the entrance way, and Christ bares his heart to Margaret Mary Alacoque in a large and centrally located stained-glass window. But the church was eventually reconsecrated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and she appears below the lordly stained-glass, portrayed more simply, located closer to earth.
The pro-life movement experienced a great triumph on the feast of the Sacred Heart last year, the day that Roe was overturned. After so many years of waiting, Christ bared his flaming, thorn-crowned heart to the world, and those in the pro-life movement will never forget this manifestation of love.
But perhaps it is time to move closer to earth, to look more attentively to the image of the pregnant woman, the woman who keeps the secret of God’s human nature in her. In looking at this image, so humanly simple, the pro-life movement will undoubtedly find endless opportunities, be they large or little, just to be pro-being, to do ordinary, routine action with wholeness of vision and fullness of love.
In this way, the movement will no longer be a movement at all, but will effect complete change in a country too long ravaged by death.