We started our morning with Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception downtown, where it was pretty much standing-room-only. We naturally had a difficult time finding parking for our ginormous van, and thus showed up sweaty with not much time to spare--but just so happen to have the best friends ever, who saved us seats.
After Mass we walked over to the state capitol for the March for Life rally. There were a number of pro-life speakers sharing different perspectives--from priests to Protestant pastors to women who have had abortions themselves.
Then all of the children in attendance were invited up to the steps to participate in a balloon release. And then the actual march started.
As you can see, we (proudly) took up our signs and began the long procession downtown. Passers-by honked, and some yelled not-nice-things, but mostly it seemed that anyone willing to say anything was supportive. I remember one car in particular that passed by, honking and with multiple passengers inside waving happily and excitedly.
The most touching moment of the march for me, by far, happened as the crowd was dispersing from the steps to begin the walk. That's when I noticed several women taking up huge signs with I regret my abortion written on them. I actually had tears in my eyes watching these women because they deemed preborn children worth it. Worth telling the world they had aborted their own children. Worth telling a religious and pro-life crowd they'd had abortions. Worth holding their heads up high.
It's interesting because the pro-life movement has received much discussion and criticism lately, especially from the feminist/atheist crowd. It has been painted as oppressive, angry, naive, repressive, judgemental, irrelevant...the list goes on.
But do you want to know what really goes on when thousands of people converge for a pro-life march?
Kids run around in the sunshine.
Parents connect with friends and applaud women who are willing to share their stories.
People release a bunch of cheery and colorful balloons.
Everyone (including eight-months-pregnant me) marches around with signs that say things like "Defend Life", and spectators honk happily when they discover they're not alone in their conviction that children deserve to live, period.
We of course didn't see any media. None whatsoever. Apparently the local paper was too busy writing about the new WalMart that's opening. Ahem.
But you know what? The local media is more than welcome to pretend that this annual event doesn't happen. My husband and I certainly didn't drag six of our seven kids (plus the child presently hitching a ride in utero) downtown thinking we Heldts were going to change laws or minds or hearts or anything, really.
We simply went.
Because it's important.
Because it matters.
Because my kids are watching.
Because people are watching.
Because children are dying.
God does not ask us to change the world or do Big Huge Things that make a Big Huge Impact. Instead He wants our hearts, wants us to love Him, and wants us to spend forever with Him in Heaven. So it is on the one hand an infintesimally small thing to spend the day marching downtown with friends and family. And yet on the other hand, it is of great and eternal significance. Because while we may not directly effect any sort of political change, when we participate in something like the March for Life, we affirm some of the most foundational truths about God and humanity.
We tell ourselves, our children, and our culture that men and women are created, from the moment of conception, with dignity and purpose.
We stand in solidarity with the mothers, fathers, and children who've fallen victim to this barbaric industry.
We serve as a public witness to the radical and counter-cultural reality of a life spent following Jesus.
We speak out for the many little lives lost and forgotten, who cannot speak for themselves.
The truth is that most of our lives are spent on the small things, like living out our vocations and putting one foot in front of the other and seeking relationship with God through humble means. So even if few care or take notice, God sees. And He cares. And I believe He will use even our smallest efforts in His plan of redemption.
And that is what I hope my children took away from the march. They took a stand for Jesus and for life and for humanity last Sunday afternoon, when our family could have been doing any number of other things. They witnessed the joy, the passion, and the grief that permeates what is known as the Pro-Life Movement. They saw first-hand that a whole lot of people, including some of our dearest friends, are concerned about abortion.
And I pray that this spark ignites within them a deep love and respect for life, as given by God, from conception until natural death--regardless of whether Roe v. Wade is ever overturned.
And that is why we march for life.