Oops! I Forgot to Protest at the March for Life (or) The Essence of the Pro-Life Movement

Each year, the same thing happens – I find myself marching down Constitution Ave. with hundreds of thousands of other protestors.

We all certainly want the same thing – an end to legalized abortion in the US.

Yet I have found myself moving away from a purely politicized position and am instead gravitating toward the authentic conception of what means to be pro-life in my daily course of action – which does not typically involve any sort of direct work with abortion ministries.  And, at least the past two years, I know that I am not the only one taking up the deeper understanding of the need for a pro-life conversion, which is nothing other than a conversion to Christ – a metamorphosis into his life and way of loving.  Only in reaching to this level of personal conversion, will culture change.  Why?  Because only on this level is the full extent of man’s depravity addressed. Gaudium et Spes reminds us of a similar point:

Indeed, as a weak and sinful being, he often does what he would not, and fails to do what he would.Hence he suffers from internal divisions, and from these flow so many and such great discords in society (10).

Thus the celebration of the Mass has become a central point of my journey to DC each year.  It doesn’t matter which Mass, or who it is with, what simply matters is entering deeply into the mystery of His sacrifice, of His life and expression of self-emptying love, in order to first be converted myself, that I may become a light to the nation in charity and truth.hands

Now you know my primary motivation for going to DC each year, so the next piece won’t scandalize you.

Let’s go back to the beginning: each year I find myself marching down Constitution Ave.  Each year the same thing happens.  I don’t carry a sign (unless it is forced upon me), I don’t spend a lot of time chanting (unless it is clever), and I don’t get angry.

See, the March for Life as I have experienced it is more of a celebration of life than a protest against those who ascribe to the pro-choice agenda.  And, as such, the March takes on a very natural feel, and a very human one as well.

Sitting with a priest in Union Station after the March had concluded, he leaned back and, looking around at all of the groups of young people, said, “This event is so natural.”  There is nothing abstract or artificial about it.  The March brings together live human beings as a testimony to the gift of life itself – it is all natural, really.  It is not esoteric, or technical, or conjuring up something contrary to itself (Cf. “Reason Rally”).

As such, the March for me has become a true celebration of my whole life.  In DC each year, I inevitably run into dozens of friends from my past who are now scattered about the US – and each chance encounter is always a surprise.  Thus, I spend most of the March looking for, being surprised by, and speaking with friends.

Is this scandalous?  Do I ever feel like I just blew off the March?

No way.  Instead, I made a public expression of the joy that is friendship and the life that comes from human relationships.  In this way, the March for Life is supremely a natural and even beautiful expression of life that transcends the image of the “angry mob” or a group that is “attacking women’s rights.”  We are a people who have recognized this life as a gift, not created by ourselves, or even dictated by ourselves (for the most part), but instead we see ourselves and our friends as part of a mysterious web called life that is nothing other than a supreme expression of Providence.

Thus the Sacraments, and similarly, the signs of friendship become a most powerful witness and ongoing means of converting hearts – and converting hearts is always a brutally (and beautifully) painful process – at least in my experience.

What Everybody Knows and Nobody Talks About

Sin breeds in dark places.  This is not an original insight, but is well known by every human person willing to have a little self-awareness.  It is not surprising, then, that some of our nation’s greatest sins go unspoken.  Sins like abortion, contraception, egocentrism, idol worship, and self-messianism.

It’s like the cancer the afflicted person doesn’t want to admit to having, but the painful reality just won’t go away.

I want to preface what I say next with the following:  Man has been sinful since almost the very beginning of his existence on this planet.  And, culture/society is comprised and constructed by none other than this man.  The sinfulness of society, then, is none other than the public and corporal manifestation of the sinfulness of the individual.  I say this because people often get in a fuss and characterize our epoch as the most sinful age of all time.  In our age, there has been tremendous harm done to the environment, and the human person.  There has also been mass murder (though perhaps nothing like Cain killing off 25% of the earth’s population – that was slightly facetious).  But, a relatively quick trip through ancient literature and history, and even the history recorded in Scripture, reveals that our problems are not new (not even our “enlightened” ways of thinking – see Wisdom 2).  In short, I don’t want to make the same point that so many people try to make – i.e. we are living in the worst moral age.  Though certainly a society may tend to gravitate toward one type of sin over another given the circumstances.

With that said, I will make the conjecture that we may be living in the most overtly sexualized, or eroticized time the world has ever seen.  Perhaps never before has so much explicit material been so immediately available that you can potentially make pornography appear out of your pocket (and I’m not talking about a well-creased magazine photo) – or better said, out of thin air.

It’s time to talk about (and keep talking about) this cancer that is infecting an incredible percentage of our population.  Here are some crazy statistics:

-There are 4.2 million pornographic websites.overcoming-porn-addiction

-25% of all search engine requests are pornographic in nature.

-The average age of initial pornographic exposure online is 11.

-1 out of every 3 internet porn users is female.

Now, there are a lot of statistics on these matters.  It can be difficult to sort through them all (Cf. Family Safe Media, Fagan’s Effects of Pornography, and Digital Journal, just to list a few) for uniform consistency.

Yet the statistical evidence is convincing enough.   Couple the stats with the fact that the pornography industry has more revenue each year than the MLB, NFL, NBA combined, makes the fact that porn is rarely talked about – except in small religious circles (on occasion), or when a celebrity is found – all the more shocking.

It is our dark secret, and according to revenue statistics, America is clearly leading the way.  And we aren’t even getting into the impact of pornography on the human brain.

In order to talk a little bit about the modern mentality surrounding the male use of pornography, along with some additional insight into the day-to-day effects porn use has on one’s well-being, I invited a couple of my volunteers to speak on the topic.  Check it out…

Taking a Step to Deal with the Problem

This resource bank will at least serve as a starting point for addressing the issue:

  • The first place to turn is not a place at all, but a person – Christ.  We can turn to Him most clearly in the Sacraments – especially the Sacraments of Confession and Eucharist.  His grace is enough…we can be confident in that.
  • We can also encounter Christ in His Word (Scripture) during periods of time during the day for personal prayer.  I would wager a bet that no recovering porn addict accomplished the task without some sort of prayer.  In prayer we recognize our need and bring that need to the Lord.
  • Learn more about Theology of the Body.  Check out a nice, short intro by Jason Evert called Theology of His/Her Body.
  • If you struggle (nearly) every time you get on your computer (or almost every time), you could always get rid of your computer, or at least get it out of your room.  Or, make it holy…check out these desktop wallpapers.
  • Check out this hardcore online accountability program from xxxChurch.
  • Engage in prayer and fasting for your future spouse with thousands of men from all over the world – e5 Men.
  • For tons of info on chastity, check out Jason Evert’s website.
  • Form a small accountability group with a couple of your buddies.

And, if you feel like you know all of this stuff already – I can’t believe you read all the way to this point – then it is your turn to pull your friends out of the muck.

Let us invite more Light into our lives than dimly lit screens in the solitude of our darkened rooms.

Modest is Not Hottest

By Katie Bursa

At a Youth Conference when I was in high school, I saw a bunch of guys wearing these Modest is Hottest t-shirts.   I felt instantly wooed by this Catholic pickup line.  I want to be modest and hottest, I thought.

Now I can’t judge the hearts or intentions of these guys or anyone else who has stood behind this Modesty Banner.  I think what they mean is that to be modest is more attractive than letting it all hang out.  But what do we mean by hottest?  What are we promoting as thModesty-is-always-beautiful.-G.Ke greatest good by this expression?  Hotness?

Now it may sound like I am just nit-picking word choice, but  I think we are not getting to the root of the immodesty issue when we advertise modesty as a way to really be hottest.  I actually have always cringed at the so called compliment, “You look hot!”  It has never felt like a compliment.  I would much rather be called beautiful.

Because when someone calls me hot, I feel like a piece of meat.  Modesty is not about being a covered piece of meat (a nice breaded pork chop maybe?).  The true message of modesty is that WE ARE NOT MEAT OR EYE-CANDY.

The Catechism defines modesty as “refusing to unveil that what should remain hidden[…] Modesty protects the intimate center of the person.” (CCC 2521).  For women, modesty is a responsibility to protect our identity as Daughters of God.  Then the question of Am I hottest AND modest? becomes Is this outfit protecting my identity as a Daughter of God?

When you put it that way, why wouldn’t I want to protect that? So what is the struggle here?  Why do I fail to protect my identity as a Daughter of God?  For me, the root of my sin is wanting to be noticed above all else.  I want to be noticed and valued as special and I am afraid that if I don’t take things into my own hands, if I don’t put myself out there to be noticed, then I will be overlooked.   The answer to our desire to be noticed and valued above all others, is to turn to Christ to love us.  The only true answer to this struggle is to turn to the One who loves us completely, even in our imperfections.  It takes patience and trust to resist the temptation to get immediate attention through flirting and immodest dress.

But this patience and trust is not that of Snow White in seclusion singing, “One Day my prince will come…”.  Our prince has come.  The patience and trust is to follow Him where He will lead us.

Resources for Teens on the Topic of Modesty:

  • Michelle, one of our Youth Ministry Core members,  gave a great talk on her personal journey with fashion and modesty. Check it out!
  • Interested in some of Theology of the Body’s perspective on this?  You might like Theology of His/Her Body by Jason Evert.
  • Leah Darrow was one of America’s Top Models, until she had a conversion experience.  You can hear more about her story on her website.
  • You can check out Dignitas Magazine for insights into Christian womanhood and fashion.