January 28, 2013 // Uncategorized

Battle for soul of US culture 'up to you,' priest tells youths at rally

By Mark Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Likening the 40-year struggle against legal abortion in the United States to the Israelites’ 40 years in the desert, Father Carter Griffin encouraged the more than 14,000 people attending the Archdiocese of Washington’s Jan. 25 Youth Rally and Mass for Life at the Verizon Center to be the future of the movement for life by being “a generation open to life, open to love (and) open to faith.”

“You are a force to be reckoned with! The battle for the soul of our culture is up to you. This is your moment! I promise you, if you are faithful, you will change the world!” said Father Griffin, the homilist at the archdiocese’s annual Mass for Life preceding the national March for Life in the nation’s capital.

Father Griffin, the archdiocese’s director for priest vocations and vice rector of its Blessed John Paul II Seminary, said the effort to change the hearts of people and the law of the land must begin with individuals striving for holiness, as they stand for life and seek eternal life.

“The most important thing we can do to promote a culture of life — even more important than voting, marching and speaking out — is to grow in holiness,” he said.

The archdiocese also sponsored a Youth Rally and Mass for Life that morning that drew more than 11,000 mostly out-of-town marchers to the Comcast Center at the University of Maryland at College Park.

Earlier, Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, the main celebrant at the Mass, welcomed the spirited crowd of youths and young adults, and thanked them for bearing witness to the Gospel of life, to the value and dignity of all human life.

“Our Mass and rally is a proclamation of our faith in God, in Christ and in his church, and in our belief in the dignity of life,” the archbishop of Washington said.

More than 200 priests and deacons from across the country processed in, followed by bishops including New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington.

From the arena’s upper deck, the procession looked like a white line moving toward the altar, with many of the sections of youths marked by splashes of bright colors — red, green, gold and orange, with Catholic school and youth groups wearing matching hats, scarves and sweatshirts.

Following the entrance song, “Here I Am, Lord,” the young people there offered thunderous applause for Pope Benedict XVI, as his apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, was introduced and then read a message from the pope.

Pope Benedict expressed thanks “to all those who take part in this outstanding public witness to the fundamental human right to life, and to the many others who support them by fasting and prayer.”

The pope praised their efforts “defending the inviolable dignity of each member of our human family, especially the smallest and most defenseless of our brothers and sisters,” and he said he was “confident that their perseverance will contribute to the awakening of consciences and the building of a more just, compassionate and inclusive society.”

In his homily, Father Griffin, noted that he was a newborn infant when the Supreme Court issued its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion on demand across the United States. He said that he was among the last generation of Americans to be born protected by a legal right to life, something that succeeding generations, including those in the Verizon Center, had lacked.

“Forty years is a long time to restore this basic civil right to life,” the priest said, noting that the Lord let the Israelites, and lets today’s defenders of life, know that they are not alone.

“We too are being tested on our own 40-year journey, and like the Israelites, we have a choice — to give in to discouragement, despair, frustration — or to draw closer to the Lord, to grow in love, to open ourselves to his promise of salvation.”

The battle against abortion, which the priest called “the greatest civil rights battle of all time,” has to start with each person, he said.

“Before we can change laws, we have to change hearts, starting with our own,” Father Griffin said. “Before pro-life is a political agenda, it must become a personal agenda. Before we can take on the culture of death, we have to become part of the culture of life, of eternal life!”

The priest emphasized to the youths and young adults that “you are the future of this movement for life. It is a great responsibility, an awesome task, and it will be your glory to have been a part of it. And whether it takes another four years, or 40 years or 400 years, we will never give up.”

“We are holding on and will not let go. We are in this thing to the end, until every man and woman and child, born and unborn, is loved in life, cherished in our hearts and protected in our laws,” he added.

Before the Mass, Cardinal Wuerl met with members of the media and said the crowds at the Verizon Center and Comcast Center offered a “sign of hope” that “the value of life is something that young people appreciate.”

When asked about the 40 years since the Roe v. Wade decision, the cardinal also made the analogy to the Israelites’ 40 years in the desert, and he said, “You never put time limits on God’s plans.”

The growing crowds of young people attending the rallies, Masses and the March for Life each year reflect the importance of bearing witness to the value and dignity of all human life, the cardinal said.

His favorite part of the annual rally and Mass, he said, comes each year at the end of Mass, when he asks priests, religious, and then seminarians and those preparing for consecrated life, to stand.

Each group received huge applause at this year’s rally, and the cardinal again asked those young men thinking about priesthood, and those young women thinking about consecrated life, to stand, and they also received loud applause from the crowd.

The cardinal also underscored the importance of this Year of Faith in the Catholic Church as a time for all Catholics, especially the young, to deepen their faith and share it with others as part of their call to the new evangelization.

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Zimmermann is editor of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Washington Archdiocese.

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