Wednesday, January 28, 2009

March for Life - B+

This is good news:
From NBC’s Mike Viqueira
The provision within the stimulus that would allocate money for contraceptive programs through Medicaid will be pulled out of the package.

NBC News confirms that the president called Henry Waxman, the chairman of the committee that inserted the contraception provision into the stimulus during the mark up last week, to ask him to remove the measure from the bill, according to a Democratic leadership source.

In short, the idea has simply become too controversial. Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s defense of the program over the weekend, where she indicated that it would be a money saver, was not well received.

So that provision is out.
It offers hope that Obama might be a reasonable individual capable of working across the aisle. At least I hope.  And that is my segway into the topic of the possibility of reasonable discussion on the abortion issue.  I have been on the March for Life now in Washington DC five times.  I have also gone the last three years, and personally, I don't think it's worth much on its own. Unlike many successful demonstrations in the past, it has begun to wallow and to lose interest even in itself, never mind being incapable of any longer really holding the interest of the general public.  It has become too tame, ineffective, and acts as little more than a platform for Republican politicians to advertise themselves.  

And it was even smaller this year, at least from what I could tell.  The mass at the basilica of the Immaculate Conception was not as full as in years past.  People still huddled in niches and corners of small side chapels, and confession lines swelled in the crypt, where sleeping bags dotted the floors.  But there was more marble space visible that would normally have been covered by sprawling bodies.  Applause was scattered and half-hearted during the homily.  Even the next day, the mall filled up slowly, and never reached the size of years past.  All in all, the march itself was a disappointing experience.   

But it was not a disappointing trip.  There were many reasons for hope.  And actually, for me it was one of the more fruitful marches I've been on.  I've always viewed the march as beneficial primarily for one reason.  When I went with groups from Fordham, I viewed the trip on the bus as a pilgrimage opportunity:  to show "Eclipse of Reason," to talk about my younger brother and sister that my family adopted from mothers who decided not to abort their children, and to draw the group into a spirit of prayer.  The march serves as the end point, the destination of the pilgrimage.  

This year I went with Jesuit High, New Orleans.  And there were many great signs.  For the first time, all four high schools in the Southern Province (soon to be Mississippi Valley Province) for the first time were represented.  The Jesuit students mass the morning of the 22nd was as full as I've seen it in four years.  Over ten priests concelebrated -- a rarity in Jesuit circles. These were all signs for me that the Society of Jesus is beginning to swing its massive influence and weight in the direction of the pro-life cause, even if only little by little.  Jesuits are pro-life of course.  But many have been off put by activism over the years, primarily as I can tell because of the pro-life movement's alliance with the Right.  I too have often found that off putting, which is why, if the pro-life movement is ever to gain any ground, it absolutely must become bipartisan.  That is my constant mantra.  

But there was another sign of hope.  The tone of this march was different --  even for Jesuit High, as I was told by veteran chaperones -- than in years past.  Because the inauguration was two days earlier, many Obama supporters had remained in Washington to see the sights.  Many of them walked around with their buttons and pins on.  Our boys also had pins on that said, "I'm pro-life.  Ask me why."  Because of this curious coincidence -- or act of providence -- the venue was set up for many great discussions between our young men and people of other opinions.  

One example was on the metro platform.  Some of my students came over and told me that a few girls about their age on the other side of the platform were making pro-choice comments aimed at our group.  My boys wanted to go talk to them, but they didn't know how to approach. So I walked over and introduced myself, saying I was a teacher and that some of my students there wanted to discuss a little with them the question of abortion.  What resulted was an excellent discussion between four 15-16 year old young men and women.  I simply acted as moderator.  The same occurred the next day at the Washington Monument.  I couldn't help but look at this and see the future of the movement.  The future is not primarily in the hands of diehard right or left wingers who will not change their minds or, more importantly, their approaches to this issue barring a miracle. The future is in the hands of young minds still being molded and formed that can learn, even as they disagree, how to dialogue with love and true interest in the other as an other.  The last two days of the march ended up being a clinic on dialogue.  It doesn't take much looking around our world now to see how much we need that. 

So, signs of hope.  The more I reflected, the more I realized that that role of moderator for our young men and women is a good role to have.  It is the role of Director in the Exercises, where the director is not the teacher or the coach, but rather one who helps guide the other in dialogue.  Learning the art of dialogue is at the heart of the Exercises -- dialogue with one's Maker and with all of creation.  

Nathan O'Halloran, SJ


Jesuit John said...

Here's an email I just got from a student on the trip:

Mr. Brown,
This is XXX. I was jus writing to personally say thank you for going with us on the March for life. It was probably the most influential and amazing experience I have ever had in my life. Seeing all the people from the top of the street in the actual March was incredible. I really feel like I grew a stronger relationship with
God on the trip as well. It helped me realize a lot bout what is going on in my life n let me know to place my worries n fears before the Lord n have faith that He will
provide what I need. I jus wanted to say thanks for going n thank you for helping foster that relationship growth I experienced on the trip. YYY and ZZZ n I are
giving a convo on the trip next Wednesday n were looking to start up the pro life club real soon. Thanks and hopefully you'll be down to Tampa soon. Good luck up in Boston.


Christ's Peace,
John Brown SJ

corey said...

what you wrote touched me. I am doing the spiritual exercises in everyday life, and because I am going through some rough times, I could not pray on the nativity as I was supposed to. I jumped ahead to the crucifixion. I was able to put myself into that scripture like I never had been able to before. My spiritual director has been so good in just walking the walk with me and being a good listener. What I have learned is that this world needs better listeners as well. Even though we may not agree, we can still discuss and try to see where they are coming from. That is what God does. He could take our problems away, but instead he walks with us through our hard times. He just asks us to surrender to Him and then that gives him permission to come and walk through the pain with us. All people, need to be treated with dignity and respect. We wouldn't be pro-life if we just chose to treat the unborn with dignity and respect. It's also treating your worst enemies with dignity and respect. We are dealing with some people in our lives at the moment that have hurt me so deeply, but when I choose to talk to them, I have to put myself first in their shoes, and secondly to acknowledge and atune to their feelings as well. Though they may be my enemies, they were created by God in his image, therefore, they deserve my love and respect. Thank you for writing.