By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
BLUE SPRINGS — Spiritual courage and spiritual weapons are needed in a spiritual war, Father Joseph Totton, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish, told some 200 pilgrims boarding buses with him at St. John LaLande Parish for the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.
“Our battle is not against the people who advocate for abortion. They are misguided souls,” said Father Totton in his homily at the pre-dawn Mass.
“All of us as Catholics are instead called to witness for the sanctity of life,” he said. “We do this by the way we live our lives.”
When the sacrifice of travelling half-way across the nation, sleeping on hard floors, and publicly standing up for life in the January cold is united with the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the forces of sin and death stand no chance, Father Totton said.
“Any sacrifice we make, we must unite with the sacrifice of Christ,” he said. “When it is united with the passion of Jesus Christ, and when it is offered as a sacrifice, it helps us take on heavenly powers, spiritual powers” against sin and death.
“He is victorious over the power of sin and death,” Father Totton said. “This particular battle that we fight will ultimately gain for you the victory, just as he gained it for us on the cross.”
The diocesan force heading to the nation’s capital was organized and assembled by the diocesan Respect Life Office and director Bill Francis.
They will be among thousands who will gather on the Mall, surrounded by national monuments and landmarks, on the 41st anniversary of the twin U.S. Supreme Court decisions, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, that legalized abortion across the country.
Dylan McNair, 17, was among the teens and young adults that swelled the numbers, and he said he was going for what on the surface sounded like a very teen-aged reason.
“It’s going to be a fun trip,” he said.
But McNair quickly added that it won’t be a vacation or a trip to Disneyland.
“It will be fun because I’m going with friends, and we’re standing up for life together,” he said. “You’ve got to do God’s work. That’s the most important thing.”
McNair’s fellow young parishioners from St. Andrew Parish in Gladstone backed him up.
“It’s a good cause,” said Pius Nsoh-Awasom, 18. “Abortion is something society now takes for granted. We need to create the awareness of the sanctity of life.”
“I am going to stand up for innocent babies who can’t stand up for themselves,” said Charles Mwaura, 16. “It’s my duty as a Catholic.”
All the pilgrims may have been spry as they prepared, physically and spiritually, for a long ride on a bus.
But not all of them were of “spring chicken” vintage.
Once again, the pilgrims were joined by Msg. Ralph Kaiser, a veteran of 60 years as a priest and many a bus ride to the March for Life, who also concelebrated the pre-dawn Mass with Father Adam Johnson, Father Ben Kneib, and Father Totton.
Raring to go? “You bet,” he said.
“I just got back Tuesday from a tour of the Holy Land, and I am over the jet lag from that,” he said
Msgr. Kaiser said he draws encouragement from the young around him.
“It’s wonderful to see them,” he said. “The sacrifices they make, sleeping on marble floors. It’s just wonderful.”
Charlie Lynn of St. Thomas More Parish was also a pilgrim well beyond his teen years.
He echoed Father Totton’s homily, and said that if people truly proclaimed the sanctity of life, abortion would not be an issue.
“Our enemies are not the ‘pro-choice’ people,” Lynn said. “I think of (the comic strip) Pogo — ‘We have met the enemy and he is us.’ It is a matter of convincing ourselves of the sanctity of life.”
Offering a blessing and a prayer before they departed, Bishop Robert W. Finn told the pilgrims that there is no doubt that life is valued, and that spirit will one day win.
He recalled a recent visit to a hospital to tend to the sick.
“The hospital was crowded. The parking lot was full. But everyone was there because they cared about people,” he said.
“Some were being born. Some were in the process of dying. Others were in a valiant fight to cure their ailments,” Bishop Finn said.
But all of them were attended by doctors, nurses, and loved ones.
“That is why we are here today. Life is important,” the bishop said. “We do this to say to people around us, ‘Life is important and life deserves a chance.’”
Bishop Finn also told the pilgrims that they will be committing acts of faith, hope and love, all at the same time.
“How can we live out our Catholic calling any better than that?” he said.