Pro-life pilgrims knew the bus trip wouldn’t be easy

Respect Life Director Bill Francis gives pilgrims final instructions Jan. 20 before boarding buses at St. John LaLande Parish in Blue Springs. Nearly 165 people made the diocesan-sponsored trip to Washington, D.C., for the annual March for Life to defend the lives of the unborn. (Kevin Kelly/Key photo)

Respect Life Director Bill Francis gives pilgrims final instructions Jan. 20 before boarding buses at St. John LaLande Parish in Blue Springs. Nearly 165 people made the diocesan-sponsored trip to Washington, D.C., for the annual March for Life to defend the lives of the unborn. (Kevin Kelly/Key photo)

By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor

BLUE SPRINGS — They can’t say they weren’t warned.

No stronger, no more veteran a voice than that of Msgr. Ralph Kaiser told the pro-life pilgrims that their bus journey to and from Washington, D.C., wasn’t going to be easy, even under the best of circumstance.

And the best of circumstances didn’t happen. On their way home, the convoy of pro-life witnesses who attended the annual March for Life got stuck in western Pennsylvania in the historic blizzard that blanked the northeast.

But Msgr. Kaiser prepared them, as he celebrated Mass at 5 a.m. Jan. 20 at St. John LaLande Parish, before they began their journey.

Think it will be impossible, he asked. Think of the martyrs, both in the past and in the present.

He reminded them that the feast of one of them, St. Abadios, was that very day.

“He lived and died at a time when Christianity was outlawed by the mightiest empire on the face of the earth,” Msgr. Kaiser said of the martyr thrown off a cliff during the Roman Dioceltian persecution.

“Even today, in many countries of the world, there is still persecution, a very bloody one, of Christians,” he said.

Msgr. Kaiser reminded the pilgrims, many of them young people, that what they were about to endure is well worth the prize of witnessing the truth to a nation — that the life of every unborn child is a gift from God.

“We are protesting against that which is totally inhuman,” he said. “We protest what the Roe v. Wade decision (that legalized abortion in the United States) has done to our nation and to the thinking of so many people in our beloved land.”

The martyrs, including many in North America, met their deaths to uphold God’s truth, Msgr. Kaiser said.

“It is the blood of the martyrs that helped build up our holy, Catholic Church,” he said.

“We are going to voice the Christian value of the great gift of life,” Msgr. Kaiser said.

“Those who we are protesting for never had the opportunity to know our Lord,” he said. “They would never experience the joys of life, or its sorrows. We must pray, as we go on this pilgrimage, that we can speak on their behalf.”

Msgr. Kaiser, with 60 years of experience as a priest, and decades of experience as a March for Life witness, told the pilgrims that even the hardships they would endure on buses traveling halfway across the country in the middle of winter would have great value.

“Let’s remember this is a pilgrimage. By its very nature, it has penitential value, like we already are receiving right now at 5 o’clock in the morning,” he said.

“The bus ride? We might think of that as pretty good penance. But think of the people who made pilgrimages by camel caravan, or by stagecoach. We’re better off than that, but it will still be demanding, so offer it up,” Msgr. Kaiser said.

He recalled his service as a chaplain in the U.S. Navy.

“Within the confines of a ship, we could get on each other’s nerves,” he said. “So keep your disposition sunny. The weather is not going to be sunny, but we can still help each other out.”

Above all, Msgr. Kaiser said, don’t forget to pray.

“We can pray that the ultimate goal of this March for Life can finally be achieved,” he said.

“We can pray that these 4,000 lives every day (lost to abortion) can be thought of as martyrs,” he said.

“And we can pray that the minds of those who make our laws will return to the mind of Christ,” Msgr. Kaiser said.

“God has given us life and our liberty to speak in the names of those unfortunate lives lost,” he said. “We do so willingly, lovingly and hopefully.”

The young people got the message as they prepared to board the buses.

“I want to do something to make a difference,” said Grace Pepple, a student at Archbishop O’Hara High School, who added she was particularly encouraged to make the trip by her church history teacher, Kyle Sellnow.

“We’re Catholics. Catholics believe life is sacred,” said Xavier Schmidt, a student at St. Pius X High School. “If we are going to a Catholic school, we might as well live that out.”

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