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The Funeral March for Life
January 22, 2015
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose.” Those who choose repose receive release from the mandates of truth—but it is only temporary. Truth cannot be rejected forever. Those who choose truth, on the other hand, have no rest—and so they march. They march ever onward. The March for Life is a march for truth: a march that refuses to enter into the repose of denial; a march that peacefully protests the legal murder of millions of babies in the United States of America; and a march that commemorates those lives snuffed out before seeing the light of day. The March for Life in Washington D.C. is, perhaps first and foremost, a funeral march—and deep inside the hearts of those who have chosen the repose labeled “choice,” the truth stirs “like a babe buried alive,” as G. K. Chesterton sings in his ballad.
By taking a stand for the so-called unalienable right to life, the March for Life is also a memorial for the unborn dead and an outreach to those who have chosen death over life, for they are victims as well. To offer an example from the classical catalogue, when Jocasta and Laius learned of the hard fate that awaited their infant son, they acted. They drove a large nail through his tender ankles and, fastening a leather strap to both ends of the spike, hung their baby in a windy tree to die on Mount Cithaeron. But Oedipus survived and, with shame and shock, his parents were destroyed by the doom they wished to dodge.
“Murder, though it have no tongue, will speak,” Hamlet said, siding with Chanticleer. In the modern world, it is easy for a baby to die. It is difficult to die to oneself. Today, such horrors are not the supposed subject of mythology. They are reality, playing out the timeless tragedy of the Theban king and queen time and time again, for truth—and justice—can never die. His Truth is marching on, despite the blameless blood staining hazardous-waste dumpsters behind hospitals. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. This refrain is the marching hymn for Catholics today, and thus the March for Life remembers the holy souls of aborted babies together with the haunted souls of their mothers, whose searing pain is depicted in T. S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland:”
It’s them pills I took, to bring it off, she said. (She’s had five already, and nearly died of young George.) The chemist said it would be all right, but I’ve never been the same. You are a proper fool, I said. Well, if Albert won’t leave you alone, there it is, I said. What you get married for if you don’t want children?
The banner of truth that the March for Life unfurls to strain in the winds of another year of massacre is the truth that life involves death. People must die to themselves in order to live truly—and this is the truth that many would rather were untrue. Christ said, “Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come to me.” Bringing children into the world and to Christ involves suffering. There can be no true joy without first enduring agony. Having children is hard, make no mistake; but killing them is harder, despite the propaganda of repose.
The greatest human rights violation of our times might be muted in some minds, but minds can be shaken from slumber when the earth shakes with marching. Roe v. Wade has now withstood overthrow for 42 years, but it can still topple. “If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed….” Pound the pavement. Press with prayer. March for life. March for the dead. The March for Life puts boots on the ground with feet washed by Christ—true Militants, ready to suffer in their own lives for the sake of other lives; ready to lend their voices to the voiceless, that little children may be brought to Him through their suffering rather than the suffering and death of little children; ready to stretch a hand to those who have looked upon life with the shadowy eyes of Macbeth as “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” and awaken them to the psalm of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
Tell me not in mournful numbers Life is ‘but an empty dream!’— For the soul is dead that slumbers, And things are not what they seem.
The droves and droves of butchered dead, lying in the common, indifferent earth as their common, indifferent grave, are martyrs for truth and justice. They are the new Holy Innocents, silently slaughtered in the name of self-interest and the false repose that dismisses the challenge of charity and chivalry. The advent of Truth brought—and ever brings—blood and the sword for the lovers of peace, whose repose will be eternal once it is won. As the dead rest in peace, the soldiers of truth mourn and march. As Dostoevsky wrote, all are responsible for the wellbeing and salvation of one another. They march for life. They march for the dead.
The March for Life is a witness to the Gospel of Life, demonstrating by the thousands that though abortion is common practice it is not common sense. The March is a positive outcry against the government’s failure to defend the defenseless and to protect women against the tortures of conscience. Abortion is not simply a failure of justice, but a failure of government itself.
President Washington wrote in 1789, “The administration of justice is the firmest pillar of government.” When that pillar is compromised, the structure fails and falls. It is not out of the question to ask, “Who will be the next to lose their unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?” In a statement given one year ago on this day to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, President Obama said, “this is a country where everyone deserves the same freedom and opportunities to fulfill their dreams.” But at what point, at what precise point, does everyone become someone? Whenever it is, it is no longer self-evident.
It is not enough to demand justice. Justice, as Our Lord taught, is to be hungered and thirsted after as a means of wellbeing. Just as hunger and thirst can never be forever satisfied in this life, neither can the requirement for the divine gift of justice. This is the truth that beats out the march of Christian soldiers. Though they mourn on this day as they march on the National Mall, they do it in the happiness and blessedness that is their claim, in honor of the dead.
Requiescant in pace.
Sean Fitzpatrick is a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College and the Headmaster of Gregory the Great Academy. He lives in Scranton, PA with his wife and family of four. This piece originally appeared in Crisis Magazine and it is reprinted with permission.
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