Protest and Pilgrimage: Report from the March for Life
By Br. Daniel Traceski, O.P.
This year the friars at the Dominican House of Studies and St. Dominic’s Priory and Parish continued our tradition of receiving some of the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who come to Washington, D.C. for the annual March for Life. They came for two reasons: for protest and for pilgrimage.
As citizens, they came to exercise their civic duty and constitutional right to “petition the government for redress of grievances.” Their petition was a peaceable assembly on the National Mall and a protest down Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court. Their grievance was the infamous decision of Roe v. Wade, barring lawful governments from protecting the vulnerable lives of unborn children.
We Dominican friars took our place with them to protest the injustice of abortion. In our traditional habits, we showed that religion belongs in the public square. The student brothers carried our banner, “Dominican Friars for Life,” to the Rally for Life between the Washington monument and the U.S. Capitol building. There we were joined by Dominican sisters, members of our parishes, and others who have been moved through the preaching and ministry of the friars. Together we held banners, stood, and marched in protest as the massive gathering worked its way to the Supreme Court. When we arrived, we paused to sing to our Lady the anthem we sing to her at the end of every day, the Dominican chant of the Salve Regina.
This prayer at the end of a protest points to the second aspect a Dominican sees in the March for Life. These thousands of pro-lifers came as members of the faithful to perform an act of religion, namely, a pilgrimage. This ancient practice is a way of giving worship to God and honor to his saints. It is also an act of petition, by which we beg God to send his graces and end abortion.
At the Dominican House of Studies, the friars are on the receiving end of this national pilgrimage. On the other side of our street, thousands came to pray for our nation in the national Shrine dedicated to our nation’s Patroness, the Immaculate Conception, asking her to help us protect children from the moment of conception.
The night before the March, Dominican student brothers and priests joined hundreds of seminarians and priests from across the country for a Vigil Mass for Life attended by thousands of pilgrims. Many, including students from universities served by Dominican chaplains, came to visit the priory for tours and for the Divine Office prayers in our chapel of the Immaculate Conception.
Back at the National Shrine, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament continued during the night until a final holy hour was lead by the Dominican students brothers. Throughout the city, Masses were attended by pilgrims; at many of these Masses, Dominican transitional deacons could be seen proclaiming the Gospel.
After the March, the student brothers returned to the House of Studies, the Priory of the Immaculate Conception, to continue our life of regular observance. In a Dominican chapel, contemplation flows into preaching for the salvation of souls. There too, Christ draws all to Himself and pours out His graces and blessings.