By Christine Bordelon, Clarion Herald
WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Jan. 17, the eve of the March for Life, pilgrims from the Archdiocese of New Orleans began the day in praise to God in Mass at their hotel, and ended it in benediction at the 10th annual “Life is Very Good” evening of prayer and rally at EagleBank Arena at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.
“Tonight was one of those times when you hear God,” seminarian Ajani Gibson told the pilgrims after having experienced the powerful and spirit-filled rally and then being quiet and still in benediction. “We find out how God speaks to us in those moments of silence.”
Sponsored by the Diocese of Arlington, the evening featured speakers Chris Stefanick, ministry leader and performer Steve Angrisano and the Christian band “I Am They.”
“Be open and allow God to come into our heart,” Angrisano told 8,000 young people from across the United States who came from as far away as North Dakota.
He mentioned how the event has grown from its inception 10 years earlier with only 350 people.
“We rally ourselves, we open our hearts today because tomorrow we stand and make a difference in the world,” Angrisano said.
“You are pilgrims who make this great journey to be witnesses for life,” Arlington Bishop Michael Burbidge said in greeting the young people at the rally. “I love the name of this rally. I hope you never take that for granted. Life is very good because God loves you … created you in his own likeness and dwells in you.”
Bishop Burbidge said another reason “life is very good” is that God put people in their lives, such as parents, teachers and youth ministers, who love and direct them.
“God comes to us in the gift of the Eucharist,” he said, inviting them to see the gaze of Jesus by giving him thanks, doing what they need to do in life and asking God what it is he wants he wants them to hear. “Life is very good indeed.”
Be joyful of heart
To set the mood for his joyful talk, speaker Chris Stefanick of Colorado invited several youths to the stage for a sing-off, with the crowd selecting their favorite duo of the three groups.
“The joy in this room makes the devil really nervous,” Stefanick said. “He’s terrified of joyful Catholics because the joy of the Lord is an unstoppable force.”
Stefanick quoted Pope Benedict XVI who said, “The happiness you enjoy has a name and a face, and his name is Jesus Christ.”
Stefanick said joy transformed his heart as a youth.
“Joy comes from the never-ending, reckless love of God,” he said. “Joy comes from being loved perfectly even when everything in our life is a mess. When we live in that joy, who we are spreads the fragrance to everyone.”
Stefanick told the young people they have to fight for their joy, suggesting five rules to live with joy:
1. Give thanks in all circumstances. “Gratitude fuels joy.” It is the key that will unlock the smile on your face.
2. Stop compromising with sin. Cut the bad things out of your life, whether it is a friend, a website, whatever.
3. Carry your body upright with a sense of dignity and royalty. “You are royalty. … That’s how the almighty God looks at us. A cheerful face leads to a cheerful heart,” he said. Carry yourself like a winner, and people will see you as one.
4. Serve others. Lose yourself in love and service.
5. Keep your mind on the big picture. Don’t let the rough pages (trials) in your life compare with the bigger story. Stefanick said Christians were founded in love. “The love of Jesus Christ for you, that’s the source of our joy,” he said.
Life is good
Angrisano led the attendees in worship before the evening closed with benediction. He told them to give their hurts to God.
“Let God be God,” he said. “It’s the most important thing you can do.”
Back on the bus, Gibson told the high schoolers from New Orleans to keep being transformed “by opening your heart to what God is doing in your life.”
Earlier in the day at the Louisiana Right to Life “Geaux Forth 2019” rally at the Wagner Theatre near the White House, the crew from New Orleans heard pro-life talks from two speakers who had personal experiences with abortions.
Krista Corbello talked about her mother choosing not to abort her even though she was encouraged to get an abortion because she was unmarried and her boyfriend had abandoned her. She later met her biological father and learned he had aborted a baby who would have been her sibling. She also explained several abortion procedures to the youth.
Speaker Melissa Ohden should have died from a saline solution abortion procedure her mother had, but God had other plans for her life. She said pro-choice advocates say abortion is a choice, but very few women have a choice. Sixty-four percent of those polled say they were pressured into an abortion. Her mother was one of them and was never told her daughter had survived the abortion.
Ohden urged the young adults to speak out for life in this culture of death. “No child should suffer what I suffered,” Ohden said. “Every child deserves better than I experienced. No woman deserves what my mom went through.”
The speakers ended by getting the youth to say, “We are the Pro-Life Generation!”
Christine Bordelon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.