The most powerful aspect of the March for Life: Standing room only in the Great Upper Church, and also filling the chapels of the undercroft.


By: Msgr. Charles Pope

As I have remarked before, to March for Life is experience life. So many joyful Christians and others who support life gather and celebrate the glory and dignity of human life. The March is ever young, with the ranks of so many young people growing every year.

Here at my rectory are 15 fine seminarians from the Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit. Fine orthodox, and zealous men who love God and the Church and are eager to preach the Gospel and celebrate the sacraments. Almost 700 seminarians marched into the Basilica Thursday evening along with hundreds of priests, and as many as 8000 lay people, standing room only in the Great Upper Church, and also filling the chapels of the undercroft.

Today at the Cathedral I was privileged to preach to a full Church and hear powerful witness talks from Project Rachel leaders prior to the Mass. Despite cold and some light snow, I would say the crowd was close in size to last year’s 400,000.

Yes, such life, such faith and joy.

I must say however, that my joy is often tempered each year toward the end of the march when I go and try to witness to the “pro-choice” demonstrators who stand in front of the Supreme Court. I often experience great pain in this work.

To be sure they are the hardened cases, but I experience such grief after talking with them. Here are a couple of conversations as I remember them.

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13,000 faithful, 5 cardinals, 42 bishops, 395 priests, 80 deacons, 520 seminarians

Editor’s note: The Mass that is regularly celebrated in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the night before the March for Life, is truly the experience of a lifetime and it should not be missed, if at all possible.


Vigil Mass at the Basilica is the high point of the DC March for Life

The Pro-life March, for a Catholic especially, is really more than just the March, it is a series of activities. In the days immediately before the March there are usually seminars and other focused gatherings around life and bio-ethical issues.

Then there is the great Vigil Mass for Life, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the night before the March.

The Great Upper Church of the Basilica can comfortably seat about 4,000 people. But the Vigil Mass for Life brings often 8,000 or more. People are standing in the aisles, the side chapels, in every nook and cranny.

The Sanctuary around the High Altar is packed with Bishops, priests, deacons, and seminarians from all over the country. Visible in the Church are Religious men and women in consecrated life showing a magnificent display of diversity in their habits.

The congregation is filled with men an women and young people of every age group, and every ethnic and racial diversity imaginable. If you want to know how catholic (universal) the Catholic Church really is, just come to the Basilica for the Vigil Mass for Life!

Read more from Msgr. Charles Pope

Annual Washington D.C. March for Life events, January 21-23.

Annual Washington D.C. March for Life

Thousands to Unite in Prayer for the Sanctity of Life

On January 22 and 23, 2012, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception will host liturgies, prayer services, rosaries, Holy Hours, and confessions for the faithful who come to the March for Life. As in years past, well over 10,000 people from all over our Nation will participate in these Vigil for Life events at the Shrine. Sunday evening, January 22, 2012, at 6:30 p.m., His Eminence, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and Chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, will be the principal celebrant and homilist for the Vigil Mass for Life. Confessions will be held from 9:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., the National Rosary for Life begins at 10 p.m., and Night Prayer will be celebrated at 11 p.m.

The National Prayer Vigil continues overnight with Holy Hours for Life from 12 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. At 7:30 a.m., Monday, January 23, Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, will be the principal celebrant and homilist for the Closing Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life. Both Masses will be broadcast live on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN).

The Catholic University of America will house overnight pilgrims from across the United States who will participate in the Annual March for Life to demonstrate their belief in the sanctity of human life in all its stages from conception to natural death on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States.

A Scriptural Rosary

During his Pastoral Visit to the Shrine of Pompei in October 2008, His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, taught that the Rosary “is a precious spiritual means to grow in intimacy with Jesus, and to learn at the school of the Blessed Virgin always to fulfill the divine will.” The Scriptural Rosary book is designed to aid your prayer by providing material for reflection when meditating on each of the mysteries of the Rosary. With each of the twenty mysteries there is a Gospel passage and an excerpt from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Scriptural Rosary includes the Joyful Mysteries, the Mysteries of Light, the Sorrowful Mysteries, and the Glorious Mysteries. This booklet will help you participate, even from afar, in the prayers for the Sanctity of Life to take place at the National Shrine.

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Through Thursday January 26, each Scriptural Rosary booklet request will include a complimentary edition of the Magnificat for February 2012. Limit one booklet per benefactor, while supplies last.

The suggested offering for the Scriptural Rosary booklet is $10.00, including shipping and handling. As you may know, the Basilica of the National Shrine is not a parish, and receives no diocesan support. It is only through the generosity of our benefactors and Catholics like you that we are able to continue our ministry as a place of worship, pilgrimage, evangelization, and reconciliation.

To see a detailed listing of Masses and events for the March for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, please visit our website at

March for Life Official Site

Submitted by:

S/K  John Costello, PGK  KC  3148

About the Latin Mass recently celebrated in Washington, DC

For those who are unfamiliar or unappreciative with the splendor of  the Latin Liturgy in this form some questions often arise.

1. Why pray in Latin or any language unfamiliar to the language of the people who attend?

Simply put, praying in Latin is to pray in what has been a sacred language for the Church. It is a common feature of cultures down through human history that they often prayed in a language other than the language of the home and streets. To pray liturgically is to enter heaven, a world apart from the every day world. To use another and more ancient language is a common way many cultures have underscored this.

At the time of Jesus, the synagogue services and the Temple liturgy used ancient Hebrew. Jesus and his contemporaries did not speak Hebrew at home or in the streets any longer. They spoke Aramaic. But when they prayed they instinctively used the ancient prayers which were Hebrew.

In the early Church it appears that the earliest years saw the use of the Greek language for the Liturgy. It seems to have been used even though many people spoke Latin throughout the empire. But many did not think Latin was suited for the Liturgy which required a more elevated language than what most people spoke. By the 5th Century however Latin came to be introduced in the Western Empire as it became an older and more venerable language to them. Eventually Latin wholly replaced Greek in the liturgy of the Church in the Western empire (except a few remnants such as the Kyrie). It remained the language of worship until about 1965 when the local languages were allowed. However, it was not the intent of the Church that Latin should wholly disappear as it has largely done. Latin remains for the Church the official language of her worship.

So, why pray in Latin? Why not? It is for us a sacred language of worship and there is an instinct in human culture that liturgy is  world apart where we enter heaven. It is not wrong to pray in the local language but, truth be told, it is not the usual practice in human history.

2. Why does the celebrant face away, or “have his back to us?”

It is really a wrongful description to say the celebrant has his back to us. What is really happening is that the celebrant and the people are all facing the same direction. They are looking toward God. On the center of every older altar was a crucifix. The priest faced it to say Mass and all the people faced it with him. He and they are turned toward the Lord.

In the ancient Church, they not only faced the cross, they also faced to the east to pray. An ancient text called the Didiscalia written about 250 AD says,  Now, you ought to face to east to pray for, as you know, scripture has it, Give praise to God who ascends above the highest heavens to the east . In later centuries it was not always possible to orient the Church so that everyone could face east. But the Crucifix above the altar represented the east and the Lord. Hence everyone  faced the Lord to pray.

The idea of facing each other to pray is wholly modern and was never known in the Church prior to 1965.  Hence the answer is that the celebrant is facing the Lord to pray and so are we.

3. Why is so much of the Mass whispered quietly?

Not everything is whispered but the much of the Eucharistic prayer is. Historically the whispered Eucharistic prayer (or Canon) developed in monastic settings where it was not uncommon for more than one liturgy to be celebrated at the same time at various side altars. In those days priests did not concelebrate masses as they do frequently today. Each priest had to celebrate his own mass. In monasteries where numerous priest might be in residence, numerous liturgies might be celebrated at similar times. In order not to interrupt each other, the priests conducted these liturgies with a server quietly. This practice continued into modern times.

Over time this monastic silence came to be regarded as a sacred silence. The whispering of the prayers was considered a sign of the sacredness of the words which “should not” be loudly proclaimed. (There are other more complicated theological trends that swept the liturgy too complicated to go into here that also influenced the move to a more silent liturgy) At any rate, the practice of a sacred silence came to be the norm eventually even in parish churches. Hence the hushed tones were not an attempt to ignore the faithful who attended or make their participation difficult but it was associated with a holy silence. People knelt, praying as the priest prayed on their behalf.

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Celebrate the 5th Anniversary of Pope Benedict’s Inauguration

The Pontifical Solemn Mass
at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
April 24, 2010 at 1PM

Join us as Vatican prelate Darío Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos performs the first traditional mass held at the Basilica in 50 years, in celebration of the fifth anniversary of Pope Benedict’s inauguration.

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Submitted by Nancy W.

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. turns 50

Main entrance of the largest church in the United States

Looking forward towards the main altar

Huge mosaic of the awesome Jesus
as described in the Book of Revelation
returning to judge the living and the dead.

(Look into his eyes and meditate on that for a while!)

Revelation 1:13-18 And in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, one like to the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the feet, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.  And his head and his hairs were white as white wool and as snow. And his eyes were as a flame of fire:  And his feet like unto fine brass, as in a burning furnace. And his voice as the sound of many waters.  And he had in his right hand seven stars. And from his mouth came out a sharp two-edged sword. And his face was as the sun shineth in his power.  And when I had seen him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying: Fear not. I am the First and the Last,  And alive, and was dead. And behold I am living for ever and ever and have the keys of death and of hell.

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