Thursday, January 24, 2013

How to Improve the March for Life and it's Vigil Mass

1) The Basilica - The night before the March for Life, US Catholicism's biggest Mass of the year takes place.  Typically the Mass features 5 or more Cardinals, 50-100 bishops and hundreds of priests and seminarians.  The opening procession now lasts between 35-40 minutes.  There is nowhere to stand, as the Basilica is converted into the D.C. Fire Chief's worst nightmare.  To get a seat at the Mass one literally needs to reserve pews immediately following the morning Mass and then wait for 7-8 hours.

Pilgrim sites typically have Masses going on around the clock, and we could do that as well, and it would be just as awesome as the one Mass. 

If we have 5 Cardinals at the evening Mass, why night give each Cardinal a Mass starting at 11 am, and give it two and a half hours between Masses.  Then the priests and deacons are split up among the 5 Masses, and all the pilgrims who don't even bother showing up for the one evening Mass as it currently exists, could instead attend a Mass at the basilica as part of their March for Life Weekend.

11 am - Cardinal O'Malley Mass

1:30 pm - Cardinal Wuerl Mass

4:00 pm - Cardinal DiNardo Mass

6:30 pm - Cardinal Dolan Mass

9:00 pm - Cardinal LeVada Mass

Objection 1: There is only one Basilica choir.
Response to objection 1: Bring in the four best Catholic choirs from the East/Mid West.  Have it be the American Idol of Catholic choirs where they have to apply to sing at one of the March for Life Masses. 

Objection 2: If you split the one Mass up into 5 Masses, there will be a lot less people at each Mass
Reply to Objection 2: So many people don't go near the Basilica because they know it will be packed and their kids will be stuffed in a basement watching it on TV.  If people knew they could get a seat at a vigil Mass without waiting 7 hours, I guarantee that a lot more people would come to the Basilica and the 5 Masses would be nearly as full as the one Mass currently offered.

Objection 3: There is something special about seeing all these priests and cardinals together
Response to Objection 3: Does the procession need to be a half-hour?  Is the effect really lost if instead each Mass had a Cardinal, 20-40 bishops, and hundreds of priests?  Is a 10 minute procession that much less triumphalistic as compared to a 35 minute procession?  I would submit that most kids would be pretty excited to see a cardinal and what would still be considered an impressive amount of the Church's hierarchy split 5 ways.

If we could have 5 packed Masses where 5 times more people get to experience Catholicism to the max, why would we just do it one time?

2) The day of the March: we have to have 2-5 speakers who are AWESOME, and well-known, and will do a great job.  D.C. is always freezing in late January, yet currently the speeches go on for hours, every single person who is pro-life in the country seems to get 5 minutes at the mic, and every denomination and theology gets a crack at speaking against abortion...consequently no one really cares.  The March never starts on time, usually missing the gun by over an hour and a half.  Planned Parenthood doesn't have rallies with hundreds of speakers that starts at noon, give or take 2 hours. 

Be clear on the schedule.  "Our AWESOME lineup of four speakers will start at ______ pm.  The March will start at exactly ______ pm.  There will be no lag time."

Because the March is so chaotic, although they advertise a start time of 1:00 pm, I've learned from experience that if you get to the Washington Mall at 1, you will be standing around for at least an hour and a half listening to the representative from Wyoming and a hundred other people talk endlessly.  Experienced marchers know that they should simply arrive at 2:30.  That would change if the March were better organized, more efficient, and the fat trimmed from the pre-March program. 

humbly submitted - Fr. John Hollowell