I am saddened by recent news, especially so soon after the Mass and March for Life in Washington, DC, that reflects a lack of understanding and respect for God’s plan, which created each one of us out of His love.
We are called to celebrate the beauty of life, from the beginning to the end, and everything in between.
I pray that each of us will become more holy, more grateful and more joyful in our own lives as we work to help others recognize and protect each life as a precious gift from God.
† Luis Rafael Zarama, J.C.L.
Bishop of Raleigh
WASHINGTON, D.C. — North Carolina pilgrims gathered at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Jan. 18 to attend Mass with their bishops before stepping out to the national March for Life.
The annual North Carolina Mass Giving Thanks to God for the Gift of Human Life is a long-standing tradition for the state's two Catholic dioceses. The Mass was concelebrated by Charlotte Bishop Peter Jugis and Raleigh Bishop Luis Zarama.
Bishop Jugis, principal celebrant, welcomed everyone to the Mass, saying, "Faithful from all over the state of North Carolina have come together for this Mass representing the Diocese of Raleigh and the Diocese of Charlotte, as well as faithful from cities all over the United States. We come to offer the sacrifice of Christ, in thanksgiving ... to God for the gift of human life and for God's protection of the unborn."
It was Bishop Zarama's first Mass for Life in Washington since being installed as the bishop of Raleigh in 2017.
"My goodness," he said at the start of his homily from the ambo in the upper church, looking out over the crowd inside the basilica. "I don't think I've ever been so above everybody – I think I need to take a pill," he joked.
In his homily, delivered in English and in Spanish, Bishop Zarama urged the pilgrims to focus firstly on God, to strengthen their faith and love of God in order to help build a culture of life.
"Surrender in the arms of the One who really loves us," Bishop Zarama said.
God made each of us out of love, he continued, and that fact should prompt us to "jump high" with joy.
"We need to celebrate life. And how do we celebrate life? With joy!" he said.
"That joy is what the people outside are looking to see in us," he said. "The joy of what we believe, the beauty of our life, and the respect for the human person from the beginning to the end, and everything in between."
Bishop Zarama urged people to put God first in their lives, loving God and loving their neighbor. Material things – cars, pizza, etc. – should not receive our love, he said.
"Love is only for God, for your neighbor and for yourself – not for pizza, not for your car," he emphasized.
At the end of Mass, Bishop Jugis encouraged everyone to carry the spirit of the March for Life back home with them to their parishes, to "continue their good work that we have begun here, so that God's message can spread throughout the length and breadth of our country."
After the Mass, pilgrims joined hundreds of thousands of others at the March for Life on the Mall to the Supreme Court building, where they marked the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's 1973 decision that legalized abortion.
Charlotte parishioner Christianne Goodman said this was her first time attending the national March for Life.
"I am here to be a witness for life. I am so excited to be here, to be a witness for Christ and for life," Goodman said. Prayer and public witness like the March for Life "touches hearts," she said.