Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Last month I drove one of three vanloads of teenagers from my daughter’s high school (St. Francis Central Coast Catholic High School in Watsonville) to the Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco. (see http://www.walkforlifewc.com/ ) Over 50,000 of us gathered and walked the 5 miles along the waterfront from the Embarcadero to the Marina.

We started with a rally featuring wonderful speakers. I was especially impressed with Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director and 2008 Employee of the Year who was instantly converted in October 2009 when she witnessed an ultrasound guided abortion in her clinic. A few days later she ran over to the Coalition for Life office next to her clinic and asked for their help. They embraced her lovingly and gave her the support she needed to resign and become a powerful worker for life. I encourage everyone to get a copy of her book, Unplanned, read it and pass it along. It is the unique and powerful story of her journey from death into life. Once you start it, you may not sleep much until you’ve finished it!

The 50,000 who did the walk were a beautiful representation of the Church and of the human family, people of all ages, races, lay, priests, religious, including thousands of teenagers. We were praying, singing, smiling and feeling God’s love and peace and grace. The stream of people stretched along the San Francisco Bay waterfront was like a river of life and light shining in the darkness. And we did encounter several ugly pockets of darkness – small groups and individual counter-protesters, most of them bizarrely dressed and saying or chanting cruel, intolerant, vulgar and blasphemous things. We maintained a prayerful silence as we passed by, but I was distressed that our teenagers were exposed to their filthy talk – things I don’t even want to remember, much less repeat. I almost lost my cool when we passed by a particularly obnoxious group who were singing the tune of the Gloria from “Angels We Have Heard on High” with the most blasphemous words I have ever heard in my life – I mean truly blasphemous words against Jesus. But as I went back into prayer Jesus showed me that this was a sharing in his walk to Calvary when people mocked, cursed and blasphemed him. And he forgave them and died for their sins so that they could be with him in Paradise forever.

That’s the kind of love that we must have for those who are lost in darkness and sin, who hate us for what we believe and practice. If we hate them for what they believe and practice, then the saving grace of God cannot work through us. In churches all over the world today we heard Jesus commanding us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. If you ready Abby Johnson’s book, you’ll see what a beautiful and effective strategy this is!

But most of the march was a beautiful, peaceful experience. We felt the presence of God very powerfully. I’ve walked the streets of San Francisco for the past 18 years, but never in this way before. Being a part of this holy presence was truly a blessed experience. Fisherman’s Warf was packed on that beautiful, warm and sunny day and all the sidewalk tables were filled with tourists eating crab and chowder. I can only imagine how this miles-long stream of holiness passing in front of them has touched them forever. I felt like I was in church and they were all there with us.

The Gospel reading that weekend told of Jesus walking around Galilee and proclaiming, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” The Walk for Life in San Francisco was the Kingdom of Heaven at hand – right here, right now. Please visit its website, http://www.walkforlifewc.com/ for more impressions of that day.

Thank you for all your prayers, sacrifices and efforts to bring the light and love of God to the world and to the people right around you. None are ever in vain.

Your servant in Christ,

Deacon Patrick