The Necessity of One

Anne McGuire

August 17, 2012

Reflecting on the lack of regard for human life can be disheartening and even overwhelming. It would be easy to give in to hopelessness as we recognize our own limits in the face of the immense problems facing our society. After all, what difference can one person really make?

Nellie Gray, the principal founder of the annual March for Life, passed away over the weekend of August 12th. Her death is mourned by those whose lives she touched in the pro-life movement. But in her passing, we are invited to reflect upon the work which the Lord can accomplish through each person.

The March for Life is a unique moment to join together with hundreds of thousands of other people who value the dignity of the child in the womb. It’s a moment to be strengthened by one another’s presence and enthusiasm. It’s a moment to remember that we are not alone in our desire to promote the sanctity of life. And so, while we can be grateful for this solidarity with so many others each year, we can also be grateful for the reminder that one person can have such a tremendous impact. 

The witness of Nellie’s efforts inspires the question, “How can I also promote respect for the sanctity of every human life?” Although the March for Life occurs only once a year, the work of which it is a part continues each and every day. Examples abound of those who recognize and work to promote respect for life.

Two such examples are Sr. Paula Vandegaer, SSS, and Vincent Rue, PhD, who received People of Life awards from the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities in early August in recognition of their admirable dedication to the pro-life cause. With such admirable efforts—which range from founding supportive Christ-centered communities for abortion-vulnerable women and their families, to treating men and women traumatized by abortion—both honorees serve as remarkable witnesses to following the Lord’s guidance in their lives.

When we see people with such commitment, it is good to recognize something in the way they live that inspires us to live in a similar manner. It is not that we should necessarily pursue the same specific endeavors. Rather, we recognize that the Lord has a plan for each of our lives, which He invites us to follow by prayerfully pursuing the desires he places in our hearts. As Pope Benedict XVI said in his first papal homily in 2005, “We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.”

By seeing each person before us in this light, and by loving each person with Christ’s heart, we live in a way that recognizes the value of every person. Realizing that we are held in the Father’s hands, and that he has a plan for our lives, we are free to follow wherever he leads. Sometimes that means helping to found or maintain the March for Life, pregnancy care centers, or an institute for healing after pregnancy loss. Sometimes it means taking twenty minutes to listen compassionately to your teenage daughter’s struggles, regardless of the day’s tight schedule. In this life, we may hardly be aware of the ways the Lord works through us. But by remaining open to His grace, we allow Him to build up a culture of life through us.

May we always remember that He is bigger than any threat that faces our society. He has already won the victory.

Anne McGuire is a staff assistant for the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. For more information on the January events marking the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, please visit