By Tom Grenchik

December 2, 2016

January 22, 1973 is ingrained in the minds of those who cherish human life as the infamous day when the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated state abortion bans and made abortion legal and available on-demand throughout all 9 months of pregnancy across the country.  And every year since the tragic Roe v. Wade decision, people have gathered in Washington, DC, each January to march for life, pray for the protection of unborn children and their mothers, and make their voices heard to federal elected officials.

This coming year, the national March for Life will be held in our nation's capital on Friday, January 27, 2017.  As happens every four years, the March is shifted by a week due to the Presidential Inauguration.  In addition to the hundreds of thousands who will gather in DC, many thousands more will be gathering at local and regional events from coast to coast. Visit to get a sense for the size of this movement, largely made up of young people compelled to right a grievous wrong from an earlier generation.

Whether you are making a national pilgrimage or a local one, pilgrimages are marked by prayer and penance.  And the U.S. Catholic bishops have created a very adaptable novena to assist you.  9 Days for Life is an annual invitation to join the bishops in focused prayer and action for the nine days encompassing the Roe anniversary and the events marking it nationwide.  Especially geared toward young people, participants can join the bishops in daily prayers and simple sacrifices from Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, January 29. Prayers and activities are provided through email, text messages, various social media platforms, and even a free mobile app.  So even if you can't attend a physical pilgrimage, you can join in spirit from home, office, or school—and invite others along as well.

Not long ago, we were looking at the prospect of the next appointments to the Supreme Court being justices who would have been deeply committed to further enshrining abortion in our legal system and culture.  Now, perhaps, there is hope that the next justices appointed will be more committed to upholding the Constitution, rather than furthering the culture of death.  Let us offer our prayers and sacrifices for such a hope.

During 9 Days for Life, the bishops not only ask us to pray for children's and mothers' lives at risk, but to also pray for the many millions of lives that have been lost, and for those who personally mourn those losses.  Rare is the family that has not been touched by abortion in some way. The novena reminds us to pray for those who grieve and to assure them of hope through post-abortion healing ministries like Project Rachel.

Various ideas for individual or group participation in the novena are available at The bishops look forward to you joining them in this special time of prayer for our nation. Prayer changes things. 

Tom Grenchik is the Executive Director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Learn about the bishops' pro-life activities at