I know this is wishful thinking, but as I walked amid the rain and the throngs at the 10th annual OneLife LA, I wished that my friends, acquaintances, and yes, even family members, who are not pro-life, were there beside me. I thought how good it would have been for those on the opposite end of this issue to see the pro-life movement up close and personal. As has been proven countless times, when the media, the arts, and the academy are so strongly allied on the other side of this issue, being pro-life can seem like an uphill battle.

If those who revolve in the orbit of “choice” had been there on that rainy day, they would not have seen a seven-headed hydra of anger, repression, and rigidity — which is the characterization of the pro-life movement in so many strata of popular culture. They would not have even seen “warriors” preparing for battle. Instead, they would have seen a crowd of people that satisfied any college admissions DEI demands, and they would have seen joy.

Due to the rain, they would have also seen a Fellini-esque tableau of bouncing and swaying umbrellas as the walk wound its way from the Plaza in front of Olvera Street to the Los Angeles State Historic Park.

Before the walk the bishop of Fresno delivered an opening prayer. I know him quite well, as he is my brother. He gave a short — which, for the bishop of Fresno, is a kind of miracle in and of itself — but typically insightful message: “We accept this day the gift of life as a sacred trust. Through the workings and power of the Holy Spirit, help us to affirm the value of human life. Grant us the wisdom to speak about and the courage to defend human life.”

So just how are we supposed to defend human life? The answer is with warriors — but not the kind found in adventure movies. There were no angry organized chants or calls to arms for militant action at OneLife LA. The only voices heard from within the thousands of marchers were the continual loop of Our Fathers and Hail Marys from impromptu rosaries that bloomed within the ranks of the march from the front all the way to the back. If they were warriors, they were prayer warriors.

Yes, there were people in the march who were convinced there is still a political fight to be had, and there were petitions to sign and pamphlets to read. Even though I am perfectly comfortable with those brave souls who risk ridicule or worse as they stand before less receptive crowds trying to gain signatures for a pro-life cause, the majority of the marchers produced a different vibe, in me at least.

The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles were the recipients of this year’s OneLife LA grant, for their work with the dying at Santa Teresita Assisted Living in Duarte, California. (Victor Alemán)

I did not see future petitioners of the government or framers of new laws. I saw people who walked the walk of the pro-life movement. People who were pro-life by example and vocation, whether that vocation be in the form of mothers and fathers raising the children God grants them, or the priests who lead their parishes, or the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles who received a grant from One Life LA in recognition of their tireless work for those in the twilight of their years who also need love, respect, and dignity. The Carmelite Sisters deliver that all with joy and the light of Christ shining through. Watching them up on the stage receiving their grant, I thought again how some of my nonpro-life acquaintances might have benefited from being in their presence and seeing the joy and happiness that is the essence of the pro-life movement.

The overturning of the Roe v. Wade decision proved not to be the panacea many had hoped it would be. The opposing side picked their choice flag up off the ground, marshaled their forces, and charged up the hills of many state capitals. Their pro-choice allies responded to the clarion call: California, New Jersey, Illinois, and Vermont have enshrined abortion within their state Constitutions. More states will follow.

So why all the joy at OneLife? Mainly, I believe because so many people who walked the streets of Los Angeles that day, with soggy shoes and saturated umbrellas, were filled with love of God, and with an equal commitment and love for the life of the unborn and their moms. 

And that is how the world changes. Before laws change, hearts must come first.