Friday, January 7, 2011

To Set The Tone...

I wrote and presented this opening speech on 17 April, 2010 to welcome attendees to the Pro-Life Youth Conference.  I've been wanting to post it for a few days now.  I don't know why.  It is written in a more casual style than I am used to writing in, because it is a verbally given presentation.  The audience was predominantly high school students.  I hope you find it worthwhile.

Hello.  My name is Sarah C- and I am a senior at - - - - - , and also a co-chair for this year's conference.  It is my privilege to be the first to officially welcome each of you to the seventh annual pro-life youth conference here at - - . This year's theme, "The Innocents: Let Their Song be Sung!" was inspired by the Feast of the Holy Innocents.

The Feast of the Holy Innocents calls to mind Herod's soldiers slaughtering the innocent male infants of Bethlehem. He had them murdered because he was told that a King had been born in Bethlehem, and he was afraid of loosing his power and his life of luxury to another king, so he figured the easiest way to continue living comfortably was to get rid of the threat by killing the children, hoping baby Jesus would be among the victims of the small genocide. The conference planners felt that this is an appropriate event to reflect on in this conference because, even though it occurred 2 thousand years ago on the other side of the world, we can see it happening around us, in our times, in our countries, in our own families, in our friend's lives, and in our own lives. Only this time it's not as obvious. There are obviously not soldiers running through our streets on horses, bearing swords and knocking down doors, and the ground beneath our feet isn't literally soaked with the blood of the innocents. We feel like the dramatic, almost theatrical image of this Feast helps awaken a sense of urgency, calling attention to the sacredness of all human life and the respect it deserves, especially the most defenseless and the most innocent among us, from the unborn to the elderly, from the foreigner to the mentally challenged, and from our Hollywood idols to the misfits roaming our school halls. For us, it helps the realities of pain, destruction, and the Culture of Death set in. This feast reminds us that human life is still under attack, but this time the battlefields are the places we live our lives: our schools, our homes, whenever we are in contact with other people we either uphold human dignity or we tear it apart.

Today's attacks are a very real thing. These empty seats are reserved for our peers who have fallen victim to abortion. They would be our peers, our friends, or classmates, teammates, bandmates, boyfriends, girlfriends, and our neighborhood hangout buddies. One fourth of our own generation are the casualties of this war. In some way, every person in existence participates in the conflict between the culture of death and the individual human being, and we affect it in three basic ways: our words, our choices, and our prayers. It's too easy to forget how powerful our words can be. Our words can cut through a person until they wish their heart would be ripped out to end the pain we have inflicted, and other times a comment we make is what gives a person the strength they need to get through the day. We may dare to discuss the heavy things that are generally avoided and offer a point of view that someone had never realized existed or they'd never really thought of before, And it may cause them to approach a question differently, and they may gain some sort of new understanding as a result. This is the way our words have the power to convert a mind. The second way we engage in the conflicts hiding around us, is in our choices and what we do in our everyday lives. We can scowl at people or we can talk to them. We can help our neighbors or we can pull pranks on them. You could donate a weekend a month to some movement you are passionate about, maybe join an organization here today or become involved in your own style, maybe create a blog or a website, start a group, write a song: whatever action makes the most sense to you to defend life. Or we could spend every weekend briefly entertaining ourselves at the movies, and allowing our views to affect only ourselves. We could encourage a friend in a crisis pregnancy situation to choose life and actually LIVE what we believe and what we take from here today, or we could passively accept their decision to abort, as if their decision only affected themselves.

Finally, praying is probably the most powerful thing we can do to defend the innocents. Prayers affirm our personal beliefs and convictions on an individual basis, and it calls a higher power than any of us to become an active participant among us in the fight for the culture of life. We recognize that we are only instruments and that Prayer is the power behind everything we do. Through our words and choices and lives, our prayers can come alive and take on some perceivable, tangible form. So our words, choices and prayers are all ways we reveal the side we choose to live for: the Culture of Life or the Culture of Death.

Every soul is precious. Every individual person is meaningful. Every action of ours, no matter how small it may seem, counts a lot. Because in some way, it accepts or rejects life.

One final thing I would like to point out is that everyone in this room has the support of Building Bridges and many others in your efforts to uphold the dignity of human life. When you act on behalf of life, you are never alone. It’s impossible to be alone. Because you have many friends in this room, and the Song of the Innocents will continue long after this conference ends today, and long after we all go to sleep tonight. Life has already triumphed and Love hasn't ended yet.

So today from our speakers, you will be offered a ton of information, you will hear some incredibly personal and moving stories, you will be given ideas. At the booths in the back, you will be offered opportunities to become involved with various organizations and you will be given resources. And throughout the day, you will also have the opportunity to participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation until we say the Rosary and celebrate Sunday Mass later this afternoon.

On behalf of the planners, all I would like to request of each of you today is that you keep your heart and your mind open, and that you become an active participant in this day as we attempt to let the Song of the Innocents be sung.

"It's no accident we're here tonight.  We are once in a life time."
~ Needle and Haystack Life

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