Friday, April 17, 2009

Spain Trip - Part II: Maybe There's Life in Europe Yet

As promised in my former post (Spain Trip - Part I), one of the more significant--and delightful--surprises on our recent trip to Spain was a pro-life march that we, literally, ran into on our first night there, in the town of Alcalá de Henares. We attended the 7:30pm Mass at the Cathedral and then headed back in pouring rain down the main street of the old town in search of supper, where we encountered a crowd of about 200 people (pictured above) carrying a banner that read, "¿Y yo?... ¡Protege mi vida!" This translates as "And me?... Protect my life! On either side of the banner are side-by-side photos of a human baby and what looks like a linx kitten. The rest of the banner reads, "March for Life/Diocese of Alcala." They were headed for the Cathedral, apparently; we had, in fact, seen flyers in the Cathedral with the same words and photos on them. Cold, wet, and hungry as we were, we decided to follow them. This was clearly something not to be missed….

It took a while for all of us to filter through the rather narrow west door of the Cathedral, which gave us a chance to inspect the crowd. It was not unlike pro-life events I have encountered here in the US – people of all ages, including lots of young people, families with several children, extended families, and a few handicapped people, too. We settled into a pew on the left side and waited.

The banner was set up behind the altar, as pictured below. A succession of speakers went to the lectern to speak, then to offer prayers, and in between we sang praise and worship music, most of which I didn’t recognize. When they set up the monstrance on the altar, however, which you can see in the photo below, the song was “Majestad,” that is, “Majesty,” in English. (The first line is “Majesty, worship his majesty….”) Bernie and I are very familiar with this evangelical standard, so we sang along in English.

Those of you who have read my blog know that I am not overly fond of evangelical praise & worship music as a rule – at least not for use at Mass. But this one is one of the better ones, I think, since the focus is on Him rather than on us. And indeed, this was not a Mass, it was a Holy Hour, and somehow that song made much more sense to me in this context than it ever has before. After all, His Majesty was right there on the altar! It was really quite moving.

We decided to slip out at about 9 p.m., while the bishop (Bp. Ibáñez, to the left in the photo) was still speaking, since we were pretty exhausted and had not eaten supper yet. His topic, as nearly as I could tell, was the Annunciation. Annunciation Day had been the previous Wednesday, after all.

The next day – Sunday – we took the commuter train into Madrid, and who should get on the train after us but a small group of people with a rolled up banner that looked something like the one we had seen the night before. I screwed up my courage and approached a young woman in the group. Neither of us spoke each other’s language, but I did manage to ascertain that they were with the group we had seen and that they were on their way into Madrid for another pro-life rally there – at the Ayuntamiento (the Town Hall) – at noon. Bernie and I decided to make that one of our first stops after we took care of our tourist business at Atocha Station.

I should pause here to explain the occasion for the demonstrations: Spain’s Socialist government, under Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero, came to power several years ago in the wake of terrorist bombings, the worst of which destroyed part of Atocha Station. True to form, Zapatero’s government has introduced legislation to liberalize the country’s historically restrictive abortion laws, and hundreds of thousands of Spaniards turned out to protest and to declare, “There is no right to kill, there is the right to live,” as the banner below proclaims. For more on the march see the Life Site News story from March 31. The march was organized primarily by four major Spanish pro-life organizations, Derecho a Vivir (Right to Life), Hazte Oír (Make Yourself Heard), Doctors for Life, and ProLife Madrid. Reportedly, an estimated 100,000 people participated in the Madrid march. Having witnessed it myself, I would say that is no exaggeration. The crowd was enormous! It was stretched out over about a mile, at about 20-people wide.

By the time we arrived it was about 1:30 p.m., and the march was well underway. We stuck around long enough to take a few photos, which I have posted above and below.

It was a great encouragement to see so many like-minded people marching in favor of the right to life, especially in Western Europe, where it often seems that many countries are determined to commit cultural and demographic suicide. Many of the families we saw that day had three or more children, and I saw many expectant mothers – not the norm in modern Europe, where some countries are resorting to paying families to have more children. It was a joy to see that there is a sizable remnant in at least one country who are willing to draw a line in the sand.


Jg said...


Pol said...

And, 7 months later, a bigger one, with hundreds of thousands for life in Madrid (October 17th)

Watch the CNN report in English, 2 minutes...

By the way, I love that song, Majesty: "Majestad, adora su majestad, a Jesus, sea honra, gloria y poder"

Heide said...

Pol,thank you for your comment. My husband found the news story about the more recent march. It has been very encouraging to see the Spanish people defying the government's attempts to weaken legal protections for the unborn. I pray they will ultimately prevail.

I like the song, too, and it was especially meaningful in the context of Eucharistic Adoration!