Catholic Vancouver Jan. 23, 2019

Vancouver priest celebrates birthday by celebrating life

By Agnieszka Ruck

Vancouver pro-life chaplain Father Larry Lynn with hundreds of thousands of pro-life marchers heading toward the U.S. Supreme Court during the March for Life in Washington. (Photos courtesy of Father Lynn)

Vancouver priest Father Larry Lynn didn’t like to brag about his birthday – until his 70th landed on the same day as the March for Life in Washington, D.C.

“I can’t think of a better way to celebrate your birthday than with about 500,000 of your best friends, people who are celebrating life,” said Father Lynn, a pro-life chaplain based in West Vancouver.

So, he booked a flight and sent an open invitation to local people to join him in Washington Jan. 18. He ran into about 25 other Canadians during the trip, out of the hundreds of thousands (organizers don’t know for sure) of American witnesses for life at the U.S. Supreme Court.

The march attracted humans of all ages, from “people in the womb” to adults Father Lynn’s age or older. He guessed, though, 75 per cent of marchers were under 25 years old, and they filled the ranks with a joyful energy.

“The march is a celebration of life. It’s not a protest,” said Father Lynn. “It was shoulder to shoulder, hundreds of thousands of people, singing and chanting. They chanted slogans like: ‘I love babies, yes I do, I love babies, how about you?’ Some people were saying the Rosary in large groups.”

Some had even been praying since the evening before. The Mass for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception attracted about 20,000 people and led into a prayer vigil that lasted all night.

“There was pure joy, prayer, and song.”

Canadians heading along the parade route during the March for Life in Washington.

There were few counter-protesters, said Father Lynn, who was aware of only one small group of perhaps 10 yelling at pro-lifers at the entrance to a March for Life conference Jan. 17.

The experience was especially moving for Father Lynn, standing among hundreds of thousands of people, all seemingly filled with joy, peace, and compassion. “What better thing to celebrate than life itself?”

He was particularly moved when members of Silent No More, representing women who regret their past abortions and who now advocate for life, took to a small podium to share their testimonies.

One woman said she was about 16 when she found out she was pregnant; her boyfriend’s family forced her into having an abortion, said Father Lynn. She was so distraught the night before the appointment, she attempted to spray holy water on her womb to baptize her child.

“I burst into tears when she said that,” said Father Lynn. “I must have made an audible gasp because a woman who was standing nearby came over to me and just put her arm around me.”

“That sums it up for me, what this march is all about. That moment was full of love and compassion. We need to be compassionate to those who have had abortions and participated in them. We have to witness to the fact that it happens, and the fact that it is wrong. That is the reason I went there.”

Pro-lifers assemble outside the U.S. Supreme Court at the March for Life in Washington. 

Father Lynn, the pro-life chaplain for the Archdiocese of Vancouver, said he hopes to bring that same youthful energy to B.C.’s annual March for Life in Victoria this May.

“What they have in the United States is hope. They have hope because they see change and they can affect change through witnessing and prayer,” he said.

U.S. vice president Mike Pence was unashamed about his support for the March for Life, addressing the huge crowd: “We gather here because we stand for life. We gather here for because we stand for compassion. We gather here because we believe, as our founders did that we are, born and unborn, endowed by our creator with unalienable rights, and first among these rights is the right to life.”

In Canada, the pro-life movement does not enjoy the same support from high levels of government. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last year that “restricting women’s rights by removing rights to abortion and the rights for women to control their own bodies is not in line with where we are as a government, and quite frankly where we are as a society.”

Yet, 70-year-old Father Lynn has not lost hope.

“We are not defeated. Abortion is wrong, and it is always wrong. When we stand up for life, we influence other people. We need to stand up. We need to make ourselves known. There are many ways of doing that. I would ask people to look into how they can stand for life. It’s the fundamental issue of our time and defines our society.”

Canadians gather outside the Canadian Embassy along the March for Life parade route in Washington. 

Stephanie Gray, another pro-life Canadian at the March for Life, said she also participates in dialogue in the hopes her message can influence others.

“My mission is to influence the influencers,” the internationally-known pro-life speaker told EWTN, one of the few media outlets who covered the march in Washington.

Gray said she recently spoke with medical students who “are largely going to be our future physicians. I know they will have direct access to patients I will never come into contact with. If I can impart information to them which will change how they think, which will impact how they behave, I can save a life in the future.”

The March for Life in Washington has been an annual event since the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal in all 50 U.S. states 46 years ago.

The Canadian March for Life, which began in Ontario in 1998, is held annually in cities across the country, including Ottawa and Victoria. This year it is set for May 9. 40 Days for Life, a silent pro-life prayer demonstration that Father Lynn is also passionate about, begins March 6.