The Marchioness of Salisbury’s Day for Life


By David Alton

Universe Column July 13th 2003

It took the inspiration of an eighty-year-old Anglican Marchioness, Lady Salisbury, to draw together pro-life campaigners for a Day for Life in London. As the Day began in Trafalgar Square – at 2.30pm – she was busy organising speakers and as the day ended – at 10.45 pm – she was still busy thanking those who had stayed for the Prayer Vigil for their attendance, and collecting up the candles used in the Prayer Vigil.

Not only should Lady Salisbury’s remarkable and indomitable spirit serve as an encouragement to the rest of us but so should her determination that the ideals of the pro-life movement should be passed to the next generation. The team of young men and women that she had galvanised more than justifies her statement to the gathered crowds that, however long it takes, we will never give in.

One of the speakers was the young Catholic human rights activist, James Mawdsley.  James was right to make the connection between the vulnerability of the unborn, the sick, the terminally ill, and the vulnerability of political prisoners and the countless others whom no-one is prepared to speak for.

Young women from the Faith Movement and Youth 2000 trenchantly set out their own hostility to a culture that wantonly destroys the weak and creates a selfish culture where rights trump duties and where personal choice and autonomy becomes an ideology.

From the Square we walked down Whitehall, behind St. Michael the Archangel, mounted on a great charger, and the Holy Family was there, too, with Mary astride her donkey. It was good of them to look in.

Children with painted faces and British-African musicians added to the sense of Carnival. As broad smiles from police officer implied, it’s not often that the Metropolitan Police can have handled such an easy demonstration.

The crowds walked past Downing Street and through Parliament Square – where the laws were enacted that have led to 6 million abortions, 1 million destroyed human embryos, human cloning: and now attempts to legalise euthanasia. They then listened to more young people who sang the beautiful Requiem for the Unborn in Methodist Central Hall. Later, they filled Westminster Cathedral for Mass and heard the Administrator, Monsignor Mark Langham, preach a powerful sermon in defence of human life. The Cardinal then spoke and underlined the importance of public witness and personally greeted those who had attended – some coming from as far away as Poland and the United States.

Later, a Prayer Vigil was held opposite Westminster Abbey and a beautiful service of commendation held for those who have died. Thousands of small candles were to be lit but a gentle breeze kept blowing them out. A small sign, perhaps, of what it is that we have permitted.

We were reminded of the words of St. Hilary of Poitiers who said that “where caution is everywhere, courage is nowhere to be found. Our ancestors were not so quiescent. We shall die of prudence yet, you will see.”

We have, indeed, been lacking in courage but perhaps Lady Salisbury’s initiative will both shake us out of our apathy and give encouragement to the young people who attended that it doesn’t need to be like this.

Next year’s Day for Life will be on July 4th.  Readers of The Universe were there in large numbers: I know because many came and told me. What an impact it would make if in 2004 every parish in the country vowed to send a group of people to support it. July 4th – put it in the diary now.