Catholic News Service photo
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta 
Catholic News Service photo
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta 
ATLANTA — While all generations were well represented at the Mass for the Unborn Jan. 22 at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory gave special words of encouragement to the youth working to protect human life.

In the reading for the Mass from the First Book of Samuel, young David puts aside the armor and shield offered by Saul to defeat the giant Goliath with just a slingshot and stones.

"You young people are the Davids of our generation confronting the Goliath of death that urges us to waste the most precious gift of our human dignity," said Archbishop Gregory of Atlanta.

The archbishop acknowledged that those who fight for life might feel the deck is stacked against them.

"However, the Lord will work with you, accompany you, and bring victory through you," he said.

Catholic school students from across the archdiocese, families, professionals, and parish groups filled the pews and overflowed into the cathedral's Kenny Hall for prayers and Mass.

Mary Boyert, director of the archdiocesan Respect Life Ministry, estimated that 1,000 people participated in the annual Mass and rosary for life, and that more than 800 people took part afterward in a Stand for Life public witness, a new initiative of the archdiocese.

In his homily, Archbishop Gregory noted that people have "gone green" in becoming more aware of the preciousness of earth and its resources.

"All of these concerns are important and wonderful, but what about the human race itself? We who inhabit this shared planet and are entrusted with its care are also a part of nature -- an indispensable part of God's creation," he said.

"Even as we have taken serious and very important actions to protect the other elements of nature, we have too often ignored the importance of the dignity of the human person, whom God placed over all of creation," he said.

More than 20 priests concelebrated the Mass, which also included a commissioning of parish Respect Life ministry leaders.

"It was beautiful," said Leslie Willis, who brought her daughter, Cami, and friend, Maddie Cohen, both 10, to the Mass.

"I love that we're standing up for life," said Cami Willis told The Georgia Bulletin, Atlanta's archdiocesan newspaper.

Leslie Willis, whose 17-year-old son joined a group of friends going to Washington for the national March for Life, said it's important to stand up for "whatever you feel strongly about," and to make one's children aware of the dignity of life early.

Boyert said the number of Stand for Life participants covered 17 street blocks. Motorists driving past often honked their horns, waved and gave a thumbs-up to indicate their support. In addition to the "Stand for Life" signs, other placards read "Jesus Heals and Forgives" and some included phone numbers for crisis pregnancy centers.

Despite the chilly temperatures, participants were enthusiastic about working to implore others that life is sacred.

"Stand up and speak for life," said Jean Larson of St. Michael the Archangel Church in Woodstock. She has been participating in the Jan. 22 events for about eight years.

One of Larson's sisters has seven adopted children and the other has two adopted children. She believes strongly in the promotion of adoption to women considering an abortion.

Boyert said the day's events gave people a "wonderful opportunity to join together in prayer and witness."

"We need these times of prayer and action to give us strength to continue in our efforts to bring about a culture which values every human life from natural conception until natural death," she said.