WAHINGTON — Renowned podcaster and YouTube star Father Mike Schmitz was well prepared for his speech at the March for Life rally on Friday.

“The first speech I gave in my entire life was in eighth grade. We had the chance to choose any topic, any argument, any position,” he said. to a large crowd gathered at the National Mall, “I choose to speak about the dignity of human life from natural conception to natural death and the evil of abortion and euthanasia.”

Born the year after the landmark Supreme Court decision on abortion in Roe v. Wade, the 47-year-old gregarious priest from the Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota, is best known for his “Bible in a Year” podcast and YouTube videos for Ascension, the Catholic multimedia publisher.

A keynote speaker at the pre-March rally, Schmitz, a North Star State native accustomed to freezing January weather, received an enthusiastic, rock-star welcome from the crowd, which included thousands young walkers.

He took the opportunity to emphasize the same message he originally shared with his classmates as a young teenager: every human life matters. This time the message was deeply personal.

Schmitz told the story of her maternal grandmother, Helen, a nurse who stood up for the unborn child and the conscientious objections of her fellow nurses when the hospital where they worked decided to perform abortions. following the Roe decision.

“Helen, she knew people mattered. She knew children mattered. She knew her nurses mattered. And so she hated the fact that this hospital that had done so much good in this part of the world was now about to do so much harm. And they were forcing his nurses to participate in abortions. They forced his nurses to carry the remains of these children for disposal. And so she went to the board and she said, ‘This has to stop. Either you stop doing abortions or I leave,” Schmitz recalled.

The council refused and her grandmother quit as head nurse. This decision “almost destroyed his life”; she didn’t regret it, “but it broke her heart,” he said.

“And I think that’s also why we’re here, isn’t it?” I think we’re here because the abortion, what he did broke our hearts. And I know so many people here, you stand here because you know the dignity of human life. And so many people are with us because this story is part of your story, because you found yourself at some point in a place where it seemed like life was an impossible choice,” he said.

“And so I know that we are surrounded by men and women who have chosen abortion. Listen, you have to know that you are meant to be here. You matter, you belong here. No matter your past, you are always loved. You need to know. You are still loved and still matter. You can watch Schmitz’s full speech in the EWTN video below.

Sometimes struggling to keep his cool, Schmidt then shared a recent conversation he had with a woman he helped persuade not to abort her child 12 years ago.

“She said, ‘I thought I hated my baby. And I realized these many years later, I didn’t hate my baby. I hated the circumstances I was in. I didn’t hate my baby. I was ashamed of myself,” Schmitz said.

“This young woman, 12 years ago, she gave her son to a couple who adopted him and loved him. And he blessed their life. And they blessed his life. I met him. He’s an amazing young man,” Schmitz said.

He said the woman urged him ahead of his speech to remind people “that no matter what choices you make, you are still loved and still matter.”

“And that’s why we’re here. That’s why we walk here,” Schmitz said.

“When my grandmother Helen…left Sinai Hospital in 1973, it didn’t change the hospital, it didn’t change the culture, it didn’t change the law, it didn’t didn’t change the country,” he said.

“But when she walked, it changed her. When she got up, it changed her, and it changed her sons and it changed her daughter, my mother. And that…willingness to stand, this will to walk, it echoed in my life. It echoes in the life of this young woman. It is embodied in the life of this 12-year-old boy, who would not be here if my grandmother Helen hadn’t gotten up, if my grandmother Helen hadn’t walked,’ he said.

“Every child matters. Every woman matters. Every person matters. And no matter what this (walk) does, no matter what it changes, your being here, standing, your being here, walking, it changes you and you matter. God bless you.”