Please join me and attend an open meeting to discuss the Pastoral Letter and its implications for St. Joseph on Thursday, June 14th, at 7 p.m. in the Tonry Room. Sign Up Here!
In the spirit of the Feast of Pentecost, when the Church celebrates the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the first disciples, we are often inclined to ask: Where is the Holy Spirit moving in the Church now? I have an answer to that question ready. At a meeting of pastors held in Hagerstown in March, Archbishop Lori spoke very frankly about his recent pastoral letter. Listening to him, and subsequently reading the letter, was a movement of the Holy Spirit in my life. The Archbishop implied that the letter had been as a result of a journey in his own faith. “If you told me 10 years ago,” he remarked, “that I would write a Pastoral Letter on the how the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., can help the Church deal with racism today, I would not have believed you.” Within the geographical area of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, racism has to be faced down, and the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination led Archbishop Lori to affirm the great reformer’s path of nonviolence and of sustained efforts of change.
As a migrant to the United States, with little understanding of how the legacy of white supremacy was enabled to continue after the Civil War, I found the letter helped me to be less worried about analyzing the problem of ongoing racism, and moving to creatively resisting it in the spirit of gospel nonviolence. Because the letter inspired me, I decided it may help others! I distributed a copy to everyone who attended the Parish Pastoral Council on May 2nd and asked them to read it, reflect on it, and to see if, as a parish, we might act on it.
The letter has two dimensions to it. It speaks of the components of nonviolent action and second, of the history of the Baltimore Church. Dr. King’s principles for nonviolence are given as:
- Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.
- Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding.
- Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice, not people.
- Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform.
- Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate.
- Nonviolence believes that justice will ultimately triumph.
The historical notes that are interspersed within the text are enlightening. They show that each archbishop of Baltimore has sought to offer leadership in this area of racism since Cardinal Sheehan was heckled in 1966 at a meeting of the Baltimore City Council for suggesting legislation for integrated housing. This campaigning legacy continues today with Archbishop Lori leading the efforts of Catholic Charities under such programs as the Safe Streets Program it operates in Baltimore City.
I encourage everyone to read the pastoral letter entitled, “The Enduring Power of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Principles of Nonviolence”. The online version of the letter can be found by going to the Archdiocesan website: https://www.archbalt.org/kingpastoral/. I also encourage those who are interested in how the gospel calls us to respond nonviolently to racism to attend an open meeting to discuss the letter and its implications for St. Joseph on Thursday, June 14th, at 7 p.m. in the Tonry Room.
Fr. Neville O’Donohue, S.M.