The Legacy of a martyr ~ What will yours be?

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Today, Monday, January, 15, 2018, we honor a great American ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was 39 when he was martyred on April 4, 1968.

On that fateful day, Dr. King was gunned down by an assassin’s bullet while he was leading a strike for sanitation workers.  He inspired and led the Civil Rights movement that achieved great change in our land.  This man is one of my mentors.  I was in his presence in the spring of 1963 when I was in the seminary in Baltimore.  Our Rector sent a lot of us to hear him speak to a nearby college.

We remember him most for his most eloquent “I have a dream” speech on August 28, 1963  delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial before crowds of many thousands on the National Mall.

That event and that speech led subsequently to President Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act into law on June 2, 1964.

As a seminarian, I soon became interested in what I could do. In the spring of 1968, I sloshed around the mud of the tent city of the Poor Peoples’  Campaign on the National Mall in Washington  which was  set up  to “lobby”  Congress  regarding the needs of the poor people of the country.  I was interviewing folks for The Florida Catholic newspaper back home.

Dr. King was a man who committed himself to nonviolence, as did Mahatma Gandhi and Jesus.  They believed nonviolence to be the only way that justice and peace can be achieved.  Dr. King inspired ordinary folks, black and white, to stand up for their rights and to sit down and accept the vicious blows by police and others, and to have the courage to go to jail for what they believed.

On, April 5, 1968 ~ the day after he was martyred ~ I formally entered the service of the Roman Catholic Church as a deacon.  I was a seminary student at the Theological College of the Catholic University of America in  the northeast part of Washington, D.C.

The shrill sound of sirens all over the city mingled with the ancient chant melody of the Litany of the Saints as I lay prostrate on the floor with my brothers to be ordained. As I sucked in a deep breath, I wanted to absorb into my soul and body the ideal of justice and peace and freedom this great man idealized  for me, I pledged my life to Christ.

Today,  in this land of America, we have lost many of the freedoms and ideals of that other great man Thomas Jefferson that all men are created equal and have the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Isn’t the gap between the one percent and the poorest  getting even wider as the result of recent legislation?

And isn’t incivility and racism becoming uglier through tweet storms and other discourse?

Will immigrants in this country ever be able to live in peace without fear of a knock on the door?

The questions Dr. King still asks of us are . . . .

Where are those today who inspire us and lead us out of our complacency?
Who are those  inspire us to stand up and put our lives on the line for what we believe in?
Who still dreams the dream of Martin Luther King and Thomas Jefferson?
Who is willing to sacrifice to restore those ideals to our beloved country?

O God of Justice,
raise up men and women in our day who will inspire us                                                                                                                     
and restore us to the original ideals of our nation.
Enable us to wake up from our slumber and see what we’ve lost, and safeguard our freedoms.
Give us the strength and courage to pledge our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor to win this spiritual revolution of justice, peace and love that now lies before us in 2018.
We pray to you, God,  for You are the God who cries for justice for your children
and who still hears the cries of those who know they are poor without You.
We pray ~ for only You can can restore us to the ideal of freedom and justice FOR ALL.                                                        T
o You Glory and Honor and Power, now and forever, Amen!

But we are called, more than a generation later, once again to the principles of Nonviolence Dr. King instilled in his followers.

They were trained to sit down on the ground and accept blows of the police because they knew that Nonviolence was a more powerful weapon than guns and bombs.

Dr. King held no public office.  He persuaded us by the power of his words and the depth of his conviction and his character.

And his willingness to give his life for what he believed in ~ no matter what.

Is there anything you and I are willing to give your  life for?  What will be your legacy?

I wonder. , . Am I willing to make that kind of commitment? I pray earnestly that I will.

I’m nearly 75 years old, and have no way of knowing what my legacy will be. All I know at this point is that I’ve tried to be faithful to my song and my prayer and to love as best I can.

For a brief excerpt of “the I Have a Dream” speech,    Click here.  It’s the original.

And before you go, here’s the song “Abraham, Martin and John. Click here. 

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer


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