The Legacy of a martyr

National Portrait Gallery

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

We’re in as series of blogs to pray for our country before the inauguration of President Obama which will take place on Monday, January 21st, the day set aside to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today I honor him as a mentor of mine.

He was 39 when he was martyred on April 4, 1968 — a young man who had a powerful influence on our country.

This is an excerpt of what I said on the fortieth anniversary of his death  April 4th 2008, also the fortieth anniversary of my ordination:

Forty years ago on, April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr was gunned down by an assassin’s bullet in Memphis, Tennessee 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 still one of my mentors.  He was a man who committed himself to absolute nonviolence like Mahatma Ghandi and my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as the only way that justice and peace can be achieved. He inspired ordinary folks, black and white, to stand up for their rights, to sit down and accept the vicious blows of police and to have the courage to go to jail for what they believed in.

Forty years ago on the day after he was killed, April 5, 1968, I formally entered the service of the Roman Catholic Church as an ordained deacon.  I was a seminary student at the Theological College of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. The shrill sound of sirens all over the city mingled with the ancient chant melody.  As I lay prostrate on the floor with my brothers to be ordained  I sucked in a deep breath and committed my service to the Church to be in the shadow of this man whose ideal of justice and peace and freedom I wanted to absorb into my soul and body.

On this anniversary, April 4, 2008, in this land of America, we have lost a lot of the freedoms and ideals of another great man Thomas Jefferson who declared that all men are created equal and have the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Today, not only young black men are listless and have no hope; it’s true of young white men as well.

We are no longer a free nation when “they” can listen in on any of our phone conversations without a court order, our cell phones track and Google track our movements, when“they” deny the right to a trial, when we torture our enemies.

Where are those today who will inspire us and lead us out of our complacency?
Who will inspire us to stand up and put their lives on the line for what they 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 have lost, that we are no longer a free nation.
Give us the strength and courage to pledge our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor to win this spiritual revolution that now lies before us in 2008.
We pray to you, God,  for You are the God who cries for justice for your children
and who still hears the cries who know and realize they are poor without You.
We pray to You for only You can can restore us to the ideal of freedom and justice FOR ALL.

St. Luke attributes has Mary sing these words in her Magnificat sung or recited every evening in the church everywhere in the world. Would  that we would believe it and commit ourselves to it!

“[God] has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servants
for he has remembered the promise of his mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers [and mothers}
to Abraham [and Sarah and Hagar]
and [their] children for ever.                                                                                                                                                                        
(Luke 1:46-55)

I call us more than a generation later, now in 2013, to the principles of Non-Violence Dr. King gave to us.

He trained them to sit down on the ground and take blows of the police because they knew that Non-Violence was a more powerful weapon than guns and bombs.

That legacy of Dr. King made it possible for Barack Obama to become president of the United States.

Would that he would have the courage to commit himself to that great man’s ideals.

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

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

Is there anything you  are willing to give your  life for?

I continually ask myself the same question and pray the answer is Yes!

Now, before you go, here’s  a  5-minute excerpt of Dr. King’s last speech the night before his assassination  in Memphis. If you’ve never heard him speak, (and I had in my seminary days), I promise you, it would be worth your time.  Click here.

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

Friday, January 18, 2013

Reconciliation: Finding common ground to stand on


image (c) bob traupman 2009. all rights reserved.

We’re in a series of blogs building up to President Obama’s second inauguration.  I’m suggesting that we take this time to reflect upon and to pray for our the transformation of our country.  I called us to that four years ago and there is as much need for personal and societal conversion of mind and heart as there was then.  Today, let’s reflect upon the need for reconciliation . . . .

I hate “either / or” alternatives, Lord.

Ultimatums, accusations, mud-slinging — all that.

I think You are always “both / and . . . .”

I think you are always calling us to live in the middle, in the center,

or at least to realize that the pendelum of life is always swinging back and forth

and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

So help us, Lord, to stop following the extremists on either side and be reconciled with each other.

Make us one, Lord.  Make us one.  As a Nation.  As families.  As a Christian Church.  And within ourselves.

Perhaps, dear reader you might like to reflect on the value of reconciling opposites, of seeking our center; this taken from reflection / letter  FOR PRIESTS ONLY.

Both body and soul.  Soul and body. We need both to be human. We must learn to tend to both body and soul.

There is good in bad . . . Bad in good. Those who say there is no bad within them  portray themselves as filled with truth and light and,  therefore, can be evil incarnate.

Left and right . . .Right and left. A person who is missing one of his arms misses something important.  A church that does not embrace left and right misses part of the truth.

Democrat and Republican. A politic that does not embrace both left and right also misses part of the truth.  A one-party government would be disastrous.

Sin and grace . . . Grace and sin. Jesus teaches us that the one who realizes he is a sinner  is the one who is open to grace.

Spirituality and sexuality . . .  Sexuality and spirituality. Every one of us has a body, and by that reason, we are sexual beings, whether we are celibate or not.  Spirituality needs a wholesome sexuality and sexuality needs spirituality to be redeemed and meaningful.

Heaven and earth . . . Earth and heaven. As we strive for heaven, a place of bliss and fulfillment, we remain rooted in our earthiness.

Up and down. . . Down and up. Sometimes down is up and up is down.  (“He has cast down the mighty…”).

Sickness and health . . . Health and sickness. Sometimes sickness helps us find spiritual health and, similarly, good health only may make us feel invincible.

Life and death . . . Death and life. Life prepares for death which opens up to new life after death.

Masculine and feminine.  Feminine and masculine.  Each of us has both qualities within us.

Able and disabled . . .  Disabled and abled. Sometimes the disabled do more with their disability than the able do with their ability.

The seeing and the blind . . . The blind and the seeing. Sometimes the blind see more than those who see and sometimes the seeing are blind.

Belief and unbelief . . . Unbelief and belief. Sometimes those who do not believe search harder and love more deeply  than those who believe.

Hope and despair . . .  Despair and hope. Sometimes those who despair find a truer hope.

Bound and loosed . . .  Loosed and bound. Sometimes we need to be bound  (by discipline) and sometimes we need to be loosed (from fear).

Darkness and light  . . .  Light and darkness. We would not appreciate the light if it were not for darkness.

Progressive and conservative . . . Conservative and progressive. Seek progress but conserve what is worth conserving. Sometimes the conservative is truly progressive and the progressive truly conservative (as in the environment).

Rich and poor . . . Poor and rich. Sometimes the rich are poor in that they may not recognize their need for God and the poor can be truly rich in that they do.

Teacher and student . . . Student and teacher. Good teachers produce better students and good students produce better teachers.

Sane and insane . . . Insane and sane. Sometimes the insane prophetically see the insanity of the world  that the “sane” do not see  in themselves.

And the either/or tendency can become violent: Israelis and Palestinians . . . Black and White . . .  Gay and Straight. . . Protestants and Catholics . . . Muslims and the rest of us.

All these conflicting tendencies can tear at our soul.  We must find resolution or we will not be at peace.  Thus, it is an important secret of life  not to consider opposites as either/or  but both/and.  The key to all spirituality is to find a spirituality in the balance.    “In media stat virtus.”  (Virtue is found in the center.)

The problem is that we do not tolerate points of view that differ from our own and we may hate and want to do harm to those who embody them. 

What would happen  if we taught  people to LISTEN to one another, to search out the truths in each other’s position?  

What would happen if the church and political leaders of our country would call together those who are pro-life and pro-choice to find a way to respect one another and to listen to each other?

You know the statue of the blind-folded woman who represents justice?  She holds in her hand a balance.  In choosing between disparate elements, we should choose a little bit from the right and a little from the left so that the scales balance.  A little bit of light and a little bit of darkness.  A little bit of body and a little bit of soul and, yes, tolerate a little bit of bad with a little bit of good in ourselves and in others. 

We just cannot  dispel or disperse all the weeds from our garden!

I strongly feel that by seeking both sides to a question we will be led to experience new horizons in which we can find God and ourselves and at least a little bit of the truth that will nourish  and strengthen us.

Seek to draw the disparate pieces of your life together. 

Seek balance and tolerance by seeking the truth hidden (to you) in your opponents’ views.  Seek respect and reverence for those who are different.

I believe very strongly that the Truth embodies both the left and the right.  I know from my own life that “symbolein” — the force that draws together rather than casts out or seeks to destroy (diabolein)– is a powerful force indeed.

For me, that Force is JESUS, who is for me the Stillpoint of the universe or universes (Col 1:19-20).

To him be glory and honor forever.

Now, before you go, here is a “This Land is My Land” sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir against the backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge accompanied by a beautiful slide show.  Click here.  Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers. 

With love. 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

Re-birthing America


We’re coming up in a few days on the second inauguration of Barack Obama.  In this series of blogs, we wish to pray for him, for our congressional leaders and for our country.   In 2009, I asked my readers to realize that personal transformation is connected to the need for transformation of our country.   Four years later, I see that call as urgent as ever.  Let’s take some time over the next few days and over the long weekend to reflect upon and to pray for the inner growth and change we need.

On  July 4, 1776, the men in this image, with their families supporting them published the sacred document, the Declaration of Independence, that created this country.  At its conclusion, they said:


Imagine the risks they undertook and the courage that they needed
to bring the ideal of freedom and equality that existed in their minds and hearts into external reality.
They had to be willing to sacrifice everything dear to them — their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.                      And many of them actually did lose either their lives, their fortunes or their property.
Their signatures, bound to their lives,  created the United States of America.

We need to return again and again to that moment.
We need to re-birth America in our hearts in this time and place.

Many of our service men and women are compelled to serve tour after tour, sacrifice their physical and emotional lives and those of their families while the rest of us American people have been asked to sacrifice very little.

John Kennedy said:

“Ask not what your country can do for you.

Ask what you can do for your country.”

Are you willing to make your own contribution?  Each of us must do our part, neighbor helping neighbor.  We sink or swim together.

God of our understanding,
we thank You for the vision of our founding fathers and mothers and their courage to bring it into reality.
May each of us be willing to transform
our hate to respect for all people,
our reliance on material things to reliance on You,
our greed and selfishness to self-giving and compassion.
May we always be willing to respond to the grace You give us
to transform our lives and our country to serve the good of all.
Let the lessons of hardship that many of us now are experiencing
prompt us to turn to You, God of our understanding,
for You, are the Source of all that is good in our lives.
May all our actions show Your wisdom and love.

And now, before you go, here’s a slide show to “My Country Tis of Thee sung by a children’s choir.  Click here. 

With love,

Bob Traupman, 

Contemplative Writer