Pastor’s Keyboard: Wednesday of Last week, Fr Ray (the Pastor of St John’s in Hollywood, Maryland) called to tell me that he was very excited about an event that was taking place in his parish the next day. A year ago, the Archdiocese decided that they wanted to find a formal way of recognizing and honoring all those who were buried in Catholic Cemeteries who had been slaves. In many of the parish cemeteries, these places of rest were lost to human memory and not recorded or there were no markers left. The Archdiocese decided they would offer plaques and large markers to honor them.
Fr Ray decided this was a great opportunity to not only honor these sons and daughters if God who were forgotten but to help others in the parish and county to remember this sad history of our Church, Nation, and Country. He wanted to have a Mass that would focus prayers for the repose of their souls and honor their faith in the Lord. He arranged for an amazing Opera singer to sing Negro Spirituals.
When he chose the date for the Mass, he had not looked for any special date in particular, he just wanted it to work with his very full parish schedule. So, he knew it was Divine Providence when it turned out that the date he had chosen was the 51 anniversary of the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King and the day chosen to announce the New Archbishop of Washington, who it turned out was the first African American Archbishop of Washington!
As he told me this, I too was becoming more excited, especially since the new archbishop’s name had not been officially announced yet, but the media found out early. I decided then and there that I would attend even though it was my day off and I would already have said Mass in the morning. But as this thought was going through my head Fr Ray said, “I know it’s short notice, but I was afraid to ask since it’s your day off, but would you mind giving the Homily for the Mass tomorrow?” Well, he had already gotten me so excited with the rest of the news I couldn’t imagine saying no.
The day of the Mass arrived and I found myself filled with meetings (though it was my day off, it’s also Lent), I won’t go into my schedule but the only time that day I had free was the 15 minutes I had for a power nap. When I arrived that evening to concelebrate the Mass and give the homily, I realized I had had no time to prepare. I said a quick prayer and made an act of Trust in the Lord and he provided all I needed. Grace was abundant. The music was superb, the talk by the Head of the Intercultural Office for the Archdiocese was powerful and so was Fr Ray’s short talk of what inspired him to have this Mass. Then to top it off all of us lit candles and walked into the darkness to illuminate the night with faith, song, and prayer. The Memorial was then blessed, and we sang one last song in honor of Our Lady. It was beautiful, powerful, and a blessing for all who came from across the county. Let us remember this sad history, less we repeat it. Let us honor all the victims of slavery through learning their stories and praying for the repose of their souls. And let us strive to illuminate this dark world where hatred and division often seem to win out, with the light of Christ’s love, mercy, truth, and charity. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it!
Your spiritual Brother and Father,