All over the nation, Americans took time Monday to reflect on the sacrifice and teachings of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
In Portland, during the annual Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Mass at St. Mary Cathedral, Msgr. Charles Lienert reflected on how the civil rights leader responded to God’s call and ultimately paid the price of his life. With his memory, comes a legacy of hope and inspiration that respectful Mass-goers contemplated.
This Mass is coordinated annually by the African American Catholic Community of Oregon to highlight Rev. King’s message of inalienable human dignity, but also to bring Afro-centric culture and traditions into Portland’s Catholic community.
A Baptist minister and the son of a Baptist minister, Rev. King became a leader of the civil rights movement in the 1950s. He led non-violent protests for the cause of racial equality, including the historic March on Washington in 1963, and the Selma-to-Montgomery, Ala., Freedom March in 1965. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
Rev. King’s life was never the same after he was called to leadership in the Civil Rights Movement, Msgr. Lienert said.
“He was absolutely committed to non-violence, not just as a strategy, but because he believed it was the only way to fight injustice and be faithful to the teaching of Jesus,” the priest said.
He believed men should love their enemies, that hate only multiplies hate, and that hate scars the soul and distorts the personality, not only of the one who is hated, but of the one who hates, he said.
Yet, Dr. King’s practice of non-violence cost him violence and the threat of violence against him and his family. After spending his life working to ensure the equality of all people, Rev. King was assassinated in 1968, in Memphis, Tenn.
During the annual Mass, AACCO member Lucinda Tate said she tends to reflect on discipleship.
“There are so many challenges that can draw you away from being a person of love, from being a true disciple of Jesus,” she said.
AACCO chairwoman Emma Jackson Ford brought buttons to the Mass printed with the word “Peace” for people to wear.
Attendance at the annual Mass was lower than usual because it fell on the same night as Bishop Kenneth Steiner’s retirement celebration. Ford said the group knew it was a big night for everyone in the archdiocese. Organizers of the MLK Mass anticipated that, so they this year they coordinated a solemn evening of prayer and reflection. They were thankful for Msgr. Lienert’s participation, she said, adding that his presence made the Mass particularly special because many of the AACCO members are part of St. Andrew Church in Northeast Portland, where the monsignor is pastor.