What I Have Seen and Heard
Published: January 18, 2007
For the most part our country lives with a common calendar, celebrating the same annual events across our many and varied regions and states. But how we observe certain calendar dates belongs preeminently to specific places.
Mardi Gras is an institution in New Orleans, and even though Hurricanes Katrina and Rita changed that city significantly, there are currently fervent efforts in place in order to allow this special time of year to be among the first restoration activities of the city’s renewal.
Washington, D.C., our nation’s capital, marks the Fourth of July in ways unmatched by most other communities. St. Patrick’s Day is nowhere observed with the joy and exuberance as it is in New York and Savannah.
But Atlanta is the place that you must consult when you think about observing Martin Luther King Jr.’s memorial day, since we give meaning, direction and focus for this national commemoration. After all, we are the place of his birth, his youth, his formation, and we now care for his mortal remains—and recently those of his beloved Coretta.
Atlanta has the unique heritage that allows us to set the pace for this national memorial day. On our streets and in our neighborhoods, Dr. King experienced the reasons that drove his passion for justice and human equality. Here he also discovered the inner strength to pursue his dreams for racial harmony and equality in the heart of Atlanta and across America. Atlanta forever must also be the beacon of how those dreams are realized not only for this particular community—but for a nation and the world.
The Catholic Church in North Georgia is in a unique position to lead the way in showing how all people must live in unity and in mutual respect. We Catholics speak many different languages; we represent every race of the human family; we are wealthy and impoverished, liberal and traditional, young and old, educationally sophisticated and self-taught, and distinguished by many other characteristics—yet we are all Catholics, and we take our place around the same Table of Life and Hope.
Every time we gather around the Lord’s Altar it is to celebrate the dream, which will only be fully realized in God’s Kingdom. Yet our sacramental activity offers a glimpse of the perfection of that dream and urges us on toward its completion.
The annual youth and young adult observance of the King memorial that was once again held at St. Peter Claver Regional School was a bright reminder of all that we offer to Atlanta and the world in advancing Dr. King’s dream. People from Asia, the Pacific Rim, Africa, and Central and Latin America attended in festive garb and brought the rhythms of their native music to the ceremony. Some of our teenagers enacted skits and performed dances that reminded them and all of us of the importance of welcoming our diversity. And then there was the star attraction of the afternoon—the kindergarten choir from St. Thomas More School. They allowed us to recall in song how God made us and what a treasure our diversity is. These 5-year-olds held hands and sang together without the slightest hesitancy because although they are Caucasian, Asian, Hispanic, and African-American, they are boys and girls who simply see each other as brothers and sisters. They are the brightest signs that I know that the dream is very much alive here in Atlanta—and that it will brighten all of our futures.