Question for readers: Masses in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.

A reader asked in an email what I thought about Masses celebrated in honor of the late civil rights figure Martin Luther King, Jr.

I was not paying attention to this or acutely aware that this was being done.

I can’t see any problem with praying for the repose of the soul of a person who is dead, Catholic or non-Catholic.  It is a work of mercy to pray for the dead.

I can’t see any problem with Masses for civil needs or concerns of society.  We should always ask god to help us strive for a more just and charitable society.

But as far as I understanding things, I thought that Masses in honor of someone were to be in honor of saints or blesseds according to the Roman calendar or the particular local calendars of those of religious institutes.

Question for you:

Where you live, were there Masses celebrated in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr?

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  1. Papabile says:

    In 1996, right after they removed the Kwanzaa banners at the NCCB, they had a Mass in honor of Martin Luther King in the chapel of the Bishop’s Conference. [This is 2010.]

    The Priest referred to him as a Saint during his homily.

    Those were the days.

  2. Agnes says:

    Here??? Naaah. They did learn about him in the school.

  3. TNCath says:

    We didn’t have a Mass; we had an “ecumenical prayer service.” This is from today’s edition of The West Tennessee Catholic:

    The Audacity to Dream!
    By Pam Flynn
    Managing Editor

    “‘We gather this day to remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who gave his life for the Gospel values of peace, justice and the acceptance of all people,’ said Bishop J. Terry Steib, S.V.D. in his opening remarks at the January 18 ecumenical celebration at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The theme of the day was Audacity to Dream! The event was sponsored by the Diocesan Department of Multicultural Ministries.

    “Hundreds gathered at the Cathedral to celebrate the life and works of Dr. King, who would have been 81 on January 15. He was killed on April 4, 1969 in Memphis.

    “‘Jesus gave the gift of peace to all people and we are asked to do the same,’ said Bishop Steib. ‘We must commit ourselves to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk the path of God.’

    “The celebration began with the sounding of drums as the Nubian Theater Company made its way into the Cathedral. The Overton High School Mixed Choir performed with impressive talent as they sang hymns for the day.

    “Father Anthony Michael Bozeman, S.S.J. was the keynote speaker for the celebration. Originally from Philadelphia, he currently serves as pastor of St. Raymond and St. Leo the Great parish in New Orleans, Louisiana.

    ‘We are all on a mountaintop experience,’ said Father Bozeman, referring to Dr. King’s famous mountaintop speech. ‘This is an historic day in an historic city,’ he said, ‘a city that has the distinction of where a dreamer was assassinated. But what happened here did not kill the dream, it elevated it.’ His words were met with rousing praise and a chorus of Alleluias and Amens from those in attendance.

    “‘Martin Luther King inspired the young and the old to change their situations, their hearts, and their minds with the Gospel values. Man is obligated to change. Martin had the audacity to dream. We are called to live that as well, we must have the audacity to dream.’

    “The celebration included the recitation of the Living the Dream Pledge. Attendees raised a single voice with Bishop Steib as they pledged to pray for justice, to learn about what needs to be done and to live accordingly.

    “‘We have come a long way,’ said Father Bozeman, ‘but we still have a long way to go. No one of us can do what all of us can do together.'”

  4. gmarie says:

    Yep, there was a Mass in honor of MLK Jr., planned and “put on” by the children at the parish where my son’s go to school. The teachers/”liturgy planners” at the school choose readings other than the ones of the day that are more fitting to the “theme” and put in all sorts of innovative processions to honor the civil rights leader (and to give all the children of a class a role in the liturgy so they feel included). In years past, the Mass on this particular holiday has been so grossly distorted that I decided to pull my children out for the day this year so they wouldn’t be subjected to bad liturgy. The parish/school does the same on Veteran’s Day. It’s one thing to pray for Dr. King’s soul, it’s quite another to raise a spectacle in his honor.

  5. wolfeken says:

    The Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. has a bishop “celebrate the legacy”:

    Based on the photos in the archdiocesan “Catholic Standard” every January, all the crazy stops get pulled for this chaotic mess.

  6. lofstrr says:

    wasn’t really paying attention to the day, but it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if some or all of the masses at our church today where “in his honor.” I too would fall in the camp of it definitly not being appropriate to do so, only saints should be so honored.

    But lets come at this from the other direction. What would be the correct way to handle this sort of thing? Certainly he is recognized by the civil gov’t for what he did and that is good. He did good stuff. And as citizens surely some kind of reference can be name, perhaps at the very end of the mass where announcements would go.

    Further, he is not and can’t be made a saint but he was certainly a brother in Christ who did good things with his life and gave his life for a good cause. So is there a way that our local churches or even diocese can “honor” him or his accomplishments without canonizing him?

  7. Yes, they have happened in my diocese in past years.

  8. Choirmaster says:

    I did not notice anything of the sort in my area, however, I seem to exist in a little bubble because of my attachment to the TLM and near-exclusive attendance of my local [formerly] Ecclesia Dei community.

    I would like to ask for some more information or clarification of the following from Fr. Z:

    I can’t see any problem with praying for the repose of the soul of a person who is dead, Catholic or non-Catholic. It is a work of mercy to pray for the dead.

    1. Can one have a Requiem Mass said for a non-Catholic (or even a non-Christian)?

    2. Since one can simply pray for the dead, is there a customary formula for this (such as “Eternal rest grant them, O Lord; and may perpetual light shine upon them”)?

    3. If the above formula is appropriate, what is to be said at the point of “…and all the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God…”?

  9. ckdexterhaven says:

    Last year, at my parish in Raleigh, the priest gave his (MLK week) homily on how wonderful MLK and Obama were. That was my last week at that parish. MLK was a great American, I wouldn’t have minded that, but knowing Obama’s abortion record and the disproportionate number of black women aborting their babies right now….. it was a bridge too far.

    But no, the Mass wasn’t in “honor” of MLK.

  10. patergary says:

    Yes wolfeken, it was held in our church. I have to concelebrate (protocol) with the bishop and 7 other priests. I was surprised that less than 300 people came and they were expecting around 600 to 800 people. Maybe the American-African Catholics doesn’t care anymore of this celebration.

  11. EXCHIEF says:

    Not in my area…and if there was one I doubt anyone would have attended. While MLK may have done some positive things for the civil rights movement I believe that there were some shortcomings in his life which really speak against him being honored much less treated as a saint.

  12. Yes, that’s happened in Liturgical Purgatory (aka Los Angeles)…I have my viewpoints which are at my blog

  13. dtb says:

    I do not think that people are using the term “in honor of” in what I will call the ecclesiastical sense. I liken it more to how EMHCs are often referred to as “eucharistic ministers.” With few exceptions, I don’t think the intention is to canonize Dr. King or to imply that the laity are “ministers of the Eucharist” in the sense that the Church uses the term.

    Anyway, to answer the question… I didn’t hear about one this year, but our bishop presided at “the Annual Celebration of a Mass honoring the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” last year. I didn’t attend, so I can’t comment. Here’s the diocese’s press release:


    PHOENIX (January 12, 2009) Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, a permanent deacon from the Archdiocese of Portland, will be the guest homilist at the Annual Celebration of a Mass honoring the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at 3 p.m. on Monday, January 19, at St. Mary’s Basilica, 231 N. Third St., Phoenix. The Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted, Bishop of Phoenix, will be the principal celebrant of the Mass.

    Sponsored by the Office of Black Catholic Ministry and the Office of Peace and Justice at Catholic Charities, the Mass is held annually to commemorate the birthday of the slain civil rights leader who would have turned 80 on January 15.

    Deacon Burke Sivers, who is also Director of Public Safety for the University of Portland, has been chosen to offer the homily because he is founder of Aurem Cordis, a Christian evangelization and apologetics organization dedicated to promoting Catholic values. He has been a frequent guest on EWTN, the national Catholic cable television network, and hosts a weekly radio program on a Catholic radio station in Portland.

  14. pelerin says:

    I don’t remember ever hearing of a Mass to honour Martin Luther King in England. However, he was honoured by the Anglican church when statues of ten 20th century martyrs were placed in niches on the front of Westminster Abbey in London. According to one report these had been empty since the middle ages.

    The ten include not only Martin Luther King but also St Maximilien Kolbe and Archbishop Oscar Romero both, of course, Catholic. So quite an ecumencial selection.

  15. pbewig says:

    Archbishop Carlson of St Louis celebrated Mass on Monday afternoon in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

  16. TJerome says:

    In my parish they do. However, the worst excesses are perhaps behind us. In years past, they would actually play the “I Have A Dream” speech in place of an
    Offertory chant or hymn. I walked out and went elsewhere that Sunday. My pastor also put in the bulletin when Obama was elected President “Thank God for President
    Obama.” He also posts Richard McBrien’s articles every week in the bulletin. Needless to say, my contributions at my regular parish are now approaching zero.

  17. Philippus says:

    As Catholic of African decent, I find it troubling that we go above and beyond in honoring laymen, namely MLK, who were of questionable moral character.

    As I come to understand the Civil Rights movement more and more, I find the main players had something else to gain besides what they claimed to be fighting for. Because it was so evident to us that MLK talked about using “peace” to bring his message to all, nobody noticed the radical circles he moved in or the radical ideas he held.

    One of the people that advised MLK closely was a very unapologetic and self-admitted homosexual man (Bayard Rustin) who belonged openly to some communist groups.

    And today, 42 years later, it seems the Church has forced us into celebrating the life of this man in a way that blinds us.

    It is more efficacious for the soul of MLK to have mass celebrated for the repose of his soul, than a mass commemorating his life and his legacy. Perhaps it would be most advantageous to quote his from his PLAYBOY interviews during the homilies.

    I mean, what’s next? Do we do the same for Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson when they pass on?

  18. ryder says:

    This past Sunday, at the 10:45 Mass at St. Cecelia in Beaverton, OR, we had a recessional that comprised two verses of “We Shall Overcome,” between which a member of the choir read the “I Have A Dream” speech.

    Very moving presentation. Completely inappropriate for Holy Mass, IMHO.

  19. TJerome says:

    ryder, that’s what I call a “super-pander!” Tom

  20. JosephMary says:

    The homily was extoling him. Yes, I have heard him included in the litany of saints in the past. But if one looks at his personal life, he was not a saint. Not at all. His contributions to the civil rights movement are one thing but personal holiness is another.

  21. JonM says:

    I think Philippus brings up some interesting points; the drive to end statutory segregation (i.e., those with enough Caucasian ancestry enjoyed special de jure privilege) can and should be teased out from some of the pop icons associated with that era.

    Furthermore, and perhaps of greater importance, we must realize not everything linked with the ‘Civil Rights Movement’ was demonstrably good. Many of its leaders, including Martin Luther King, Jr., supported abortion. Lost in the debate was the particular manner of altering the law; it really required a Constitutional amendment (which would have been pithy enough, one forbidding racially specific laws).

    What concerns me, and clearly many others, is the celebration of man’s own triumph. In this case, a man with a very mixed bag (notorious adulterer, plagiarizer, fellow traveler with communists, etc.)

    The movement also gave a bit of a feeling of false victory; the disparity of wealth and ability to affect political decisions has only worsened from the 1960s. We would be better served by sermons on the Freemasons than absurd worshiping of a very flawed man who was by no means the measure of the rightful movement to end ‘whites only’ culture.

  22. Choirmaster says:

    @JonM: Wow! A constitutional amendment prohibiting race-based legislation! You’re right. That would have been perfect, and also avoided all the race-based legislation problems we have now!

    But its always risky to call a constitutional convention.

  23. Patrick J. says:

    In his “I have been to the mountaintop” speech,

    He gives a “phophesy” of his own death, he knows it is immanent – and indeed, he is murdered the very next day.

    I was told that “martyrs” go immediately to heaven, even the unbabtized, by virtue of “baptism of blood,” as taught by the Church. Would King not qualify, as much as did the “good thief.” [Would you kindly point out when the Catholic Church beatified MLK as a martyr?]

    I think, in fact I know [?!?] the masses to “honor” MLK are meant as an acknowledgment of ALL the ‘saints’ [You know that?] who were willing to pay the dear cost of ridding this society of its greatest sin, slavery and its vestiges – via the civil rights movement, a movement rightly, though not perhaps quickly enough or universally enough, embraced by the Church. So King, and others, black and white, suffered and sometimes died for this righteous cause.

    But Father, but Fath

    Some here don’t seem to be able to see the forest for the trees. [Again, when was MLK beatified as a martyr?]

  24. Patrick J. says:

    To head off the usual “pick apart your argument” critiques – of course I am not saying the “good thief” is a martyr. Believe me, someone would want to “point that out.”

    This site needs and “edit” button. The “but Fath” speaks to that.

  25. Tim Ferguson says:

    The Archdiocese of Detroit celebrated its “10th Annual Mass in Honor of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” on Monday at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral.

  26. Tim Ferguson says:

    oh and yes, I think it’s a devastating warping of our Catholic theology, and it’s very interesting that (as far as I know) no diocese celebrates a Mass “in honor” of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln or Susan B. Anthony. [I take it that that’s a “no” vote.]

  27. chcrix says:

    Along the lines of thought started by Philippus:

    I have an issue with the ‘idol’ status that is conferred on MLK because of some of the moral issues.

    I was taking a psych class a few years back full of youngsters with a dewy eyed 19 year old girl who was shocked to speechlessness when the professor mentioned the womanizing issues. I helpfully chimed in “don’t forget about the plagiarism.” And she almost fainted. It is no service to the man to make him into the proverbial little tin god, and it severely disillusions people later.

    Working with much younger children on one occasion, I wasn’t going to discuss things like this with an 8 year old, but I did make an effort to interest a little boy in Frederick Douglass as well just so things won’t be so singularly focused on one lone figure.

  28. kat says:

    Philippus, I am interested reading what you wrote, as I myself don’t know a lot about MLK, having been born in 1966. But my father always called him a Communist and could not understand why he would be honored in the US. We were certainly not opposed to the civil rights of blacks as equal to whites; but MLK doesn’t really seem to be only about that issue. I think you are one of the first persons other than my dad who I’ve heard say such a thing; the fact that you are of African descent and are saying it piques my interest. Thanks for sharing your Catholic perspective.

  29. Jackie L says:

    Not only did Detroit have a Mass at the Cathedral(among other places), St Jude in Detroit has the likeness of MLK along with Gandhi, Confucious and others prominently placed in the sanctuary. The tabernacle however is not easy to see. Despite this, there are some good things coming from this Parish.

  30. Frank H says:

    kat, the Wikipedia entry on Dr. King gives a flavor of his human weaknesses.

  31. Tina in Ashburn says:

    “January 14 – Martin Luther King Jr. Day Mass at St. Joseph Church, Alexandria VA
    Bishop Loverde will commemorate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with parishioners of St. Joseph Catholic Church, Alexandria, at 11 am. The historically African-American parish was founded in 1915 by the Josephite Fathers – a religious community begun in 1892 to minister to African Americans. Parishioners currently travel from as far away as Winchester, Va. and Fort Washington, Md. to attend Mass. More information on the parish is available at

    Mass FOR someone is always a good thing, not sure what ‘in honor of’ really means, but I’m guessing it HONORS someone worthy of being honored or emulated. Is it a good idea if the person is of questionable character?

    This reminds me of my discomfort with Thanksgiving Day Masses when our choir is asked to sing [i do not comply]. Its not a holy day, but an American holiday started by people who persecuted Catholics. [I love Thanksgiving, celebrating with about 50 relatives, cooking for days beforehand, I’ll add] Sure, its okay to thank God and go to daily Mass. But treating such things as holy days reinforces a bad trend. Holy days involve holy occurrences or people and traditions, octaves, penance beforehand, graces on that day and during the ensuing octave. These are days and practices specifically identified by the Catholic Church by which grace is obtained.

    This odd new trend puts an emphasis on practices that don’t match Catholic tradition, teaching, and understanding.

  32. I’m not aware of any Masses celebrated in honor of him, in any way resembling a feast day. The Mass I attended, as well as our community prayer liturgies, included a special mention in the intentions for an end to racism and all forms of unjust discrimination, which I thought was appropriate.

  33. I wonder what the Congregation for Divine Worship would say about this.

  34. Having read the comments, some of what I’m not clear about is whether the events that some are pointing out were liturgical events, or just instances of Catholics honoring MLK in a non-liturgical setting. If it is a case of a bishop making special mention and participating in a special commemoration of King, one that is not in any way related to the Mass, then we should embrace that. Catholics should and do find a great deal to admire and emulate from King, and his peaceful activism for the sake of the dignity of human life was absolutely a triumph for humanity, one that all people and especially Catholics should embrace. I say especially Catholics because it is we who have the most comprehensive and the most sound theology of the human person, which of course is why King so eloquently referenced the two greatest Catholic theologians in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

    Again, I can’t tell if a few of the comments were lamenting the fact of Catholics, whether they be bishops or lay people, honoring King in general, or if they were lamenting a liturgical commemoration of him. To the latter I would join in the denouncement, but if it is the former, I cannot agree.

    Interestingly, as I prepare to head to D.C. tomorrow morning for the March for Life, I will again be reading King’s writings in preparation for a talk I’m giving on the bus ride down, since methodologically alone we have so much to learn from him with respect to the pro-life movement.

  35. EXCHIEF says:

    And what, pray tell,even “methodologically” is there to learn from MLK regarding the pro life movement? I think there are far better people whose actions and methodology could be emulated by the pro life movement. The problem I have is that any use of MLK would have to ignore the many proven negative aspects of his life or would be interpreted as support for those behaviors…some of which were inconsistent with the teachings of our Church and, indeed, inconsistent with the pro life movement.

  36. Girgadis says:

    In Philadelphia, no Mass that I’m aware of but Cardinal Rigali did participate in an ecumenical prayer service that was held in a Catholic church, according to the Catholic Standard & Times. I never knew it before but this is apparently an annual liturgy that “celebrates the legacy” of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Perhaps Augustinianheart is referring to the fact that King never advocated or condoned the use of violence in order to achieve the objectives of the civil rights movement. I lack the ability to look into a person’s soul and judge them, so I’m not aware of these “proven negative aspects of his life” to which you refer, nor have I yet met a human being who was perfect. The man should not be held up as a saint but that doesn’t mean his entire life was lived in a manner inconsistent with the teachings of our Church.

  37. edwardo3 says:

    None that I know of In Indianapolis this year, though I have seen it done at the Sunday Masses in red vestments in the past. I have heard that there was an icon of him placed prominently in the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul.

  38. There is a Catholic church in Morristown NJ which had (it may still have!) a stained glass window featuring MLK. A black movie producer, Lee Daniels, is producing a bio film on MLK. He was finally given permission by the family after he assured them that MLK would NOT be shown in bed with prostitutes. The FBI collected tapes of these casual interludes and mailed them to Loretta (Mrs.) King. King, the article on the film brought out, did admit to Loretta a five year liaison with a married woman. By the way, one of the criticisms of Catholic men over the millenia is they do not bother to attend Mass. Getting any ideas as to why?

  39. TJerome says:

    Look I have no personal animus against Martin Luther King but let’s face reality. He was falling out of favor with the Black Community at the time of his death and if he hadn’t been assassinated by some loon we would barely remember him. In 1968 Stokely Carmichael was all the rage among Blacks. In a way, it’s similar to the exalted status Jack Kennedy attained once he was assassinated. I did like one thing about Martin Luther King – he was a staunch Republican, something the leftwing loon media conveniently fails to mention. Tom

  40. bookworm says:

    I have not yet seen a Mass done “in honor” of MLK although I have certainly heard him mentioned in homilies as an example of someone who fought for justice. My brother, back when he was in college (early 80s) did once attend a Newman Center Mass that, he said, actually invoked MLK and Cesar Chavez in the Prayers of the Faithful. Needless to say, he didn’t attend Mass there again.

    “no diocese celebrates a Mass “in honor” of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln or Susan B. Anthony.”

    True as far as I know. However, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield, Ill., Washington and Lincoln (of course, this being Abe’s hometown) are included in a series of stained glass windows depicting great moments in American Catholic history. Washington is shown with Bp. John Carroll, the first bishop ever appointed to the United States, while Lincoln is shown dispatching Abp. John Hughes to France to talk Napoleon III out of recognizing the Confederacy. These windows were constructed with the Cathedral in 1928 by noted stained glass artist Thomas A. O’Shaughnessy and are among the best examples of his work.

    “Yes, that’s happened in Liturgical Purgatory (aka Los Angeles)…”

    Your purgatory may finally have some light at the end of the tunnel… Thomas Peters (aka American Papist) reports that B16 has chosen a coadjutor for Cardinal Mahony, whose identity will be announced “soon”:

  41. Patrick J. says:


    I have yet to see a blog with this much animus toward Dr. King. Remarkable. Having worked and lived in the black community for years, yes, I do know the disposition of the people towards these kinds of events. I have a very good friend, a Catholic deacon, BTW, who faced these water hoses and dogs. Of course, anyone with a half a brain, which apparently you give me not credit for, and again, so be it, knows his status as martyr is not officially recognized by the RCC. Is he a martyr?, yes, I would say so, and many others would as well, including the Catholic bishop, Terry Steib, mentioned above.

    >Martin Luther King…who gave his life for the Gospel values of >peace, justice and the acceptance of all people,’ said Bishop J. >Terry Steib, S.V.D. in his opening remarks at the January 18 >ecumenical celebration at the Cathedral of the Immaculate >Conception.

    And that does not mean, as some will try to say, give one’s life, as in work your whole life for a cause. That means, willingly lay it down, as a martyr. Be willing to take a bullet. How many here have that kind of commitment and guts. I wonder.

    Of course,he (Steib) would be a “nut job” as well, according to many here seeking to display as many ways as possible to marginalize his heroism. Gutless and clueless.

  42. Patrick J. says:

    Addnedum – (again, edit button, please).

    By ‘blog’, I don’t mean the good Father’s kick off, or the blog generally, I mean some of the commentary on this thread, just to be clear.

  43. Patrick J. says:

    Addendum -typo

  44. EXCHIEF: Perhaps you haven’t studied King and the civil rights movement in much detail, but he didn’t just go out and stage a few protests. His movement was highly organized, in many ways based on the satyagraha methodology of Mahatma Gandhi, and because of its organization, its guiding principles, it proved to be highly effective in ushering in positive change. Yes, indeed, the pro-life movement would do well (and many in the movement leadership obviously already do) to study both him and Gandhi’s methodology so as to discover methods of activism that both ensure the greatest opportunity for the protection of the unborn and ensure that we do so non-violently.

    As for your comments about his personal life, irrelevant. We’re talking about the methodology of the movement and its proven effectiveness throughout the world and in various world and sociological situations. Also, we’re not Donatists. Last I checked, I’m a sinner, too. Fine, maybe King had his own weakness, I don’t know. That does nothing to diminish the great success of his movement, the tremendous good he did for our nation and our world, the highly virtuous way in which he accomplished it as a movement, and the great debt that every American owes to him, whether they recognize it or not.

  45. TNCath says:

    My commentary was not an attack of Dr. King or the civil rights movement. It was an answer to Fr. Z’s question.

  46. ssoldie says:

    I didn’t even know it was M.L.K. day until 5:00 when I went to pick up my mail and there was none, I was still wondering as I walked back to my apt why, but I know today is 37 years of legalized abortion, and I never for get this day.

  47. Dr. Eric says:

    Here’s the deal Patrick J, even if Dr. King was a Catholic, he was not killed “in odium fidei”- out of hatred of the Catholic Faith. Dr. King was not a Catholic and only Catholics can be proclaimed as martyrs or saints by the Catholic Church. The Anglicans and Methodists have their own rules and can do what ever they want in their churches.

    And we know that James Earl Ray did not have an implicit hatred of the Catholic Faith, he was just a racist petty criminal who wanted to be the “big man on campus” in prison like the “really dangerous” criminals that were at Leavenworth when he was there.

  48. Girgadis says:

    William Phelan

    The late Mrs. King was named Coretta, not Loretta, though you were close. At whose direction did the FBI film these casusal interludes? Would that have been J. Edgar Hoover, who perhaps should have pulled the log out of his own eye first? Not sure what your point is about that, but will grant you the benefit of the doubt that you were merely discussing a historical event. Fascinating that a simple question on whether or not Mass was said in MLK’s honor could take on such a dimension.

    Patrick J – I understand the point you are trying to make. No greater love than to lay down one’s life for another. MLK may not have been a Catholic martyr, but he had to know his fight might also one day mean his demise. We don’t have to agree with someone politically ( I had no idea what his politics were apart from wanting to end segregation and racism, which are not really political issues but moral ones) or condone their sexual immorality, to acknowledge the magnitude of their sacrifice. How many of us would publicly take up a cause if we thought our homes might be fire-bombed while our children were sleeping at night? It’s easy for me to talk about what I’d do while typing on my laptop, and quite another to actually DO somethng.

    Tom, I agree with you that there is a romanticism, if you will, about historical figures who were assassinated. I would argue with you that King deserved it much more than JFK, who left more of an illusion than an actual impact on humanity.

  49. Nope, no MLK Masses around here, and thank God for that! What would the purpose of such a thing be, anyway?

  50. irishgirl says:

    I’ve never attended anything of that sort, though I believe when I used to be a lector that his name was mentioned in the Prayer of the Faithful.

    But, as far as I know, there have never been any Masses said ‘in honor’ of Dr. King.

    I go to the TLM exclusively anyway….

    On one of my last trips to England, I did see the statue of him over the doorway of Westminster Abbey, along with St. Maxmilian Kolbe, Archbishop Romero, and St. Elizabeth of Russia [granddaughter of Queen Victoria who was murdered by the Bolsheviks].

  51. wolfeken says:

    Tina in Asburn — I asked the the Josephite pastor of the church in Alexandria, Va. you cited why he was pictured in the local paper wearing red vestments for an MLK service. He responded with a belief that MLK was a martyr, and martyrs deserve red vestments.

  52. Charivari Rob says:

    The Archdiocese of Boston has for many years held a prayer service (not a Mass) on the Sunday evening (the night before the civil holiday). Generally it reflects on Dr. King’s legacy and the Civil Rights movement, especially regarding the teaching of the Church and parallels to life today. There are scripture readings, psalms, hymns, intercessions, preaching, and someone will read aloud one of Dr. King’s speeches (they choose a different one each year). If the preaching is not done by our Archbishop or one of his auxiliaries, they usually engage a bishop or priest from another diocese (this year was a transitional deacon from out of state who is completing his studies at the National Seminary here).

    This is followed by a blood drive (in conjunction with the Red Cross) on the Monday. It’s a “Day On, not a Day Off”, sort of thing – though I believe they were doing this before that expression came in vogue. It’s held in a parish/neighborhood with a high African-American population, with the intention of increasing blood donor activity in the African/African-American/Caribbean/Latino communities – in particular treat the high incidence of sickle cell disease in these communities.

  53. Jayna says:

    I don’t know for sure but I live in Atlanta, so chances are that there was at least one.

  54. Patrick J. says:

    There is just another piece I would add…,( just to hopefully bring more light (less heat) to the understanding of MLK masses, which for many can be troubling in at least some regards – but I think most of what might prove troubing has more to do with state of affairs regarding our liturgies in general, and how this lends itself to just another set of liturgical aberations – and hopefully not reflective of Dr. Kings fine legacy regarding civil rights and his heroism – putting aside some of his foibles for the moment).
    to Black History Month – which the US is February, and these together form a sort of continuous Black History season, so the focus is on MLK, yes, but also is quite inclusive of the whole movement of civil rights and all other aspects of black history, and so it has come to be that when particular diocese wishes extend some sort of access and good will to their black congregations, which are sometimes very much minority in status relative to the greater Catholic community, the season chosen for that is this six week stretch – and this would manifest most often with an event (perhaps a Mass) with the bishop many times at the local cathedral. So, in effect, it is just sometimes a nice way to say “hey, you matter,” to a segment of the Catholic community in the US that feels many times marginalized, not to minimize the King celebration aspect, but to flesh it out a bit more.

  55. Patrick J. says:

    Sorry, my lap top keyboard is “touchy” and jumps around, giving some non sequiturs.(above post)

    I was trying to type that MLK b-day so proximate to Feb. (Black history month)- forms a sort of continuous black history season…etc.

  56. Girgadis: Coretta, of course, is the name of MLK’s widow. My purpose in introducing the FBI tapes was merely to prove that MLK was a philanderer. The evidence exists regardless of the reason the tapes were collected. Dr. King was also accused of plagiarism which I believe was proved. My entire point is that Dr. King was no saint and the very fact he is being discussed as such, or it is even suggested he was a “martyr” by the readers of this site, turns me cold. He is merely another figure in the secular pantheon which serves to honor public figures which the tastes of the American public chose as heroic at a certain time. These “tastes” also explain why professional sports figures and Hollywood types are multi millionaires.

  57. Girgadis says:

    William Phelan:

    If you read my earlier posts, you would have seen that I said MLK was not a saint, nor a Catholic martyr, but he did nonetheless lay down his life for a cause. What did the fact that he was a philanderer have to with the civil rights movement, except that he was a threat to the status-quo? Papal honors were bestowed on a Jew who actively worked to keep partial-birth abortion legal. Why did I bring that up? Because it never ceases to amaze me how squeaky-clean some secular figures are required to be. Others are not only given a pass, but honored as well without nary a word from those who profess not to have an agenda yet pick and choose what outrages them. Should Massess be celebrated in MLK’s honor? Absolutely not. Should we pray for the intentions of people whose lives were suddenly snuffed out? YES. What’s more, I would hardly place a leader of the civil rights movement who was assassinated in the same category as a sports figure or movie star. Our own Church is still reeling from an internal scandal which saw pedophile priests hidden and protected. I’m fairly certain you don’t feel we should define the ministries of certain cardinals and popes stricly by their actions, or lack thereof, while this abuse took place. Nor do I. No one is perfect, not even those whose vocation in life it is to help us strive for perfection in the eyes of God.

  58. Girgadis:
    Let’s stay on point.
    No one who works to keep partial-birth abortion legal should EVER be given an honor by the Church.
    Why should we pray for the intentions of people whose lives were suddenly snuffed out? Why???
    Civil rights leaders v. sports figures v. movie stars: Jesse Jackson? (The Rainbow Coalition?) Al Sharpton? (Do you recall the Tawana Brawley hoax this “civil rights leader” read: opportunist, promoted?).
    Judging cardinals and popes by the actions? ABSOLUTELY! Just as Christ will judge them and me. By what other standards are we judged??? Two subjects removed from the Catholic curriculum since Vat. II are Apologetics (proving The Church is the one, true Church), and Moral Theology. No offense, but it really shows in every “Catholic” blog site I visit.

  59. Patrick J. says:

    Anyone who would confuse, or invite confusing, the issue by juxtaposing Tawana Brawley and MLK really needs to grab a clue. Dr. King is rightfully seen, at the very least, as an Amercian/civil rights (in the best sense of the word) hero. Trying to tarnish his legacy with the idea that some of his so called followers were less than honorable figures is quite disturbing and discouraging. I guess Augustine (notable philanderer) should be rejected as a saint, according to some of the diatribes here.

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