Martin Luther King, Jr and Saint Francis Xavier with the Church

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Connecting people is a dangerous thing. It is even more perilous if you connect people from different centuries, places, ethnicities, religions and politics. I read this quote from Dr Martin Luther King, Jr (1929-1968) that made me think of those like Saint Francis Xavier had some difficulty convincing the "powers that be" that their behaviors, policies and attitudes are incoherent with the Gospel and Christ's Church. I am thinking of Bartholomew de las Casas, OP, Blessed John Paul II, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Blessed Franz J├Ągerst├Ątter, OFS, Saint Katharine Drexel, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, Saint Thomas More, Venerable Servant of God Father Michael J. McGivney, Servant of God Dorothy Day, Obl SB, Father Alexander Men and countless others.

What leads me to make this connect the dots? In his 1963 book, From his Sermons In Strength To Love, King stated, 

The Church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state and never its tool. If the Church does not recapture it prophetic zeal it will become an irrelevant social club without morals or spiritual authority.
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In these days in which Catholics, indeed all people of good will and faith, are being challenged and perhaps persecuted for their faith and conscience, I believe we need to make an examination of conscience using what MLK suggests. For a week, verify for yourself the truthfulness of this statement of MLK. Reconcile the truth with reality.

It is good to have a sense of what we know the Church to be. A way to get at what the Church is to consider what Father Georges Florovsky in his 1963 essay "Obedience and Witness" wrote,

... the Church is more than just a witnessing body, as she is more than a worshiping body: the Church herself is an integral part and subject of her own total witness, because she is not only a body of believers, but the Body of Christ. One may dare to say even more; the Church is Christ himself, as he lives and rules in his own body and members --totus Christus, caput et corpus, in the glorious phrase of Saint Augustine. The Church is the historical form or "modus" of Christ's abiding and acting presence in the world, in history, in the cosmos, redeemed, being redeemed, and to be redeemed.

Saint Francis Xavier was concerned with issues of charity of which teaching truth was primary and also addressing the human needs of food, water, working conditions, political policies of those in front of him. He frequently criticized those who oppressed their brother and sister. Xavier was critical of those in Europe who didn't live according to the demands of Baptism. Mediocre Christian living led to mediocre living matters of conscience, justice and love. The proclamation of the Good News is well connected with human dignity.

If in fact MLK is correct, and if in fact the New Testament (consider also the entire Bible) and the consistent teaching of Catholic Social Doctrine, then we Catholics and all others who claim to be people of faith and conscience need to be reawakened to a new reality and a new way of proceeding.

Saint Francis Xavier, pray for us.

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Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]



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This page contains a single entry by Paul Zalonski published on December 3, 2012 10:08 AM.

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