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In light of MLK Day, Bishop Burbidge urges an examination of conscience

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Patrick Riley came dressed for the occasion. At the Mass in Recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the parishioner of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Falls Church sported a pin of the civil rights leader, a token he received for donating to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington. His tie featured smiling children of different ethnicities. He wore a red checked shirt, “because I think of him as a martyr,” said Riley. 

Once he learned about the Mass, Riley felt he needed to be there, “because of all that happened this year and the need for healing in our nation,” he said. 

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge celebrated the Mass at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington Jan.10, ahead of the national holiday Jan. 18. He was assisted by Father Patrick L. Posey, rector of the cathedral, and Deacon Al Anderson of St. Joseph Church in Alexandria. Choir director and pianist Eugene Harper and singer Doreen Hamilton of the St. Joseph Gospel Choir provided the music. 

Bishop Burbidge began his homily by strongly condemning the violence at the Capitol Jan. 6, invoking Dr. King’s words. “As we anticipate the celebration honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we recall his words from the Birmingham Jail telling us that this nation will have to repent not only for hateful words and action, but most especially for appalling silence,” he said. 

He asked the congregation to examine their conscience regarding their own actions and inaction. “We may ask, do I play any part in bringing harsh rhetoric or hateful actions to my community or workplace? Have I been silent when I should have intervened?” he asked. “Am I taking up the charge of what Dr. King says is an appealing peace, a peace in which all men and women respect the dignity and worth of every human person?”

A man prays during the Mass in Recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington Jan. 10. ZOEY MARAIST  |  CATHOLIC HERALD

mlk 7 verticalThere is still much work to be done in promoting the worth of people of all races, said Bishop Burbidge. To further that end, last year he created an Advisory Council on Racism. However for the work to succeed, a reliance on God is needed, he said. “I think in some ways our nation is forgetting we can only do this work with God’s grace, with God’s divine assistance,” he said. “In some way we’re leaving God out of this picture. And that’s a great mistake.” 

Catholics can fulfill Christ’s mission, said Bishop Burbidge, “by living our faith without compromise, by doing our part to uphold the sacredness of all human life as well as respect for the dignity and worth of all human persons. We do so by letting go of any hatred, bitterness, resentment or grudges in our hearts, and by putting on love, for love never fails.”


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021