1968 was a year that changed history. In the Church, we saw Blessed Pope Paul VI issue his prescient encyclical, “Humanae Vitae,” in which he predicted that a contraceptive mentality would lead to an abortive reality. This has sadly proven to be the case.
In our cultural realm, the rock group, The Beatles, released its “White Album,” a work more of four individual artists than that of a band, signifying in this popular musical group a lack of unity and cohesion which could be said to exist in the culture itself.
On the campuses, students were rising up, protesting the senselessness of the Vietnam War and professors were picketing for academic freedom, even in Catholic universities and seminaries. New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles, Calif., in June, less than three months after the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, was mortally shot in Nashville, Tenn.
Dr. King, a pastor who became the leader and indeed the symbol of the civil rights movement in our nation, is now 50 years gone. Murdered in cold blood, Dr. King’s dream has not come to an end. Although race relations are still not perfect in America, we all are better off than we were 50 years ago and much of this “progress” is due to the life and work of Dr. King, a tireless voice for equality and freedom in America.
Fifty years after Dr. King’s assassination, “we need to ask ourselves if we are doing all we can to build the culture of love, respect and peace to which the Gospel calls us,” the U.S. bishops remind us.
In reflecting his life, the bishops ask, “What are we being asked to do for the sake of our brother or sister who still suffers under the weight of racism? Where could God use our efforts to help change the hearts of those who harbor racist thoughts or engage in racist actions?”
This 50th anniversary reminds us that Dr. King “remained undeterred in his principle of nonviolent resistance, even in the face of years of ridicule, threats and violence for the cause of justice,” the bishops said.
Dr. King was inspired by his Christian beliefs and the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi.
We are called to imitate the courage of Dr. King and to defend the dignity of all our neighbors because they are made in the image of God.