Recently I purchased a fascinating book, The Christian Almanac (Nashville: Cumberland House, 2004). It lists and describes events in history over the calendar year. I discovered that this week in history is full of inspiration. The following information is gleaned from that book and a few Web sites.
On March 24, 1820, American hymn writer Fanny Crosby was born. She wrote more than six-thousand hymns, among them “To God Be the Glory,” “Blessed Assurance,” “Rescue the Perishing,” and “Near the Cross.”
On March 24, 1980, Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated while serving Communion in El Salvador. He had become an outspoken advocate for the poor, for workers, for the oppressed of that war-torn country. In a pastoral letter released in November of 1976, he spoke on behalf of coffee plantation workers: “The Church must cry out by command of God: ‘God has meant the earth and all it contains for the use of the whole human race. Created wealth should reach all in just form, under the aegis of justice and accompanied by charity.” About a year later he said at a large public mass at San Salvador Cathedral, in reference to the recent murder of priests by the government: “The government should not consider a priest who takes a stand for social justice as a politician, or a subversive element, when he is fulfilling his mission in the politics of the common good.” And in 1980 he directed this plea to soldiers and police: “Brothers, you are from the same people; you kill your fellow peasants. . . . No soldier is obliged to obey an order that is contrary to the will of God. . . . In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people, I ask you—I implore you—I command you in the name of God: stop the repression!” The next evening, Romero was assassinated while performing a funeral mass in a hospital chapel. Romero’s mission to the people and his violent death have become icons to all who work for justice and equality in the world.
On March 25, 1965, Martin Luther King Jr. led twenty-five thousand marchers to the state capitol in Montgomery, Alabama, to protest the denial of voting rights to African Americans. There, on the capitol steps, King delivered his “How Long, Not Long” speech. Here’s an excerpt:
I know you are asking today, “How long will it take?” Somebody’s asking, “How long will prejudice blind the visions of men, darken their understanding, and drive bright-eyed wisdom from her sacred throne?” Somebody’s asking, “When will wounded justice, lying prostrate on the streets of Selma and Birmingham and communities all over the South, be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men?” Somebody’s asking, “When will the radiant star of hope be plunged against the nocturnal bosom of this lonely night, plucked from weary souls with chains of fear and the manacles of death? How long will justice be crucified, and truth bear it?” I come to say to you this afternoon, however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long, because “truth crushed to earth will rise again.” How long? Not long, because “no lie can live forever.” How long? Not long, because “you shall reap what you sow.” How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.
On March 25, 1925, Catholic writer of the American South, Flannery O’Connor, was born. Just about any writer who values exquisite prose and a foundation of spirituality holds O’Connor in high esteem. I (Vinita) and my writer friends have been quoting her for years. A few of my favorites:
- The writer should never be ashamed of staring. There is nothing that does not require his attention.
- The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.
- The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet. His problem is to find that location.
- The Catholic novelist in the South will see many distorted images of Christ, but he will certainly feel that a distorted image of Christ is better than no image at all. I think he will feel a good deal more kinship with backwoods prophets and shouting fundamentalists than he will with those politer elements for whom the supernatural is an embarrassment and for whom religion has become a department of sociology or culture or personality development.
- All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.
On March 26, 1979, the Camp David peace treaty brokered by President Jimmy Carter was signed by Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat at the White House.
And let’s not forget: March 25 is the Feast of the Annunciation, a celebration of Archangel Gabriel’s visit to the young girl, Mary, and Mary’s acceptance of God’s plan for her to be the mother of Jesus, “Son of the Most High.” Her reply, “Let it be with me according to your word” (Luke 1:26–38, NRSV), has inspired human beings ever since to trust God and to submit to the wisdom and love of the Divine.