All Saints Day
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. (Mt. 5:1-12)
Robert Fulton Holtzclaw is the author of a book about African descendants canonized by the Catholic Church and named Saint. The title of this masterpiece is The Saints Go Marching In. Bishop James P. Lyke (d. 1991) wrote a powerful introduction for this historical book. Here are a few comments that Bishop Lyke said about this book:
"Beyond its informational value, however, this publication has a significant spiritual dimension. Saints of whatever land, are historic men and women who have interiorized to an exceptional degree the mystery of Jesus and have demonstrated an immeasurable love for their brothers and sisters. ... This gift of Blackness is our history, culture, art, and countless expressions of human prowess. This jewel of negritude is also our holiness, our radical and faith-filled conformity to Christ. The Saints Go Marching In sets before us luminous exemplars of that wholeness in Christ for which we all strive."
Saint Mary, whose feast day is Nov. 1, is one Saint whose life exemplified the fullness of Christ that Bishop Lyke mentioned. She was a slave owned by a Black Roman senator in 285 AD. The senator was upset that Diocletian forbade Christianity practice. He pleaded with St. Mary, his servant, to denounce her belief in Christ; she refused and eventually beaten. However, there is a twist in this story.
St. Mary, tortured and locked up in a dark closet, went without food for days. When the Roman leaders discovered what the senator did, they arrested him. Unfortunately, she would experience another merciless beaten for a second time, so bad that the crowd could not watch the brutal treatment of St. Mary. After taken off the tortured rack and handed over to the centurians, they let her escape. My God is Good. She indeed displayed the Beatitude of a Christian soldier in the army of the Lord. And for Black Catholics today, we too must give witness to our gift of holiness to move our community towards a luminous life that proclaims that Jesus Christ is the way.
"The God whom I served is with me. I do not fear tour torments, which can only take my life, which I am always ready to lay down for Christ." (St. Mary)
Authored: Evangelist Michael P. Howard, MACS