Archive for the ‘Martin Luther King’ Tag

Feast of Richard McSorley (October 17)   Leave a comment

Above:  Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.

Image Source = Google Earth

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RICHARD T. MCSORLEY, S.J. (OCTOBER 2, 1914-OCTOBER 17, 2002)

U.S. Roman Catholic Priest, Professor, and Peace Activist

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I see my mission in life, as God has made it known to me, to help make the Catholic Church what it should be, a peace church.  To be Christian means to have respect for life in all its forms, and in today’s nuclear age, that means Christians must become active witnesses for peace and must firmly oppose all forms of war.

–Father Richard T. McSorley, S.J., quoted in G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006), 540

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Father Richard T. McSorley, S.J., comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via Cady and Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006).

The McSorleys of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, were a large and devout Roman Catholic family.  There were fifteen children, eight of whom entered religious life.  Young Richard entered the Society of Jesus in 1932, at Wernesville, Pennsylvania.  By 19939, our saint completed his degree in philosophy.  That year, the order sent him to Manila, the Philippines, to teach at a Jesuit high school and seminary.

McSorley spent December 13, 1941-February 23, 1945, as a prisoner of the Japanese Empire.  He and other Jesuits and seminarians suffered repeated tortures.  McSorley nearly died of starvation.  He, hauled repeatedly before firing squads, saw fellow prisoners executed.  Japanese soldiers laughed at our saint, and aimed their guns at him without shooting.  They faked him out three times.

After U.S. paratroopers rescued the prisoners.  McSorley returned to the Untied States of America.  Our saint graduated from seminary at Woodstock College in Maryland.  He, ordained to the priesthood in 1946, embarked upon a life of ministry and social justice.  He, assigned to St. James’ Church, St. Mary’s City, Maryland, confronted Jim Crow laws, individual racism, and the Ku Klux Klan.  He preached against racism, advocated for the desegregation of church and society, and nearly became the victim of a Klan lynching.  McSorley, not intimidated, refused to be silent.

McSorley, who taught philosophy at the University of Scranton, Pennsylvania (1952-1961), completed his doctorate at Ottawa University, Canada, during those years.  Then he taught theology at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. (1961f).  He also did all of the following:

  1. He tutored the children of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.
  2. He marched with Martin Luther King, Jr., at Selma, Alabama.
  3. He opposed the Vietnam War.
  4. He became a pacifist in the 1960s.
  5. He tried to abolish all chapters of the R.O.T.C. at Roman Catholic colleges and universities.
  6. He favored the abolition of the R.O.T.C.
  7. He denounced all weapons of mass destruction.
  8. He condemned nuclear weapons as sinful.
  9. He helped to found Pax Christi U.S.A. in the 1970s.
  10. He went to jail for peacefully protesting Apartheid and nuclear weapons.
  11. He opposed Ronald Reagan’s policy of supporting repressive governments in Latin America.
  12. He wrote books and articles.

McSorley had a well-developed sense of the disparity between the laws of God and the laws of governments.  For our saint, Christian love was nonviolent love.  He considered Just War Theory absurd, especially in the age of nuclear weapons:

Can we serve both God and our government when the government orders us to do what God forbids?  Of course not.

McSorley belonged to the Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton wing of the Roman Catholic Church.  Our saint made enemies, of course.  He made enemies inside the Society of Jesus.  F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover (that paragon of opposition to civil rights and civil liberties) considered McSorley a “disgrace” and searched in vain for a way to smear his reputation.

McSorley, aged 88 years, died in Washington, D.C., on October 17, 2002.

Our saint took to heart the commandment of Jesus to love one’s enemies.  In so doing, McSorley became a radical–a radical Christian.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERNADETTE OF LOURDES, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC VISIONARY

THE FEAST OF CALVIN WEISS LAUFER, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMNODIST

THE FEAST OF ISABELLA GILMORE, ANGLICAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT MIKEL SUMA, ALBANIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, FRIAR, AND MARTYR, 1950

THE FEAST OF PETER WILLIAMS CASSEY, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EPISCOPAL DEACON; AND HIS WIFE, ANNIE BESANT CASSEY, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EPISCOPAL EDUCATOR

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Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make peace with oppression.

Help us [like your servant Richard T. McSorley] to use our freedom

to bring justice among people and nations, to the glory of your name;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-14

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 37

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