Published September 20, 2007
Two quite different but in many ways parallel books published in 1976 fueled an avalanche of interest in personal history: Alex Haley’s “Roots” and Leon Uris’ “Trinity.” Both of these literary works dealt with family histories.
Family history remains an important interest for most people even today, and it has a special significance for our young people to learn about their own personal heritage and family origins. Knowing about one’s family of origin and personal heritage gives a sense of partnership with the past and motivation for the future. This was a theme for my visit to St. Peter Claver Regional School last week.
For the sixth time in its heritage, this wonderful school celebrated Mass near the feast day of its namesake. I have been privileged to celebrate three of those six Masses and that gives me some “roots” at this fine school community. This year, two young men were the stars in a writing contest on family history—Christian Griffith and Michael Robinson had their heritage stories chosen from among the many submissions offered by the children at the school. Both young men presented me with copies of their work. Their parents and grandparents who were in attendance at the Mass just beamed as these youngsters confirmed the importance of having children made aware of their heritage and family backgrounds.
The Church honors the saints for much the same reason. We need to remember and to celebrate the heritage of faith that those noble men and women have given to the Church. The saints are our illustrious ancestors who have fulfilled their baptismal promises and lived in accord with God’s grace, and they give all of us hope that we too in time may be able to join them in glory.
Honoring our heritage of faith strengthens the Church because it helps us to recall who we are and who we are destined to become. The saints are members of the family of the Church and are our proudest ancestors. It is so much more important for our youngsters to learn about those positive ancestors than many of the current popular celebrities whose public behavior is so often not a source of pride, but of embarrassment!
If our youngsters spent only a small portion of their energy learning about the positive role models from their own personal histories and from the corporate history of the Church, I cannot but help to imagine that they would be so much better off than they are with the awful public displays that flood their young lives because of too many of the celebrities of our world. We should be concerned that the children of our world have solid roots to ground them in their youthful development.
I concluded the week with another celebration of the heritage of a community as I presided at the 30th Anniversary of the Mission of the Holy Martyrs of Korea and confirmed nearly 60 young people and adults at this wonderful family of our Korean Catholics. The festive garb, the extraordinary music and the final marching ensemble of drummers who led us out of the Church to the public reception must have caused a few travelers on Buford Highway to pause and take notice of the celebration.
Our Korean Catholics rejoiced before the Lord in gratitude for the growth of their community during the past three decades and for the wonder of their own cultural gifts that so enrich our local Church. Like so many other new arrivals to our nation, our Korean brothers and sisters hold up before the world the splendor of music, dress, food, poetry and art that reveal to us all that God Himself is at work in the lives of this community in ways that enrich us all.
Each Rite of Election at the beginning of Lent reconfirms that the Catholic faith is planted deeply in the hearts of so many different peoples within the Archdiocese of Atlanta—and none more graceful than our Korean neighbors.
Congratulations to the community of the Holy Martyrs of Korea! What a blessing that your heritage and cultural gifts are so very much alive here in North Georgia and in the hearts of your young and old alike.