RJN on MLK

April 4, 2008

Father Neuhaus remembers the Rev. Dr. King, who was assassinated on this day in 1968.

This is a week of remembering. Wednesday evening I celebrated and preached the Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral recalling the death of John Paul the Great three years ago April 2. This Friday, also at St. Patrick’s, I will concelebrate–Edward Cardinal Egan celebrating and Father George Rutler preaching–the memorial Mass for William F. Buckley Jr. In 2005, April 2 was the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday, and John Paul’s last words were, “Let me go to the house of the Father.” In the issue of First Things that subscribers will be receiving this week, I have an extended reflection on my friendship with Bill Buckley. In our last conversations, it was evident that he heard the Master calling and readily went.

And then there was the killing of Dr. King on April 4 in that apocalyptic year of 1968. For all the horror and heartbreak of the time, there were sustained moments in which one thought with Wordsworth, “Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive / But to be young was very heaven.” For those of us who were there, it not easy to recognize that, had he lived, Dr. King would now be seventy-nine years old. Not to mention that John F. Kennedy, killed in 1963, would be ninety-one, and Robert, also killed in 1968, eighty-three. But the memories still break out of amber and renew the luster of a liberalism that was.

Remembering, and Misremembering, Martin Luther King Jr. 

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