Years ago I was dedicating a new parish to St. Peter. A woman wrote to protest: “Why would you name a Church after such a coward, a sinner who denied even knowing the Lord when Jesus needed him most, at the hour of His arrest and crucifixion?”
Knowing her and what parish she was from, I wrote back, “But you’re a proud parishioner at St. Mary Magdalene Church. She was sure not a paragon of virtue for a chunk of her life. Yet, by God’s grace, she became a radiant, inspirational saint. If we can’t name churches after sinners, the only titles we’d have left would be Jesus and His Mother!”
Isn’t the same true of America’s historical personalities? All of them had flaws, yet all of them still contributed a lot of good to our nation’s progress.
Defacing, tearing down and hiding statues and portraits is today’s version of Puritan book-burning. Our children need to know their country’s past, its normative figures and their virtues and vices. That’s how we learn and pass on our story. Is there any more effective way to comprehend America’s history of racism than reading “Huckleberry Finn” or one of Flannery O’Connor’s short stories, works of literature now ominously on the chopping block? Read more