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Lessons from the Front of the Bus (Tue Nov 15, 2005 9:21 am)

by Chris Roussel

Recently our country laid to rest a wonderful, prophetic lady who was frequently called the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement, Rosa Parks. We all know the story of how Mrs. Parks, who was sitting quietly on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, going home tired after a long day of work, was summarily ordered to give her seat to a white man. Her refusal to be degraded yet again sparked a months' long boycott of that city's bus system, which in turn sparked the wave of protests, demonstrations and civil disobediences which we now know brought down the entire system of discrimination which had defined our country's race relations for over a century. We, as Catholics, can learn a great deal from the story of this courageous lady and those who followed her.

First, Rosa Parks' action was not an isolated explosion of frustration: she had studied and thought about civil rights and the need for reform in the US for years and was familiar with Dr. King and the concept of non-violent protest. In that moment of decision, she consciously chose resistance against a powerful symbolic coercion. Second, she was willing to pay the price for her action, including being arrested. Third, other like-minded people had the courage to support her and extend her actions, at no small inconvenience to themselves. Banding together, they supported and enabled one another, discovering the strength of their numbers. Fourth, they listened to one another, learned from each others' expertise and cooperated on multiple projects to bring about equality. Finally, they acted with faith, not knowing for sure which actions or protests would be decisive but knowing they would all contribute to the final achievement of their goal - full equality and respect.

May we Catholics learn from these pioneers as we take back our own religious rights.

All ye holy and courageous people of God, pray for us!


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