1968, Bobby, and the Other Malcolm

Bobby Kennedy speaks to a Civil Rights crowd, June 1963.

Originally published September 2008

Not to be lost in all of the media attention focused on our upcoming election, some outlets such as the History Channel have been remembering the 40th Anniversary of the eventful and historic year of 1968.

As a former student of political science and history, I was always fascinated at the drawing power of Robert F. Kennedy. It was said the former Attorney General and US Senator from New York could walk down the middle of a parade in the deep South and would be enthusiastically greeted by African-Americans on one side and ardent white segregationists on the other.

Recently I came across a speech by RFK entitled, “The Adventure of Change.” In it he remarked: “We cannot stand idly by and expect dreams to come true under their own power. The future is not a gift: it is an achievement.”

Last month I was witness to an enormous achievement: The opening of the New Marian House.  The words of Bobby Kennedy rang true to this effort. Were it not for the leadership, work and dedication of so many people the New Marian House might just be a set of plans rolled up and collecting dust on a shelf. Fortunately, that’s not the case.

This achievement could not have come at a more appropriate time. In the last 6 months, the Marian House has seen a 30% increase in its daily average of guests served.  Stationed at the gateway to downtown Colorado Springs, the New Marian House serves as a place of hope and comfort for those on the margins of society. It is only fitting that our new facility also rests near the newly restored Bijou Street Bridge. Bridge has become an important metaphor for Catholic Charities’ Marian House. Our own campaign refers to the facility as a “Bridge to New Beginnings” with the idea that we are lifting people out of poverty and on the road to self-sufficiency. A deeper, far more meaningful “bridge” metaphor was once beautifully explained by the British author and commentator, Malcolm Muggeridge. In describing the link between heaven and earth, between God and man, Muggeridge declared:

I grasped that over it lay, as it were, a cable-bridge, frail, swaying, but passable. And this bridge, this reconciliation between the black despair of lying bound and gagged in the tiny dungeon of ego, and soaring upwards into the white radiance of God’s universal love – this bridge was the Incarnation, whose truth expresses that of the desperate need it meets. Because of our physical hunger we know there is bread; because of our spiritual hunger, we know there is Christ.

It gives me an enormous sense of awe when I see the work being done at the New Marian House. The workers and volunteers – those special hands of God – are serving as a bridge to a new beginning. And hopefully, providing a mere glimpse of heaven. That’s more than a gift: It’s quite an achievement.

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