By Father Timothy Gollob
Special to The Texas Catholic
During the past few weeks, there has been enough violence to fill hundreds of historical documents, but history can remain very dry and far distant from most of us. However, for the families and the neighbors of the victims, there is the sadness of the loss and of the pain and of the frustration.
From the first pages of the Bible until now, the blood of martyrs has soaked into the ground. Once interred and out of sight, it could be easy to forget who those persons were and what they stood for and why they had to die; but their brothers and sisters remain to revive their story to whomsoever will listen. The blood of martyrs always cries out for vengeance.
It seems that in our present times violence has revolved around those who want to remember the horrors of the Civil War. The statues of the generals and the monuments to the soldiers are either proclaimed or reviled, but they are part of a history we must not forget.
Recently, the metropolitan newspaper spotlighted a trio of martyrs who died violently because of the fear generated by the social media of their day. The recounting of the story of the lynching of Patrick Jennings, Samuel Smith and Old Cato brings a new twist as to how all Dallasites should remember 1860.
Professor William Farmer of Perkins School of Theology was the catalyst back in the 1980s in reviving the grim tales of these murders on the banks of the Trinity River. He inspired a committee of Holy Cross historians headed up by Carole Brown, to dig into the newspaper accounts of that time. There were many “fake news” accounts about slave insurrections and the poisoning of wells and the burning down of towns.
Irrational fear was the menu of the day. Those who wanted blood shouted loudly and the mobs prevailed.
In 1991, a wooden stake was pushed into the diluvial soil of the Martyr’s Park to indicate where blood poured into the earth. Nothing is there to tear down; but the memory of those lynchings cannot and will not be forgotten. It has been way too long awaiting for an official marker to remind us that history ignored will be history repeated.
And so also with all the saints….they witnessed by their lives and blood. We tell their story to our world.
Father Timothy Gollob is the pastor of Holy Cross Catholic Church in Oak Cliff.