Brief Personal Reflection on Ven. Fr. Tolton
Yesterday, the Tolton Novena for the Spiritual Welfare of the Black American Community wrapped up on the nine days leading up to the 124th anniversary of the death of Fr. Augustus Tolton (July 1-9th). I feel it is good to repost a brief reflection about him that I wrote in the past. Enjoy.
I think Tolton was the first African American I found out was on the way to becoming a saint. I found him excitingly unique because he was a Black American Catholic (when there were not/still not many), he was a Black priest (especially for him being the first for America), and he could be a saint in the future. And even now as a African American, it feels good that I can claim a certain possession of him and call him my own in some way.
There are three things I want to share in reflection when it comes to Tolton.
1) Tolton is someone I can look up to and mold myself after. His life was amazing, from slavery to priesthood, and he is an image I can try to replicate. He looks like me and we both (albeit broadly and distantly) share a common heritage and ancestry as two Black men. Especially as a man in the seminary, Tolton is the giant whose shoulders I could very well stand upon (if God wills it).
2) The Black community knows very well of MLK, Malcolm X, Fred Douglass, Tubman, and many others, but how many know about Tolton? I doubt many. To my memory, I had absolutely no idea about him till after I became Catholic. His story should join the litany of other Black lives that speak from history to give us a hope and a future. I think many in my community would be proud to know about him. Even more broadly than that, I think that all Americans would be proud to know about him as well given the fact the he is the US’s first Black priest. His life is very important to our history as a nation.
3) Lastly, I know Tolton’s story on a broad level, but going back and doing the research to have him featured on this month’s series of Black Saints/Holy Ones makes me realize that there is A LOT more that I should know about him. His biography on http://www.toltoncanonization.org/biography/biography.html provides so much detail that I did not know before that I should be up on. I need to memorize his life, so I can be able to quickly relay his story to other people.
I end with something I penned about him in an article I wrote for uCatholic earlier this year that sums up everything nicely:
“Fr. Augustus Tolton was a true priest of Jesus Christ in the Catholic Church, and there was not a thing any detractor could have said about it. He was as much of an alter Christus as a White priest was. He could confect the same Eucharist, forgive the same sins, witness the same marriages, baptize the same babies, and anoint the same sick all not due to his race but rather to the sacrament he received. When he performed his duties he did them in the Person of Christ not in the person of a Black or White man, for the One Priesthood he was ordained into is not a respecter of race. All of this would be true for any other Black man ordained after him.”From “The Great Equalizer: How the Sacraments Make Us All Equal”
Ven. Fr. Augustus Tolton is a featured Black Catholic holy one in my Black Catholic Saints section