Editor’s note: The following essay was the winning entry in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. essay contest co-sponosred by Diocese of Richmond’s Office of Catholic Schools and Office for Black Catholics. It was written by Alessandra Paras, a 10th grader at Roanoke Catholic School.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington is the pinnacle of his campaigns. Dr. King Jr. was full of wisdom, and his other quotes also prove this. He stated, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in times of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words are applicable to the lives of many, especially Catholics and teens.

The quote portrays fortitude. People do what is just when they can easily do so, but a person’s true strength is revealed during times of hardships. Those who are gifted with a greater sense of fortitude than others will stand by their beliefs despite what society tells them. If others ridicule them for their equitable actions and beliefs, and they still choose to be steadfast in their decisions. Deciding to do what is just, even if it means going against the crowd, shows a person’s true strength.

Many years later, the quote and the idea of fortitude are still very relevant points. As society has progressed, so many new ideas have arisen. With all the different perspectives of what is right, discerning truth and justice has become increasingly difficult. As Catholics, we use our faith to guide us in determining what is moral. We must stand by the teachings of the faith when forming opinions about issues such as abortion, even if the majority of society objects. 

A true Catholic’s strength is portrayed when they defend our faith. They will stand by the faith, even if our leaders have failed us. Dr. King’s quote can be restated as the true measure of a Catholic is where they stand during times of challenge.