I have not been able to write a “blog” entry for a while, so now that the great days of Confirmations and graduations have passed for this year, I am able to spend more time on writing and reflection on my blog. I thank all for their patience.
The days of summer seem to be framed and celebrated around the triad of three great civic days: Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day. I will be reflecting on the Memorial Day at the moment. In a few days I will write on the Fourth of July and toward September I will write a reflection on Labor Day.
These days are great days connected with the history of the United States of America. However, more often than not, now their original significance seems to be lost in the distance and the focus is on free days, holidays, and festivities. While these are good things, we must never forget the original meaning and intent of these days, which in fact, are anchored in the Judeo-Christian foundations of Western culture, and in particular here, in the United States of America.
I remember that when I was growing up in the Midwest, Memorial Day was called “Decoration Day.” It was a time for us to gather at Calvary cemetery in Springfield, attend Mass celebrated by the Bishop, and then visit all of the family graves, decorating them with fresh flowers. Many graves had American flags placed on them as well, and flags were posted on the homes in the neighborhood. Later on the name was changed to Memorial Day, as the day was intended to honor Veterans. My father is a proud Veteran of World War II serving in the Pacific Theater for all of the War. Many of my high school classmates are veterans of Vietnam.
In the intervening years, I have continued to celebrate Masses in the cemeteries and parishes of the Diocese wherever I have been stationed, and I am grateful to say that I have continued that here.
While the festivity of the day is important, let us never let the memory and the “why” of this day recede from us. There has been a lot written in recent months on the plight of our Veterans who seem to have been forgotten, and their sacrifices taken for granted. Many are homeless. I would like to recall the words of Saint John Paul II in this regard: “Here I wish to express gratitude to the international organizations and to all those who are daily engaged in the application of international organizations and to all those who are daily engaged in the delicate work of resolving conflicts and restoring the many necessary conditions of peace. I wish to remind them of the words of the Second Vatican Council:’ All those who enter the military in service to their country should look upon themselves as guardians of the security and freedom of their fellow-countrymen, and in, carrying this duty properly, they too contribute to the establishment of peace.”
Whatever opportunity, great or small, to help and acknowledge our Veterans in this service to our country, and to thank them, should never pass us by. It is a great response of Faith and gratitude. In this regard, I wish to especially acknowledge Fr. Bill Barman of our Diocese, whose care and advocacy for our Veterans is a reminder of their service to our country and the thanks and care for them that we should now return.
Our gathering in prayer at our cemeteries will be repeated here again near All Souls Day, and is also an opportunity to reflect on the communion of the Saints and the spiritual work of mercy of praying for the living and the dead.
Bishop Kevin Vann