I am always drawn to these words of Jesus on Memorial Day weekend, - No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. (John 15:13) Military service which leads to laying one's life down is certainly an expression of this kind of heroic love. It also deserves to be honored. Those who witness to it are champions - and we should stop and reflect on their valor and virtue today.On this Memorial Day, I ask you to consider a practice I was inspired to embrace years ago. Whenever you see a man or a woman in uniform, stop and shake their hand. Thank them for their service to our Nation and smile.
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - Honoring those who have died in service to the Nation on Memorial Day is a beautiful American custom. There are numerous cities which claim they were the first to celebrate the Day. There are varied explanations of its history.
Memorial Day has evolved into a unique American moment for reflection, re-dedication and resolve. This holiday on the last Monday of the month, when we are all invited to pause to remember the men and women who died while serving our Nation in the military, challenges all of us to live our lives differently as well.
Though considered a secular holiday, many do not know that a national moment of remembrance takes place at 3:00 p.m. At that time we are asked to observe a moment of silence and prayer. Throughout the day, Americans visit cemeteries or memorials dedicated to the war dead and spiritually reflect on those existential issues which are the ground of faith.
We also celebrate the memory of the lives of those who died in service to the Nation. There are community wide parades and picnics. The Holiday has also become the unofficial start to the summer season in the United States. So engrained has its observance become that many public pools often time their opening to the observance.
I am always drawn to these words of Jesus on Memorial Day, "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." (John 15:13) Military service which leads to laying one's life down is certainly an expression of this kind of heroic love. It also deserves to be honored. Those who witness to it are champions - and we should stop and reflect on their valor and virtue today.
For a good Catholic source to assist in this kind of approach to Memorial Day, I recommend the site offered by Mission Capadanno It helps to promote solid reflection on the kind of sacrifice so many offered as a direct response to their Christian faith. I offer below a portion of the mission statement of this commendable organization:
Our Mission: Mission Capodanno serves those who serve, offering U.S. Armed Forces personnel spiritual truths of military life in light of the Catholic Faith. Paragraph 2310 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "Those who are sworn to serve their country in the armed forces are servants of the security and freedom of nations. If they carry out their duty honorably, they truly contribute to the common good of the nation and the maintenance of peace."
Its four-fold mission is:
-to build spiritual resiliency within military personnel, military families, and military communities that have an immediate family member serving on active duty;
-to promote vocations to the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and National Guard Chaplain Corps
-to provide needed and requested Catholic supplies to military chaplains of all faiths currently ministering to those serving in the U.S. armed forces
-to make known the life and sacrifice of Maryknoll Father Vincent Robert Capodanno, LT, CHC, USNR
Mission Capodanno magnifies the Church's teaching that military service is "a true vocation", "a high calling", "a sacred duty". Through education, we work towards the restoration of christocentric patriotism, which rests in the order of charity, as love of country- even unto death- and flows from love of God."
In a special way on this Memorial Day I am drawn to another heroic chaplain. On April 11, 2013, Father (Captain) Emil Kapaun, a Catholic priest who witnessed to just such a higher calling by demonstrating heroic virtue while serving this Nation as a Chaplain, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. You can read the White House Statement on Fr. Kapuan here.
On the day of that the well deserved award was given, I was at home not feeling well. I just happened to turn on the news and witnessed the remarks offered by President Obama. Frankly, I found it to be his best speech since taking office. He referred to this profoundly holy man as a "shepherd in combat boots".
Father Kapaun represents such a beautiful example of living those words of Jesus with integrity and moral coherence. "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." (John 15:13) It is no surprise that his cause for canonization is moving forward. He is a Saint. How we need his witness, his prayers and his message in this urgent hour.
As our Nation continues to veer off course, a direct result of the rejection of God, we need the help of heaven. As we experience the continued erosion of liberty, and witness the disregard of the first freedom, religious freedom, we need the intervention of the living God. As we experience the ominous dark cloud of a growing culture of death give rise to a throw-away culture, to use the words of Pope Francis, we need nothing less than a national spiritual revival to turn us back to the right course.
As we witness the utter rejection of the truth about marriage and the family and society founded upon it, we need National repentance. Catholics need to wake up to the urgency of the hour and join with other Christians, other people of faith and all people of good will in being a part of turning the Nation away from the path of decline upon which it has embarked. Catholics in the United States should also pray fervently for those who serve in the military. We should honor them and respect their sacrifice.We should also support them in every way we are able to do so.
The Archdiocese for the Military Services website can be found here. I highly recommend a regular, prayerful visit to this great virtual place of honor. Pray for Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio and the Auxiliary Bishops who serve with him. They are courageous, faithful shepherds facing some very real challenges as the Nation they serve loses its way because it has rejected its moral compass. As I have aged, I have only grown in my respect for members of the military. The honor they demonstrate, through lives of service to a cause greater them themselves, moves me deeply. As a Deacon, some of the most meaningful memories of funeral services which I have served are the military funerals.
I live in Southeastern, Virginia where there are many members of the military. The parish I serve is a daily example of the dignity of military service. Every day, I witness the kinds of sacrifices which military families make for our Nation. On this Memorial Day weekend, I ask you to consider a practice I was inspired to embrace years ago. Whenever you see a man or a woman in uniform, stop and shake their hand. Thank them for their service to our Nation and smile.
Happy Memorial Day weekend. And to all who serve in the Military, Thank you and God Bless you!
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