Published May 24, 2007
For the past two years, a local group of the Knights of Columbus and some Catholic veterans have invited me to observe Memorial Day by celebrating Mass at the Marietta National Cemetery, one of the oldest military cemeteries in our nation. This year, I shall celebrate that Memorial Day Mass at the Georgia National Cemetery in Canton, one of our nation’s newest military cemeteries. The Memorial Day Mass is an opportunity for the Archdiocese of Atlanta to join hundreds of thousands of people throughout our nation in praying for and honoring the many men and women who have served in the military and especially those who have given their lives in defense of our liberty.
It is also a moment for us to pause and pray for those who are currently serving in the military and who at this very moment live with the great risks of armed combat. As Catholics, we also fervently lift our voices in prayer for all those who work for peace in our world. All of those intentions are captured in the Mass that we shall offer next Sunday at the Georgia National Cemetery.
The Memorial Day holiday marks the beginning of summer, if not officially, then at least according to tradition. We give thanks for the sacrifices of so many generous Americans in serving our nation in the military as we begin the wonderful season of summer. These brave men and women need our prayers and our support.
The other evening I was attending a reception with one of our staff members whose son is currently serving in Iraq. She told me that occasionally she receives an e-mail from him that tells her that he will be out of communication for a while. Her prayers only intensify as she waits for him to let her know that he is safe and back online again. So many people live with anxieties like that because their loved ones are in harm’s way.
We pray for all of those families of our military as well on Memorial Day. For although they themselves are not in the military, they bear a share of the anguish that war brings to all families of soldiers.
Over the weekend, many of our parishes will include petitions for the fallen heroes and heroines whose sacrifices have paid for our national freedom and sovereignty. We should also pray for the families of those whose sons and daughters, husbands and wives are serving in the armed forces of our nation.
I was in Athens last week to dedicate a little chapel at the Hospice Center that St. Mary’s Hospital runs in that community. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the mother of a soldier who had died in Iraq last year arrived for the raising of the flag outside of the chapel. She was an obviously proud but grieving mother who stood at attention as the honor guard hoisted the flag for the first time outside that chapel site.
Memorial Day must be both a time of pride and a time of sorrow for all those families whose sons and daughters have surrendered their lives for the freedom of this nation throughout our history. Let us remember not only our military personnel on this day, but all of the families of those serving our nation in the armed forces at this time. They too deserve not only our prayerful support, but our deep and enduring gratitude as well.