By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published May 29, 2015 | En Español
At some point or another, all of us seem to need reminders to help us recall important events or things. It is not necessarily a sign of old age or sickness, because even the healthiest human memory occasionally needs a nudge.
Memorial Day is a national nudge for us to remember in gratitude the many men and women who have served in our military and whose generous sacrifices have secured our freedom—some offering the supreme sacrifice of laying down their lives for our liberty. Annually each November, the Church’s liturgy offers another nudge on All Souls Day to help us pause in order to remember the many wonderful people who have graced and enriched our own lives and the life of the Church and to pray for them.
There may be other personal mementos that jog our memories of the kindness and goodness of others. I received one such personal memento from Father John Howren last week. He sent me a 1949 Christmas card that had been sent to his great-uncle, Father Herbert J. Melies, who was a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Louis from then-St. Louis Auxiliary Bishop John P. Cody. Bishop Cody would eventually become the Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago who would ordain me to the priesthood.
In receiving that old Christmas card, I was reminded of the man who sent it and who eventually played such a pivotal role in my own life. I will keep this faded Christmas card in my chapel along with dozens of mementos of colleagues and friends. I remembered Cardinal Cody in prayer as I read the text of his Christmas greeting and recognized his signature that I grew to know so well as a young priest. I hope the priests whom I have ordained over the years will in time remember me. Such mementos spark the heart to gratitude.
The American flag was a prominent reminder for most of us over the Memorial Day weekend of the blessing that we enjoy as citizens of this great nation and the sacrifice of the countless thousands of men and women whose military service has guaranteed and continues to make our freedom possible.
The flag should also remind us to pray for the tens of thousands of military personnel who currently serve in many dangerous places throughout our world. These fine men and women often risk their own safety to secure our freedom and frequently lend assistance to people in other nations who are facing natural and unexpected disasters. The members of our military face a new danger—terrorism—that often does not follow the traditional forms of combat but indiscriminately kills and maims soldiers and civilians alike.
Memorial Day is often considered the unofficial start of the summer season. I hope that it was also the start of a season of remembering for all of us, as we praise and thank God for the freedoms that we enjoy and for the generous service and the many sacrifices of those who made that freedom possible.