May 21, 2014
Next Monday, Americans celebrate Memorial Day, and the Church celebrates the feast of St. Philip Neri. One event is secular, the other Catholic. A word about each.
On Memorial Day, a civil holiday with no link to any religious sect or viewpoint, we Americans pause to remember our war heroes. The day is marked by secular and patriotic rituals—displaying the America flag, and waving it, playing taps, gun salutes, parades, singing patriotic songs, and encomia offered by civil servants. In churches across the country, our heroes are also remembered in prayer. We call them heroes because they gave their lives to something bigger than themselves in defense of freedom, not simply for us Americans but for other nations as well.
Originally known as “Decoration Day,” this day of remembrance was founded to honor the soldiers who lost their lives in the Civil War.
The high honors owed to our war dead extend from those who lost their lives in the name of freedom in the Revolutionary War to our latest heroes in Afghanistan. They remain with us in spirit because they inspire us with their heroic acts.
Len Greenwood has perhaps caught the spirit of Memorial Day with the lyrics of the popular song, “God Bless the USA:” “And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.”