During peacetime, it is perhaps not surprising that Americans lose sight of the meaning of Memorial Day. We treat it as if it is simply the start of summer or, at best, as a day to honor the veterans of foreign wars. But the true purpose of Memorial Day is to celebrate not those who survived, but those who fell. Veterans march in parades not in their own honor but in honor of their fellow soldiers, sailors, aviators, and Marines who never returned.
In the wake of the war in Iraq and as the war in Afghanistan (we pray) draws to a close, our thoughts turn properly this Memorial Day weekend to all those who have given their lives in the service of their country. The Church teaches us that we should pray for the dead, so that their souls may find rest. Over this weekend, we can resolve to pray the Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday Prayers for the Dead, and consider making the Weekly Prayers for the Faithful Departed a part of our daily prayer.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
(Memorial Day 2008 Parade in Rockford, Illinois. Photo by Scott P. Richert)