Memorial Day, for many, means the beginning of summer. To others, it is a day off to go shopping. But as I am sure you know, Memorial Day is really a day to honor those who have died in the service of this country. Here are some thoughts based on two words from a day like this: “memorial” and “monument.”
The word “memorial” comes from the Latin “memorare,” which is in an imperative meaning “Remember!” So Memorial Day is “Remember!” Day. To remember something is to allow it to be present to our minds and hearts so that we are grateful, sober, aware, and different.
This is a day to remember that there are men and women who have died so that you and I are able to live with greater security, justice, and peace. May these fallen soldiers rest in peace. We owe them both a debt of gratitude and our prayers.
In a secondary sense, we can also honor today those who currently serve in the military since they also have placed their lives on the line for our security and peace. And on Veterans Day we will have a second opportunity to thank those military who are still living.
God bless them all and may the dead rest in peace. We must remember that freedom is not really free—others paid the price for our freedom.
The second word is “monument.” There are many monuments honoring our fallen soldiers. Here in DC and in most cities there is a monument to the soldiers who died during World War II. There are other monuments to the dead from from World War I, the Korean War, and the War in Vietnam. Soon enough there will be monuments to the fallen from the Gulf War and to those who gave their lives in other wars. The Tomb of the Unknowns is a poignant monument to the many fallen who remain unknown to us. And who can forget the deep impression the rows of white crosses in a military cemetery make.
The word “monument” comes from the Latin words “monere” (to warn, remind, or advise) and “mens” (mind). Hence a “monument” exists to admonish or advise us to remember the dead and/or what they have done. Not only do we owe a debt of gratitude to our fallen soldiers, but we must also hold in our memories all they have done for us.
The Love of one’s country (patriotism) is related to the fourth commandment. The Catechism teaches,
It is the duty of citizens to contribute to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity and freedom. The love and service of one’s country follow from the the duty of gratitude and belong to the order of charity (CCC # 2239).
The Lord Himself makes it plain: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).
Never forget the price others have paid for our freedom. Pray for our fallen soldiers of every generation and for their families. Perhaps you might use this video as a way to meditate on the sacrifices they have made. Here is the text of the song “Mansions of the Lord,” and the video follows:
To fallen soldiers let us sing,
Where no rockets fly nor bullets wing,
Our broken brothers let us bring
To the Mansions of the Lord
No more weeping,
No more fight,
No prayers pleading through the night,
Just Divine embrace,
In the Mansions of the Lord
Where no mothers cry
And no children weep,
We shall stand and guard
Though the angels sleep,
Oh, through the ages safely keep
The Mansions of the Lord