By Maureen McKew
Our vicar general and chancellor, Msgr. Joseph LaMorte, reminded those of us who work for the New York Archdiocese of why and how we observe Memorial Day. He wrote:
Monday, May 27 is our country’s official day to celebrate Memorial Day. It is a federal holiday for remembering and honoring persons who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. This day is currently observed every year on the last Monday of May, but until 1970, was previously observed on May 30. It is considered the unofficial start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end on the first Monday in September. Many people visit cemeteries on Memorial Day, particularly to honor those who died in military service. They were our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, moms and dads, grandparents, uncles, aunts or friends. They went to war and gave their lives for a cause. They made their sacrifices. They are often in our thoughts; but especially on Memorial Day, we gather to say in one voice, “thank you.” We ask God’s peace for them and pray they may know how much we appreciate their sacrifice and the freedom they insured for us and our children. At our archdiocesan cemeteries and at most parish cemeteries, Holy Mass is offered on site. In the morning, the flags of the United States in public are raised briskly to the top of the staff and then solemnly lowered to the half-staff position, where they remain only until noon. Then, they are raised to full-staff for the remainder of the day.
Years ago, I met a Catholic man who had served during World War II, specifically in the Italian campaign that began in 1943. During this long campaign, he suffered an attack of appendicitis. As you can imagine, evacuating him to a medical unit was difficult. There was concern his appendix would burst and cause peritonitis
He told me that as he lay on a stretcher contemplating his possible death, the only thing he could think to do was to recite the Rosary. He wanted a mother to help him and intercede for him. He also told me that the other Catholics in his unit felt the same way. “She’d understand,” he said. Of course, my friend’s generation of Catholics were raised with the Rosary and they carried rosary beads everywhere, even if they weren’t the most faithful of church goers. Mary, their mother, was always approachable and would put in a good word for them to her Son
This Memorial Day, it would be nice to visit a cemetery. Even if you don’t have veterans in your family, just go to one of the graves that will have little American flags placed on them. Say a rosary for all those who served. We owe them so much