Did you know that “Memorial Day” was originally called “Decoration Day”? It was the day for people to decorate the graves of the nation’s deceased heroes and heroines, to visit their graves in memorial of the sacrifice they made to preserve our freedoms, and to say a prayer in their memory.
The Motley Monk's Dad taught him this lesson as a youngster when, on the Saturday morning immediately preceding Memorial Day, they'd go to meet Uncle Bill at the VFW. Of course, they'd have a couple of beers first. But, then, they'd take the stack of flags entrusted to them and drive to the parish cemetery at St. Mary's in Buffalo Grove. Once at the cemetery, they'd carefully place one flag in the center of the headstone and approximately three inches before it for every veteran of the nation's Armed Forces. After placing the flag, they'd say a short prayer for each veteran. It was a simple ritual through which member of the Catholic community remembered the service and sacrifice of those men and women who'd otherwise be forgotten and relegated to the dustbin of history.
However, knowing that history is very different from entering into its spirit.
Do you know of a veteran who sacrificed his/her life on the nation’s behalf? If possible, go the that person's grave and lift that person up to God in prayer. If you don't know of a veteran who has died, why not visit a military cemetery and do the same? Or, short of that, why not stop by the local cemetery and visit a veteran's grave that's been decorated by the local VFW? Read the name. Think about the years of that individual's life. Imagine the times in which that person lived and served. And, don't forget to say a prayer of thanks. You may be the only person who has ever remembered that person and expressed gratitude to God for his or her service on our behalf.
The beer, BBQ ribs, coleslaw, and apple pie with vanilla ice cream do make for a great Memorial Day meal! But, without the decoration or memorial part, it’s just another day where all we think about is ourselves.
I met Kyle the week before he was headed to boot camp at Paris Island…at a Graduation Party/Memorial Day BBQ hosted by his uncle and aunt. One year later, I think (it could have been two years), it was Kyle’s Memorial Day. I had the honor of preaching at Kyle's funeral Mass in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania:
This Memorial Day, consider practicing the holiday's spirit and honoring those men and women who selflessly gave their lives to protect our freedoms.
Happy Memorial Day!