Dear Sacred Heart and St. Mary on the Lake,
Blessed Memorial Day Weekend, this weekend when we remember those who gave all to make firm our country’s foundations! Weather permitting, we will have Mass at Calvary Cemetery at 9am on Monday. If there is inclement weather, we will be at Sacred Heart.
I want to share part of a moving Memorial Day speech given by Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. in 1884. He served in the Union Army throughout much of the Civil War and spoke from his personal experiences. You can find the full speech here: https://dragoon1st.tripod.com/cw/files/owh_memorial_day.html
“Not long ago I heard a young man ask why people still kept up Memorial Day, and it set me thinking of the answer. Not the answer that you and I should give to each other—not the expression of those feelings that, so long as you and I live, will make this day sacred to memories of love and grief and heroic youth—but an answer which should command the assent of those who do not share our memories …
But Memorial Day may and ought to have a meaning also for those who do not share our memories. When men have instinctively agreed to celebrate an anniversary, it will be found that there is some thought of feeling behind it which is too large to be dependent upon associations alone. The Fourth of July, for instance, . . . stripped of the temporary associations which gave rise to it, . . . is now the moment when by common consent we pause to become conscious of our national life and to rejoice in it, to recall what our country has done for each of us and to ask ourselves what we can do for the country in return.
So, to the indifferent inquirer who asks why Memorial Day is still kept up we may answer, It celebrates and solemnly reaffirms from year to year a national act of enthusiasm and faith. It embodies in the most impressive form our belief that to act with enthusiasm and faith is the condition of acting greatly. To fight out a war you must believe something and want something with all your might. So must you do to carry anything else to an end worth reaching. More than that, you must be willing to commit yourself to a course, perhaps a long and hard one, without being able to foresee exactly where you will come out. All that is required of you is that you should go somewhither as hard as ever you can. … One may fall—at the beginning of the charge or at the top of the earthworks—but in no other way can he reach the rewards of victory. …
If this be so, the use of this day is obvious. It is true that I cannot argue a man into a desire. . . . But, although desire cannot be imparted by argument, it can be by contagion. Feeling begets feeling, and great feeling begets great feeling. We can hardly share the emotions that make this day to us the most sacred day of the year and embody them in ceremonial pomp without in some degree imparting them to those who come after us. I believe from the bottom of my heart that our memorial halls and statues and tablets, the tattered flags of our regiments gathered in the Statehouses, and this day with its funeral march and decorated graves, are worth more to our young men by way of chastening and inspiration than the monuments of another hundred years of peaceful life could be.”
May we thank God for those who have given so much for us, never taking our blessings for granted. May we never lose the lively sense of living within the grace of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit—that providential sense on which our country was founded. Like those who have gone before us willing to place their very lives into the Hands of God, may we this day be so inspired to live.