Today the United States celebrates Memorial Day, a day of remembrance of those who have died while in military service.
I confess that I have mixed feelings about the day. On the one hand, I am grateful to those who keep our country safe and who have given their lives to do so. It is fitting that we keep them in our prayers and our memories.
On the other hand, as a Christian, I am concerned that we also never lose sight of the horror of war and the need to promote peace. I’d feel a lot more comfortable if the sermons we hear on Memorial Day contained at least a reminder of the Catholic just war theory and the fact that some of the wars in which our young men and women have lost their lives can not be justified under principles of Catholic social thought. That takes nothing away from the sacrifice of our military personnel, but it helps ensure that we not forget that our obligations to promote peace and an end to war and violence. Indeed, since those who died for our country believed they were doing so to promote peace and justice, their sacrifice was in vain if we do not take our obligation in this regard seriously.
I am also concerned that we remember that it is not just American service men and women who have lost their lives protecting their countries. Our Mass petitions often include prayers for the safety of our soldiers. I silently at those moments add my prayers for all those of those affected by war – not only our soldiers but those who they fight against, and espeically for the civilians whose lives have been devastated by war.
So by all means let us remember those who have died in service to our country. But let us also pray for peace and remember this day all of those who have suffered the effects of war and armed conflict.