Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
I was speaking with a group of young people (not in Fredericksburg) about the holiday that was coming up and I asked them if they knew why this weekend was called “Memorial Day” weekend.
One told me that it was in remembrance of September 11, 2001. Another, that it was the day that people remembered that school was out and that summer was beginning. That was why everyone goes out of town on Memorial Day. Another said she thought that it had something to do with American Independence but wasn’t sure how exactly. But it was something patriotic, that is why it was a federal holiday.
I sometimes find it hard to believe how old I seem to have become. So I began to explain the “ancient” history about this holiday. Memorial Day (as, I’m sure, every Fredericksburg citizen knows), was established as a federal holiday to mourn the death of all the soldiers and civilians who lost their lives in the Civil War, north and south. Hundreds of thousands. Over the years it has grown to include all those men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice of their lives in various wars and conflicts so we can enjoy the freedom to live as we please. Freedom even to forget them, I suppose. Although my family may have had several people who were involved in war, we never had anyone (that I’m aware of) who actually died in battle. But we would go every year to the cemetery and place flowers on family graves, and say a prayer for those who had died. I remember my mom’s generation called it “Decoration Day.”
Memorial Day services still happen in the Civil War cemeteries here in town — sadly, we are still divided in this with one service in the Union cemetery and another in the Confederate cemetery. Enmity lives long beyond death. But we focus on those who have gone before us and, in their memory, ask God to gather all of them to himself, and help us all to gather together again in his kingdom on the last day. On that day, perhaps the north/south conflict will finally be resolved.
We include in all of our Masses this weekend, in a special way, all those who have died in battle, all those who have returned with scars, visible and invisible, all who have supported and enforced the justice and peace that is necessary for the dignity of mankind and the human person. May God bless all of them and bring them home.
Truly, Memorial Day does mark a kind of beginning to the summer. We are surrounded by events which speak of transition: graduations on all sides, weddings, vacations.
I would like to acknowledge all those who are graduating this year. Simple math would indicate that we would have about 400 eighth graders and seniors in high school graduating from three school districts and dozens of schools within the boundaries of our parish. Congratulations to all of you. I wish we could offer our congratulations personally; please know that we are keeping all of you in our prayers. I know of two classes of kindergartners and a bunch of preschool kids who are looking forward to moving up the ladder of life. First big steps. Congratulations.
As the flock begins to disperse stay in touch over the summer. Keep going to Mass, keep up on what is happening in our parish family. If you SUBSCRIBE at our website (www.stmaryfred.org) you will always know the latest of what is going on. You will find the “subscribe” button on the first page of the website. Once you have set up your login, you will receive an email whenever we post the bulletin or weekly express announcements of what is going on at St. Mary. Who knows? You might even receive an occasional meditation from your pastor.
May God bless you.