Have you ever noticed that civil holidays have a remarkable resemblance to Church holy days? I think it not accidental. There may even be something subversive about it. This was surely true at the time the French Revolution when the tyrannical government invented new days of celebration to replace, and perhaps also to mock, Church feast days that had been so dear to Catholic people. Even without the conspiratorial connotation it is certain that Memorial Day bears a resemblance, however secular, to our All Souls Day. The emphasis in each is quite different and the method of ‘remembrance’ of the dead in them is entirely different. Here we take Memorial Day for its advantage of being a potential help to the souls of servicemen who may be detained in purgatory, whereas the civil holiday is only a time to be respectful to the memory of the dead and to offer, perhaps, a moment of silence to honor them. Such secular acts, not objectionable in themselves, do put into relief the great difference of our Catholic faith in our way of being American citizens, a difference which does not detract from the secular but gives it deeper meaning.
Memorial Day celebrated with all due civic observance may be the best of what most have to offer today. At worst, we are not even much concerned to render any honor to our dead. To render that honor to them is a virtue, but we are running rather thin on virtue nowadays. Instinctive impulses are what get our attention: how we feel at the moment, responding to whim and wish of the moment. Being dutiful however often means doing what we might rather not do at a given moment. Virtue is that strength of soul which overcomes the inclination to be self-serving. We are being brought up now in the School of Selfish Interest where virtue is a forgotten and unwanted thing. The dead are gone and out of sight; they matter nothing. It’s the here and now that matters. This holds poor prospects for the future of Memorial Day USA.
Our Catholic faith and our disciplined upbringing (presuming we had such) lead us to recognize the duty we have towards the dead since we have an ability to help them through our connectedness with them in the wider Church. Death is a separation certainly, but not a severing of spiritual communication. This realization ought to make our way of keeping this holiday uniquely prayerful. Eating hotdogs and grilled hamburgers on a day off from work and school may be great fun but it profits the dead nothing. Maybe many of you will come to Mass this Monday at 7:30 or 9:00 a.m. and pray for those who either in fact died in the service of our country or potentially put their lives on the line by their service. The 9:00 Mass will be preceded by the flag raising ceremony at 9:00 outdoors on Gratiot Avenue.
As the weather heats up the liturgical season beings to cool down. This Thursday, at the morning Mass we will have the Ascension of Christ into heaven. This feast will be celebrated at all Masses, English and Latin, next Sunday as well: for the Latin Mass it will be the Ascension’s ‘external’ observance, meaning ‘outside’ its accustomed liturgical time.
What things await us for rounding out the year before summer is Pentecost Sunday (June 8), Trinity Sunday (June 15), and Corpus Christi (Thursday the 19th for the 7:30 a.m. Mass and again for all Masses Sunday, June 22). The grand finale of the season is the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Friday June 27.
The entire month of June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and we will have more to say on the subject next week, perhaps. This is a particular way of being devoted to Christ that you will find only in the Catholic Church. We look forward to this special time of the year.
Monday, May 26, 2014
Memorial Day: the souls of the departed
Fr. Eduard Perrone, "A Pastor's Descant" (Assumption Grotto News, May 25, 2014):