This weekend, like many of you, I will be consuming grilled food, drinking party beverages, and hopefully soaking up some rays poolside. But, Memorial Day is so much more than just the start to the summer season. Personally, I think it is one government holiday that we can baptize just a bit. So prepare to learn seven ways we can observe Memorial Day as Catholics.
1. First and foremost, we pray for the dead. Memorial Day was originally established to honor Civil War dead. Unfortunately, we’ve had many more wars since then, and many more dead to remember. Has anyone in your family perished during a war the U.S was involved in? Search through your family tree and find out. Pray for your deceased family members, and if you have not lost anyone in conflict, pray for one of the many other souls. Consider having Mass said for someone specific who served.
2. Visit a military cemetery to say prayers, or participate in a wreath laying ceremony. If you don’t live near a military cemetery, (try checking here first), you can go to your local cemetery and look for plots marked with a government issued headstone, or medallion. These markers are offered to all veterans so you will have to read the inscriptions to learn whether or not the deceased died while serving or afterwards.
3. Memorial Day is different from Veteran’s Day (November 11th) because the latter commemorates all veterans. In November, consider visiting with friends and relatives who’ve served. On Memorial Day, why not invite to your cookout a family who’s loved one paid the ultimate price in service to their country, or offer to attend Mass with them. Ask how they’re doing, and make a note of the anniversary of their relative’s birthday and death. Plan now (set a reminder on your phone) to send a Mass card or offer prayers on those days (or any other significant anniversary or event, like the reception of a posthumous award.)
4. Learn about soldier saints from throughout Church history. St. Michael the Archangel, St. George, St. Sebastian, St. Martin of Tours, St. Joan of Arc, St. Ignatius of Loyola, are a few of the more popular. Potamitus Press has a wonderful book called ‘Warrior Saints’ which shares stories of several popular saints and a some more familiar in the Eastern Rite.
King Saint Louis IX died while on his Second Crusade, and St. Moses the Black was killed as he fought off monastery invaders. Let your kids know soldiers have been a part of church history from the beginning. If your family includes veterans, active duty military or those killed while serving, consider picking a military patron (or two!) and remembering those loved ones on that day as well.
5. There are currently two military chaplains with causes open in the U.S.: Venerable Father Emil Kapaun, who died while interned at a Chinese POW camp, and Servant of God Father Vincent Capodanno who died giving last rites to wounded Marines in Vietnam. Several other heroic priests, including a few who died in battle, are described in this article and this article. When discussing vocations, don’t forget to mention the Archdiocese for Military Services, USA. So long as there are Catholics serving in the military, there will be a need for chaplains to provide them with the Sacraments.
6. Consider supporting charities that help the families of fallen soldiers. Set up a lemonade stand on your block, sell ice cream at the community pool, or organize another fundraiser to take advantage of the crowds out and about for the holiday. Here are just a few charities I’ve found with a quick search. American Widow Project The Wingman Foundation Fallen Patriots Snowball Express
7. And a quick plug for Ven. Arbp. Fulton Sheen’s Wartime Prayer Book – perhaps buy and distribute to active duty military in honor of a fallen soldier, or simply buy it to read on your own.
What are your weekend plans? Write them down then link them up below! Don’t forget to include a link back to this post so your readers can find the rest of the Quick Takes. I look forward to reading your posts!