Seven Ways To Observe Memorial Day As A Catholic

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 to observe Memorial Day as a Catholic.

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.

Byron read this book last year and enjoyed it. It was good without being too gory.

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.

I hope these seven simple ways to observe Memorial Day as a Catholic give some fresh perspective to this weekend. Did I miss anything? What are some ways your family remembers fallen loved ones on Memorial Day?


  1. Great list! We have a semi-retired priest at our parish who served as a military chaplain in Bosnia. He answered the call, left his parish here, and went to serve.

  2. This is a FABULOUS list of ideas, Kelly!! My daughter’s NEHS group is going to lay wreaths on Sunday, so I will make sure to incorporate your other ideas this weekend as well. It’s time for our family to be more mindful of this holiday, since so many family members have served. We even have a relative who died in the Battle of the Bulge.

  3. Thanks for the reminder Memorial Day was established for Civil War deceased. This Saturday and Sunday we’re moving 70 miles to a new home, and our new town has numerous Civil War battlefields and a large Confederate cemetery. We will be sure to visit on Monday and pray for the dead.

  4. Thank you for this post. I will be sharing it to counteract all the “Happy Memorial Day” posts that will clutter my Facebook feed this weekend. It really feels like our culture has lost perspective on what Memorial Day is actually about, and these are all great ideas for bringing the focus back where it belongs.

  5. I was confirmed in the military archdiocese! Good memories.

    (And psst: #1 and #4 have “solider” instead of “soldier.” Spellcheck has failed you.)

  6. I grew up as a military brat, and called many military chaplains “Father.” Military service, sacrifice for country, and love of God are deeply intertwined in my heart. I love this list – thank you for sharing it.

  7. As a military wife and daughter, I would also encourage the following: please do not say “Happy Memorial Day.” It is a hard day for our Gold Star Families. Avoid Memorial Day Sales, this is profiting off our military. Please pray for our military chaplains. We currently have a shortage of Catholic chaplains in the military. We need more vocations for this call within a call. Catholics make up 20% of the armed forces! Our family is laying flags at Barrancas National Cemetery tomorrow and attending Mass on Monday. God bless our Gold Star Families. May we pray for the souls of the departed. Blessed Kapaun pray for an increase in Catholic chaplains.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.