This week, rather than a addressing a single topic, I decided to mention briefly three topics: graduation, the remembrance of those who have served in our military and our Blessed Mother.
Last week I celebrated the Baccalaureate Mass for the graduates at Le Moyne College. It was a joyous occasion for the graduates, their families and friends. The occasion reminded me that many young men and women will graduate from high school or college within the next couple of weeks. Graduation is a transition marked with joy and satisfaction for what has been accomplished and apprehension and excitement for what lies ahead. In God’s plan, each graduate has a special task to accomplish. It is my hope that graduates will consider their future in light of the personal gifts they can contribute to society, transforming it by decisions which advance the dignity of the human person, the well-being of others and the wise stewardship of creation. Congratulations to all our graduates. I wish them well and assure them of my prayers.
We began this week with the observance of Memorial Day. It is always heartening to see our national flag flying from buildings, homes and the flagpoles lining our streets; to watch the local parades with proud veterans marching to the rhythm of high school bands; and to hear the familiar patriotic music on the television specials honoring the men and women who have proudly served in our armed forces during war time. For me, Memorial Day awakens patriotism and pride in my American heritage.
Originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day was initiated to honor the soldiers from the Union and Confederate armies who died during the American Civil War. Celebrations honoring Civil War heroes started the year after the war ended. The establishment of a public holiday was meant to unify the celebration as a national day of remembrance instead of a holiday celebrated separately by the Union and Confederate States. By the late 19th century, the holiday became known as Memorial Day and was expanded to include the deceased veterans of all the wars fought by American forces. In 1971, Memorial Day became a federal holiday.
During the Memorial Day weekend, many families visit war memorials and military cemeteries to honor the dead veterans, especially if they include relatives. As a young boy I recall that our family, on or near Memorial Day, would visit the cemetery where family members were buried to make sure their grave sites were in order, plant flowers, share remembrances and pray for them. We visited the cemetery on other occasions throughout the year, but the Memorial Day visit seemed special and particularly appropriate. Most noticeable were the small United States flags placed at the tombstone of every veteran.
When Memorial Day became a federal holiday, it was given the moveable date of the last Monday of May. For many of us the “long Memorial Day weekend” marks the beginning of the summer season that lasts until Labor Day on the first Monday of September. In the midst of family gatherings and picnics which often occur on Memorial weekend, let’s remember with gratitude the sacrifice of the men and women who served in our American forces and gave the ultimate gift of their lives to preserve our freedom and well-being.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about May as Mary’s month. As we come to the end of the month we will celebrate the Feast of the Visitation. This is a particularly beautiful feast. Mary sets out to visit her cousin and to share the good news that she is pregnant. Two women visit with each other, share the joy of the new life forming in each of them and praise God for His love and mercy.
The Church gives us 50 days to celebrate the Easter mystery of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. The resurrection is such good news that we need time to assimilate its truth and beauty. In the remaining days of the Easter Season, as we continue to think about the gift of new life that has been given to us, we also need to consider our willingness to share the good news as Mary did. The primary reason for sharing the good news “is the love of Jesus which we have received, the experience of salvation which urges us to ever greater love of him. What kind of love would not feel the need to speak of the beloved, to point him out, to make him known” (Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel, 264). We all need to find ways to communicate Jesus wherever we are. So, let’s recommit ourselves to sharing the treasure we have received — our faith in the risen Christ.
If you have a prayer intention you would like me to consider during the weeks ahead, please mail it to my attention at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.