A Reflection on Memorial Day Reverence

veil, mass, tradition

veil, mass, tradition

love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another
in showing honor. Romans 12:10

Reverence is the oft-used term to describe whether a behavior is respectful to show honor toward God, the dead, an esteemed person or something that is sacred. Over the years I have been active in Memorial Day and Veterans Day activities through the American Legion and other veterans groups. The most common emotion and symbolism expressed in those events is reverence. Observing the heart felt and honest displays of solemn reverence at this year’s Memorial Day activities caused me to reflect upon how such displays tend to be relegated only to formal occasions, while irreverence is seen often in everyday life.

The Irreverent Culture

Irreverence has become an all too common behavior in today’s culture. Attitudes adopted, especially by the celebrity media and the elite art world, too often demonstrate irreverence. One example is the Museum of Modern Art, which has provided, over the years, irreverent displays of artwork about Jesus and the Holy Mother in the name of artistic license. Numerous other examples of irreverent jokes about Jesus, Mary, God and the Catholic Church are seen almost daily on late night TV on such programs as the Bill Maher show.

Another example of which to make note, especially in the context of Memorial Day, is that of NFL players refusing to stand for the national anthem. Freedom of expression is again used to justify irreverent behavior. This shows not only a lack of reverence, but also a lack of understanding. Those who refuse to stand for the national anthem claim they are demonstrating to bring to light the injustices in our nation. While there are injustices, their disrespect of the flag and anthem shows they have no understanding of what the anthem and the flag mean to us veterans. They are symbols of respect for those in the military who have died for this country. To me, this lack of reverence is equivalent to trampling on the graves at Arlington National Cemetery. In addition, those who refuse to stand are being celebrated as heroes. Colin Kaepernick (former San Francisco 49er who started the so-called “protests against the anthem”) was awarded Amnesty International’s highest honor the Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award for 2018.

Reverence Is Alive and Well

In spite of the irreverence seen around us, this past Memorial Day events and a recent visit to the Viet Nam Wall restored my faith that our culture still shows some reverence. On a spring trip to Washington D.C. I went to the Vietnam wall as I often do whenever traveling to our capital. Like many others, I look up the names of fellow soldiers and friends who are on the wall. The name of one of my buddies is on the wall and I wanted to get a tracing of his name. His name was on one of the highest spots on the wall. It must have been spring break, for many high school students were there. I approached the group and got one of them to get on my shoulders to get the tracing, but it was still too high. As I dropped him down, two other teenagers came over to me. They were tall, had long hair and looked pretty rag tag. They came up to me and asked if they could help me calling me “sir”. After telling them of what I wanted, one got on the shoulders of the other and they were able to get the tracing. After thanking them and expressing how much I appreciated what they did, one responded “Sir, we are honored to do it”. They got it! They understood! May God bless them.

Faith Based Reverence

Memorial Day, while a secular holiday, also has deep religious undertones, as it should. Many parishes, such as the one to which I belong, have Memorial Day recognition services and events such as patriotic rosaries. The parish youth groups distribute thank you cards to veterans in the Knights of Columbus. The parish also has a St. Michael’s Society service group that provides “care” packages to parishioners serving in the military. “Lest we forget” is a motto not only showing reverence for the dead but also for the living.

Daily and Weekly Memorial Days

Every Mass is a “Memorial Mass” in celebration of Our Lord’s death and resurrection. In many respects, it reflects a solemn gathering that is a daily display of what, in the secular world, is seen once a year at the Memorial Day ceremonies. Whether one attends daily or weekly Mass it is an opportunity to demonstrate reverence by attitude and behavior. However, a complaint that is often expressed is that proper reverence is not always shown at Mass or when entering a Church or approaching the tabernacle. Perhaps what is needed is a renewed sense of awe in what we are participating during the Mass. We can prepare ourselves by focusing on the memorial aspects of the Mass. For me, the highlight of reverence in Memorial Day observances is the haunting notes of a lone bugler playing Taps. In the Mass, it is the consecration of the bread and wine and the act of receiving Jesus’s body and blood. These are “lest we forget” most reverent moments that can highlight the Mass as a Memorial Day.

Therefore we who are receiving the unshakable kingdom should
have gratitude, with which we should offer worship pleasing to God
in reverence and awe. Hebrews 12:28

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