Growing up in North Minneapolis, I spent a lot of time riding my bike along trail known
as “Victory Memorial Drive.” Situated between Robinsdale and Minneapolis, it’s a very
scenic stretch in the city where one finds paved trails, lots of trees, and plenty of space
for playing a game of catch. But, if you look closely, what you will find is that all along
the Drive are a series of markers with crosses on them. You will also find a spot to sit
along the drive where the American Flag flies, and you will see a monument with
numerous names written on it.
The markers and names are in remembrance of those who gave their lives to our
country in World War I.
Having spent so much time in this area as a kid, looking back, I can’t help but wonder
how many people have rode their bikes or ran along the Drive, or stopped to sit down to
rest by the flag pole, but never once read any of the names of the soldiers listed, let
alone say a prayer for them?
While for many we consider this weekend to be the unofficial start of summer, we also
must never forget the true meaning of Memorial Day.
Three years after the civil war ended, the head of an organization of Union Veterans
established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war
dead with flowers. Originally it was decided that this would take place May 30th, as this
was a day flowers would be blooming all across the country. In 1868, the first
observance was held at Arlington National Cemetery.
The ceremonies centered around the mansion that was once Robert E. Lee’s home,
and various officials from Washington, including General Grant, presided over the
ceremony. Children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home made their way
through the cemetery and placed flowers on both the graves of both Union and
In the years that followed, local celebrations of this day would continue. And, while
many now just celebrate with a cookout or a day off, countless others give back to
honor this day as it was founded.
Most recently in December of 2000, the “National Moment of Remembrance Act” was
passed, creating the White House Commission on the National Moment of
Remembrance. This commission is charged with “encouraging the people of the United
States to give something back to their country, which provides them so much freedom
and opportunity” by encouraging and coordinating commemorations in the United States
of Memorial Day and the National Moment of Remembrance. That moment encourages
all Americans to pause at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day for a moment of silence to honor
those who have died in service to our Nation.
Of course, many of us will mark today as a day for a day trip up north or just enjoying a
day off. And there is nothing wrong with that at all. We work very hard, and it’s nice to
have a 3-day weekend and look forward to summer, or to grill some burgers and take it
easy on a Monday afternoon. So please, don’t feel guilty for enjoying today with friends
and family. But at the same time, my hope is that we also never take for granted the
reason we have so many freedoms in our country is because so many people were
willing to serve to safeguard them. As the Trinity reveals perfected love, our soldiers
who have made the ultimate sacrifice also reveal love in all they have done for us. With
that in mind, I’d encourage us to keep in mind all they have done by praying for our
veterans and those who have died, and praying for all of our active duty servicemen and
women as we do each day at Mass, or by simply saying “thank you” to a veteran or a
person in uniform. Above all else, never take for granted the remarkable country we live
in by praying for our nation and realizing how blessed we are to be Americans.
We’ll be having Mass at 8:30 on Memorial Day, and at about 10 to 10:15 a.m. the
American Legion is scheduled to be at our cemetery for a ceremony. It’s also at this time
that I’ll join them in a prayer, and do a blessing for the new corpus that was placed on
On this Memorial Day, I’d like to close by sharing the prayer of Saint Sebastian, the
patron Saint of Soldiers. A Roman Soldier who was a Christian, he was martyred for the
faith. May God bless our troops, and God bless America.
Prayer to St. Sebastian
Dear Commander at the Roman Emperor's court, you chose to be also a soldier of
Christ and dared to spread faith in the King of Kings, for which you were condemned to
die. Your body, however, proved athletically strong and the executing arrows extremely
weak. So another means to kill you was chose and you gave your life to the Lord. May
Soldiers be always as strong in their faith as their Patron Saint so clearly has been.