May 29th – Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord

My Dear Friends, 

As we commemorate Memorial Day this weekend, it is “right and just” to remember and pray for those who gave their lives for our country and our freedoms.  In our school there is a World War II memorial plaque honoring the brave young men who not long after leaving our school (St. Theresa was still a high school in the 1940’s) enlisted or were drafted and ultimately died defending our homeland.  I know that in our parish family, throughout our 96 year history, there are many more young men and women who have died while serving our country who we remember this weekend especially at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. 

Memorial Day always prompts me to read a moving letter that President Lincoln wrote during the Civil War to the widowed mother of several soldiers.  I would like to share the text of the letter with you: 

Dear Madam, 
I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. 

I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. 

I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom. 

Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,
A. Lincoln 

The letter was written to Mrs. Lydia Bixby, and even though it was later discovered that only two of her sons had died in battle, it still does not diminish the price that she paid “upon the altar of freedom.”   

There is a beautiful tradition in our cemeteries to place an American flag at the tomb of those who served in our Armed Forces.  Each tomb tells a different story of sacrifice: selfless men and women who, as Christ taught us, laid down their lives for their friends, their country, and their families.  We not only pray for our honored dead this weekend, but we also pray for the mothers and fathers who have had to bury their children who never returned from war.  They are heroes whose memory we honor and whose service we cherish, yet it does not take away the pain of a parent losing a child. 

Praying for the dead is one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy.  As Catholics, we do this at every Mass when we pray for the faithful departed. This weekend it carries an extra weight as we remember and honor the sacrifice of our brothers and sisters “who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life.” (Third verse of America the Beautiful) 

God bless you all, 

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