My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
Several years ago in one of my columns, I spoke about the Memorial Day weekend, which, unfortunately, seems to have lost its original meaning. For many, it has become just another long weekend, which of course is very much appreciated.
In addition, this weekend marks the unofficial beginning of summer. Summer is a time of rest and relaxation, however, it is not a time when we should relax our religious practices, especially in regard to attendance at the weekly Eucharist.
As we survey our weekly Mass attendance counts, we recognize that the number of those who attend Mass has markedly diminished over the years. Because of vacations, the summer months seem to be another time when Mass attendance is down more than usual.
This column gives me an opportunity to mention something that is rarely mentioned regarding proper attire at Mass. Certainly, in resort areas, and even here at home, relaxed summer dress is in order. However, sometimes people take this to an extreme. We are going to church; we are not going to the beach. We should wear sensible attire for our church attendance. This is particularly true for those who are extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. At times, I understand that Eucharistic ministers are pressed into service because someone was not able to show up for their assignment. It might be better, however, if someone declines to serve if that person has not come to Mass properly dressed. I have no particular dress code in mind. However, I leave it to your own judgment to recognize that perhaps shorts, halter tops, inappropriate T-shirts, short dresses, and flip-flops are not proper attire for adults or young people at Mass, and certainly for those who might act in any ministerial capacity.
Memorial Day is not just the beginning of summer; it is a day in which we remember those who gave their lives in the service of our country. Today, unfortunately, patriotism is not what it once was. The misunderstanding of the role of the military in our society has led to a lack of a proper respect for our war dead.
Preaching Love in an Age of Terrorism
Never can the Church be a proponent of war. In the stunning words of Pope Paul VI, as well as John Paul II and Benedict XVI at the United Nations when each gave their address before the General Assembly, “Never again, war.” Sadly, this wish and prayer for peace worldwide is not always achievable. The Church, as the moral teacher, has struggled to define the “just war theory,” which is indeed a theory, and must always be understood in the light of the Gospel. The words of Jesus are sometimes chilling, “Love your enemies.” What does this mean in the context of a globalized world where terrorism seems to be a constant threat?
Most recently, the killing of Osama bin Laden has been debated from the moral perspective. I saw several newscasts and talk shows which tried to grapple with the issue. Certainly, the Church teaching is clear. Capital punishment should not be an option exercised by society when there are other means to control the activities of criminals. The case of Osama bin Laden is truly unique. He certainly was known to be an international terrorist, who inspired not only the attack on America in 2001, but also many other acts of terrorism around the world.
At the same time, we never can rejoice in the death of anyone. My own personal opinion that he was a deranged man using the cover of Islam to justify his misguided deeds. The Holy See’s official statement said, “Osama bin Laden, as is known, claimed responsibility for grave acts that spread division and hate among the peoples, manipulating religion to that end. A Christian never takes pleasure from the fact of a man’s death, but sees it as an opportunity to reflect on each person’s responsibility, before God and humanity, and to hope and commit oneself to seeing that no event become another occasion to disseminate hate but rather to foster peace.”
The fight against terrorism is something that will be with us, I believe, for several generations. Every nation has a right to defend itself and having a military is truly part of the self-defense of any country. Unfortunately, being a part of the military means being ready and willing to sacrifice yourself in the defense of a nation. Memorial Day is a time when we can remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in trying to find peace and justice in the world.
On Memorial Day, we remember those who truly put out into the deep, giving their lives in the service of our nation.
In the cemetery Masses celebrated by the bishops and vicars of the diocese on Memorial Day, we remember not only our war dead here in Brooklyn and Queens, but also all who are buried in our cemeteries. These outdoor celebrations of the liturgy are always clear testimonies of faith and belief in the value of the sacrifice shown to us by Jesus, who died for our sake, and also the promise of the Resurrection that we claim in the name of Jesus, and all who have died in the peace of Christ.