Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.
Today -- please -- may we set aside our political differences, our religious differences, our geographic and ethnic differences. Today may the culture wars stop. Just for one day. Go back to these conflicts again tomorrow if you must, but today: Stop.
Today we remember.
Today we mark Memorial Day on our secular calendar, and we also mark the Feast of the Visitation to the Blessed Virgin Mary on the Church calendar, one of the major Marian feasts of the year. The reading above from Paul's Letter to the Romans is appointed for today's Mary feast, and I think it also appropriate for Memorial Day.
Today we stop to remember those who have died in service to our country. And, especially on this day we remember Mary, let us also pray for their mothers.
Each Sunday at St. Paul's we pray aloud for those who have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We remember them by saying their name, aloud, one at a time. Among my tasks on Saturdays is to prepare the prayer list with the names of those soldiers, sailors and Marines who have died in these conflicts. In the last year, the casualties have shifted to Afghanistan even as the war in Iraq winds down. We have even gone several weeks with no dead soldiers reported from Iraq. But when a battle in Kandahar hits the headlines, the list of the dead surges.
I find it sobering to compile this list each week, and I sometimes sit with a name for a time, praying for the loved ones left behind who, at that moment, are doubtless in shock and in excruciating pain. Most of the war dead are young, many are teens. Most are men, most are enlisted. I wonder what they looked like? What music did they like? What were their dreams for their future? I pray for the mothers, who like Mary, must now endure the death of their sons or daughters.
It seems very little to ask that we remember them -- by name -- in our prayers today, and to pray for those who have been caught in the cross-fire. Here is the list of the American soldiers, sailors and Marines who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since the beginning of the year:
Xin Qi ("Gin Ki")
Marc Paul Decoteau
Robert Gilbert II
Roberto Diaz Borio
Donald Lamar II
Kenneth May Jr.
Patrick Xavier Jr.
Notes on Memorial Day: With its origins in the Civil War, Memorial Day began as a day to honor the dead of North and South. The day was deliberately chosen because it was near the anniversary of the day that the war ended, thus making Memorial Day a reminder that our highest value is not warfare but an end to war and reconciliation with our enemies.
Following World War I, the dead of all wars were included in Memorial Day. The calamity of World War I was without parallel in world history; no war had ever claimed so many lives globally. There came a growing awareness that the dead of that war -- and every war -- should never be forgotten.
The word "Memorial" became increasingly popular in public buildings and churches in the 1920s, meant to create lasting memorials for the dead of World War I. St. Paul's Memorial Church, founded in 1910, predated that movement but no doubt the name evoked memories of the war dead as the building was constructed in 1927.
Today, let us remember those who have died in all wars, and remember those who are still dying on battlefields across the globe. Let us remember those Americans who have died for our country, and let us pray for our enemies, and pray that all who are at war may one day find peace and reconciliation.