A poem for Memorial Day

The Concord Minutemen at St. Bernard Cemetery on Memorial Day - Photo:ConcordPastor

In many cities and towns today, uniformed personnel will parade in formation up and down our streets and walk to and fro between salutes and ceremonies. Flags will be everywhere and some folks will wear the stars and stripes or dress in the national colors for Memorial Day.

We will celebrate Mass at the parish cemetery under an archway of flowering trees and before an image of the risen Christ. Shortly after Mass a small parade of soldiers, bagpipers, Minutemen, horses, honored citizens and town officials will stop at our cemetery and gather hard by the Resurrected One where I will offer a prayer, someone will sing America the Beautiful and two high school trumpeters will play Taps and Echo. A large brass canon will deliver three exclamation points to all of this and then the parade will move on to its next stop: Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.

None of the above is very unusual.  I'm describing a scene that will be repeated "from sea to shining sea" across America.

It is, of course, a good thing to remember the dead, to pray for them and to honor the bravery of those who have served and protected us. Still, the memory and present reality of war will cloud this day and its rites because we know that sisters and brothers of ours stand in harm's way as we celebrate our picnics and cookouts.

Here's a poem from William Stafford - some good for reading on a day when we gather at monuments and pray...


This monument is for the unknown
good in our enemies. Like a picture
their life began to appear: they
gathered at home in the evening
and sang. Above their fields they saw
a new sky. A holiday came
and they carried the baby to the park
for a party. Sunlight surrounded them.

Here we glimpse what our minds long turned
away from. The great mutual
blindness darkened that sunlight in the park,
and the sky that was new, and the holidays.
This monument says that one afternoon
we stood here letting a part of our minds
escape. They came back, but different.
Enemy: one day we glimpsed your life.

This monument is for you.

-William Stafford

 Every War Has Two Losers

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