Dear Bothers and Sisters in the Lord, and Friends All,
Memorial Day is often thought of as the “official opening” of the summer season. However, there is a Faith aspect of which we should take note. Memorial Day was first called “Decoration Day” and Veterans Day was called “Armistice Day.” These days are marked for us with symbols of Faith such as Mass and Processions. I especially want to thank Fr. Christopher Smith, who, when he was Rector of Christ Cathedral, helped to establish these important symbols of Faith there. These civil days carry with them religious and Faith meaning.
Memorial Day was originally called “Decoration Day” because families decorated the graves of their loved ones for this day, particularly those Veterans of the Armed Services, often with red poppies, which had their origins in the First World War!
For years, I would go with my grandfather, Les Jones, to decorate the family graves in two different cemeteries (Calvary Cemetery and the public cemetery near Pawnee, Illinois). My father Bill continued that tradition for years – rain or shine; and then my sister Mary Therese faithfully carried this out. After she unexpectedly passed away, I try to do this as best as I can from a distance, and when I return to Springfield in late summer (or early fall), I try to be faithful to what my parents taught me regarding visiting and decorating family graves. I have taken some photos of the family graves back in Illinois to share with you.
Finally, there would be a “Pontifical Mass” at Calvary Cemetery with Bishop William O’Connor and his successors.
As a high school student from Griffin High School (similar to Servite here), I would proudly play with the Griffin Band in the procession. After this Mass, all families would take the time to visit the graves of their loved ones.
BISHOP KEVIN VANN’S GREAT-GREAT-GRANDPARENTS, JOHN AND MARY WATERS, ARE BURIED AT CALVARY CEMETERY IN SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS. PHOTO COURTESY OF BISHOP KEVIN VANN
As Maurice Chevalier and Hermione Gingold would sing in the classic movie musical “Gigi” in 1958, “Yes, I remember it well”!
Memorial Day, then, for us is an important day of Faith; gratitude for the sacrifices of Men and Women of the Armed Services, and to never forget them; to reflect on the gift of Eternal Life; and finally, to take time on Memorial Day to visit the cemeteries and pray with and for our loved ones who are buried there. Remember as well that praying for our loved ones who have “gone to their rest in the hope of rising again” is a “spiritual work of mercy!” (Remember those?)
A blessed Holiday Weekend to you and your loved ones!
+Kevin W. Vann