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May 25, 2006 Edition

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Memorial Day: Recalling old days
A Culture of Life

Memorial Day: Recalling old days

As a child growing up in the 1960s I have many fond memories of Memorial Day. Back in those ancient times this holiday was always celebrated on May 30.

My father, a veteran of World War II, was especially fond of this holiday. We would start that day with a hearty family breakfast and then my dad, mom, brother, and I would pile into the old Nash Rambler to attend Wilmington's Memorial Day parade.

During the parade my father would become unusually quiet. When the United States flags passed, he would place his hand over his heart and urge my bother and me to do the same. His eyes would fill with tears and then he would always reach out to hug his wife and two sons.

Immediately after the parade we would visit the cemetery. Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars would be at the cemetery entrance passing out small American flags. We would take two flags and place them on the graves of my great-uncles, both veterans of World War I. Immediately after we were off to the ballpark or a family picnic.

In 1968 Congress passed legislation to move the official observance of Memorial Day to the last Monday in May. Shortly thereafter the holiday became known as the unofficial kick off for summer vacation and, as is the custom in our area, people flocked to the Delaware beaches or the Jersey shore.

Since my parents had purchased a small trailer at the beach, our family's Memorial Day tradition changed to a weekend of camping, fishing, and swimming. It never felt the same.

In his later years dad and I would often sit and reminisce about the old days. During one of our father and son talks he admitted that while he enjoyed time at the beach, he missed those Memorial Days of the 1960s when we celebrated the holiday as he felt it should be celebrated.

We talked of his time in the service and of his great love for his country. When I asked why he volunteered for the war at such a young age, barely 18, he told me that he had to defend his country so that he could realize the American dream of a family and home of his own.

He was always proud of his family and the small row house with three tiny bedrooms and one tinier bathroom where he and his wife raised their four children. He always wanted to give his kids more than he had growing up without a father in the coal towns of West Virginia.

He died suddenly two short years ago in the living room of that tiny row house. He died as king of his castle and with the love of his life nearby. His earthly life of patriotism, faith, and family was at an end yet he, like the fallen heroes we remember on Memorial Day, must never be forgotten or placed on the dust heap of history. It was their love of God and country that inspired them to fight for the freedom that we all hold so dear yet sadly take for granted.

I urge everyone to take time on this Memorial Day to pause and remember all those brave young men and women who have bravely served their country in the armed forces. We also must give special remembrance to those who have died in the service of their country and pray for the repose of the souls of all deceased veterans.

As Catholics we are truly blessed that at every Mass there is a specific remembrance of our beloved dead. What better tribute is there to give than to participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on Memorial Day?

Whether we attend Mass at our local Catholic cemetery or parish church, we are united as one in our tribute of undying love and gratitude for the patriots of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

The Catholic Cemetery Conference (CCC) helps Catholic cemetery staff enhance their skills in caring for the deceased and comforting their loved ones through ministry, education, networking, and service opportunities. Founded in 1949, the CCC has 1600 members, spanning the United States, Australia, Canada, and Guam. The CCC is located at 710 N. River Rd., Des Plaines, IL 60016-1296; phone: 847-824-8131 or toll free: 888-850-8131; fax: 847-824-9608.

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God's plan:
Sexuality is fundamental, not peripheral, issue

photo of Christopher West

A Culture 
of Life 

Christopher West 

Sex is not a peripheral issue in God's plan. Pope John Paul II says the call to "nuptial love" revealed through our sexuality is "the fundamental element of human existence in the world." It doesn't get more important than that. He even insists that we can't understand Christianity if we don't understand the truth and meaning of our sexuality.

Marriage analogy

From beginning to end, the Bible itself is a story about marriage. It begins in the Book of Genesis with the marriage of Adam and Eve, and it ends in the Book of Revelation with the "wedding of the Lamb," the marriage of Christ and the Church. Throughout the Old Testament, God's love for his people is described as the love of a husband for his bride. In the New Testament, Christ embodies this love. He comes as the heavenly Bridegroom to unite himself forever to his Bride to us.

So, applying this analogy, we can say that God's plan from all eternity is to "marry" us - to draw us into closest communion with himself (see Hos 2:19). God wanted to reveal this eternal plan to us in a way we couldn't miss, so he stamped an image of it right in our very being as male and female. This means that virtually everything God wants to tell us on earth about who he is, who we are, the meaning of life, the reason he created us, how we are to live, and even our ultimate destiny is contained somehow in the truth and meaning of sexuality and marriage.

The Book of Genesis contains two creation accounts. We read in the first account that God created humanity in his image and likeness specifically as male and female (see Gn 1:27). This means that somehow, in the complementarity of the sexes, we image God. As male and female, we make visible God's invisible mystery.

God's mystery

What is God's invisible mystery? St. John sums it up well: "God is love" (1 Jn 4:8). We often think of this verse in terms of God's love for us. That's part of its meaning. But even before God's love for us, he is love in himself, in the relationship of the three Persons of the Trinity.

God is in himself a life-giving Communion of Persons. The Father, from all eternity, is making a gift of himself in love to the Son. (As we read in the Scriptures, Jesus is the "beloved" of the Father; see Mt 3:17.) And the Son, eternally receiving the gift of the Father, makes a gift of himself back to him. The love between them is so real, so profound, that this love is another eternal Person - the Holy Spirit.

Among other things, this is what our being made in the image and likeness of God reveals: we're called to love as God loves, in a life-giving communion of persons. And we do this specifically as male and female. The man is disposed in his very being toward making the gift of himself to the woman. And the woman is disposed in her very being toward receiving the gift of the man into herself and giving herself back to him. And the love between them is so real, so profound, that, God willing, it may become another human person.

Christopher West is a research fellow and faculty member of the Theology of the Body Institute in West Chester, Pa. His column is syndicated by www.OneMoreSoul.com and reprinted from his book Good News About Sex and Marriage: Honest Questions and Answers About Catholic Teaching (St. Anthony Messenger Press).

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