We Remember

26 Nov

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

-John McCrae, 1915

This past weekend, we celebrated the anniversary of the 1918 Armistice that ended World War I. In the midst of this celebration there was much reflection on the purpose of Remembrance Day. In Canada, there was much ado about the handing out of white poppies instead of the traditional red ones by those intent on spreading a message of peace. The debate centered not only on the Royal Canadian Legion’s ownership and sales rights of the poppy symbol, but also on whether the red poppies do enough to promote peace. Some argued that the red poppies do just that. Having visited Flanders myself, I sympathize with this position. Although I wasn’t there when the poppies were in bloom (I first visited Ypres, Belgium, and Vimy and Beaumont-Hamel, France, in the winter of 2002), I trod on the same chalky soil that claimed many millions of lives in the name of freedom. I didn’t see the blood red poppies that inspired the poem by a Canadian doctor and teacher, Lt. Col. John McCrae, that is as beautiful as it is tragic, but I saw many headstones with the inscription, “A soldier of the Great War, known only unto God”.

Yet brutal wars persist today as people abuse the freedom for which many died. Amid these conflicts, some have maintained that annual Remembrance Day celebrations don’t highlight efforts for peace but actually glorify war, hence the white poppy for peace. The white poppy activists do have a point, especially since, as highlighted by our priest’s homily last Sunday, those who speak of peace publicly say nothing of “Remembrance Week: Wall to Wall War Movies” promotions, or of violent war video games.

I therefore leave those reading this article with food for thought. I’m always open to comments from all sides.

It’s been a very long time since I’ve last written on this blog. Despite my half-hearted efforts to keep up a somewhat consistent contribution, I have failed to do so as my other commitments have mounted. I’m in the process of taking my third philosophy course in my quest to answer what I feel is God calling me to the priesthood. I need at least two more philosophy courses to meet the requirements to enter the seminary. One is scheduled for next term. Also, I was elected to the presidency of the Newman Club, our Catholic youth group on the university campus, for 2006-07. This has been a great honour. And I’ve been busy working in the lab.

With that, I won’t make many more excuses for not writing, or for not being a particularly peaceful person at times, or for not being as pro-life as I can be.

I mean pro-life as more than just being an anti-abortion, anti-embryonic-stem-cell-research, anti-assisted-reproduction, anti-“progress” Catholic zealot. There’s more to being pro-life, as I reflected in a talk before our last Newman Club gathering. The aforementioned prohibitions are important, only because they are all based on an affirmation of life. I advocate building a “culture of life”, as Pope John Paul II often said. I don’t always succeed. I have sinned. I have contributed to a “culture of death” through anger, bitterness, hatred, and objectification of human persons. Yet the door to reconciliation is always open. A way back to the merciful God who is the source of life can always be found. Not to seek that road is the only unforgivable sin. (cf. Mark 3:29)

A pro-life attitude begins in the home, the “domestic church” and “original cell of social life”. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Sec. 2205, 2207)

The ancient Chinese had a particularly pro-life proverb:

If there is light in the soul, there will be beauty in the person.
If there is beauty in the person, there will be harmony in the house.
If there is harmony in the house, there will be order in the nation.
If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.

To build this peace, one must remember not only those who died in war, but those who gave of themselves in other humiliating situations devoid of glory. One must remember the Glorious One who was delivered up for us on the Cross. The hymn says: “We remember how you loved us to your death, and still we celebrate, for you are with us here…” (Marty Haugen)

Lord, help us to always remember your sacrifice. Let us remember those who have gone before us, who loved, were loved, and saw sunset glow. Let us lovingly, patiently take up our quarrel with the foe, the “culture of death”, and yet see the joyful larks, still bravely singing. And let Remembrance Day be more than just one day but a lifelong mission. We pray for your peace. Amen.





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