This week’s article begins with a personal confession: I love going grocery shopping. Whether it’s fresh fish to cook for dinner, stocking up on sale items or just satisfying a craving for.....whatever, I go to the grocery store about four or five times every week.
For the past year, my preferred grocery has played patriotic music in the entranceway of it’s locations. I won’t mention the chain’s name but I can Shop at locations near my home as well as rite by St. Mary's.
On a visit about a week ago, I entered to Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.” Something about the music made me pause…..I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free.... take notice…. and I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.... and stand a taller and prouder.
A few days later I played a funeral mass at another parish, where the deceased was a veteran of World War II. In the front of the chapel sat an urn, a picture of Ed, a WWII helmet and an American flag folded into a familiar triangle shape.
Ed’s funeral was lovely. Family members shared brief but poignant stories about their uncle. The priest spoke eloquently about a parishioner of almost 60 years. But, the highlight came at the end. Right before I was about to start the closing hymn the funeral director came running up the stairs to stop me. That’s when the honor guard came into view. One couldn’t help but be moved as they slowly unfurled, refolded and presented the flag to Ed’s nephew. During this entire time the priest stood quietly, respectfully and attentively. And I’ll gladly stand up next to you.....
I’m sure of my legalist musician colleagues will quote all the liturgical rubrics and guidelines that were broken at Ed’s funeral. Allow me use the rest of this paragraph to respond to their silliness.
OK, now that I’m done responding, here’s a Pop Quiz:
What war was the impetus for Memorial Day? Don’t worry. I failed the quiz, too.
Here’s are a few hints: This war was fought principally by Americans; sometimes brother against brother. Like many, if not all wars, it was fought over political ideology, justice, economics and race.
The answer is: The American Civil War. While you might see the sad irony in the fact that our nation continues to struggle with the same issues, that is not the purpose of this article.
Decoration Day, the forerunner of Memorial Day was first proclaimed in 1868, shortly after the civil war “for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.” Over the years, this day was expanded to honor all men and women who died while serving in the U.S. Military.
As you walk into the church all weekend you will hear selections from “The Patriotic Songs of America.” The following is a beautiful explanation of the origins of one of these songs inspired by the events that laid the seeds of Memorial Day.
- To have implicit trust in God's faithful care and protection is never easy in times of danger or strife. Yet even in the midst of the terrible Civil War between the Northern and Southern states, a remarkable woman named Julia Ward Howe proclaimed her confidence in God's triumphant power in this inspiring text.
Deeply anguished at the growing conflict between the two sections of the country, Mrs. Howe watched troops marching off to war singing "John Brown's Body," a song about a man who had been hanged in his efforts to free the slaves. Julia felt that the catchy camp meeting tune should have better words. In a desire to phrase her own feelings about the dreadful events of the time, she "scrawled the verses almost without looking at the paper." The national hymn first appeared in the Atlantic Monthly Magazine in 1862, as a battle song for the republic. Before long the entire nation became inspired by her text and united in singing the new words with the old tune.
Mrs. Howe's hymn has been acclaimed through the years as one of our finest patriotic songs. At one time it was sung as a solo at a large rally attended by President Abraham Lincoln. After the audience had responded with loud applause, the President, with tears in his eyes, cried out, "Sing it again!" It was sung again. And after more than a hundred years, Americans still join often in proclaiming, "Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on!"
Taken from [Name of Book] © Copyright [insert date] by [Author]. Published by Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
Blest to be in ministry at St. Mary’s...and grateful to those who served,
This Sunday at 2 p.m. St. Mary’s will host The Township of Nutley POW/MIA Remembrance Ceremony to remember the sacrifice and honor the service of those who were prisoners of war as well as those who are missing in action and their families. All are welcome and encouraged to attend.
Battle Hymn of the Republic