Memorial of Saint Philip Neri, priest
(Acts 16:11-15; John 15:26-16:4a)
More than a salute to military veterans and certainly more than a long weekend, Memorial Day gives tribute to the war dead. The holiday originated after the Civil War, the deadliest conflict in American history, to honor the patriotism of those who gave their lives for their country. As in all cases the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus promises to send in today’s gospel, enlightens the understanding of this critical virtue.
Patriotism, the love of one’s country, enables the fulfillment of the fifth formulation of the natural law – to live in society. It calls forth sacrifice on a national level which can, at times, supersede personal and local concerns. Patriotism should not be regarded as the reckless pursuit of national dominance. Rather, it is the judicious promotion of the common good. Sadly, often enough such effort involves the bearing of arms and the giving of lives.
The best that we can do for our war dead -- indeed for all the dead -- is to pray for them. War often incites irresponsibility in men and women for which they may be severely judged. We should God, who is always merciful, to forgive the excesses of the war dead and to reward them on the merit of their patriotism.