Praised be Jesus Christ! My Dad served in the Korean War but was not in the front lines because his bad back disqualified him. I remember his stories of traveling to Guam and visiting Hawaii on furlough. He swam at Waikiki beach but his recollections of that were always tempered by the experience he had of the tide near- ly dragging him out to sea. Dad also spoke about his visit to Pearl Harbor and he did so in a spirit of reverence and respect. I sup- pose that’s what sowed a seed in my mind that finally bore fruit this past January. When I told you I was going to Alabama to visit my classmates, that was certainly true. What I did not mention was that 3 of us then flew out to Oahu and spent a few days in a tropical paradise. One of my goals has always been to visit all 50 states, so I was really happy to be able to check off Hawaii. Be- cause of my Dad’s stories over the years, visiting Pearl Harbor was a given – and boy, was it impressive. I’ve visited many me- morials in my lifetime, but for some reason I was most moved by this one. I kept thinking of the terrible sadness so many families and friends carried for the rest of their days as the lives of those young men were snuffed out before they had hardly begun. Saint John Paul II wrote once in a poem, “Where is the dividing line between those generations who paid too little, and those who paid too much? On which side of that line are we?” Memorial Day invites us to reflect on the heroic sacrifices made by so many and to consider if we are living sacrificial lives. We were saved by the sacrifice of Our Lord at Calvary and we continue to be sancti- fied by that same sacrifice every time we attend Mass. Our world depends on men and women willing to live and die for a noble cause. And while Memorial Day rightly draws our attention to the armed services, Christ has His own soldiers in this world and they too heroically fight for noble causes. For example, at the Cathe- dral in Honolulu we venerated the relics of two towering saints, Saint Damien of Molokai and St. Marianne Cope. They laid down their lives in service of the most marginalized of all people as they served lepers dying a stigmatized and lonely death. Of all the humiliations St. Damien suffered, one of the greater ones had to be the fact that no priest would come to the leper island to hear his confession. Poor Damien had to shout his sins across the wa- ter to a priest who sat safely on his ship – only in this way could Saint Damien receive penance and absolution! Saint Damien eventually succumbed to leprosy and it cost him his life. And yet, this man’s life was so configured to Christ that he once stated, “I would not be cured if the price of the cure was that I must leave the island and give up my work. I am perfectly resigned to my lot. Do not feel sorry for me.” So we remember this weekend the price many paid for the freedoms we enjoy and we pray for their eternal rest. But that is never enough – if we hope to retain these blessings that cost others so much, then we must become more and more like Christ, who came “not to be served, but to serve.” To that end, may the saints intercede for us, that we live the beautiful words of Saint Marianne Cope, “I do not think of reward; I am working for God, and do so cheerfully.”
May God grant eternal rest to all who died for a righteous cause, and may He bless and protect those who continue to serve that same cause!
Your friend in Christ, Father Martin