“The love of God in us is witnessed by our willingness to lay down our lives for others as Christ did for us” (1 John 3:16-18).
Today many Americans associate Memorial Day with the unofficial beginning of the summer season. It is a time for many folks to head to the beach, enjoy the pool, or take part in a barbeque with family and friends. It is also, more importantly but sometimes forgotten, our nation’s most solemn holiday. Observed on the last Monday of May, this year on May 27, Memorial Day is a day to honor the American men and women who have given their lives in order to serve others. At 3:00 p.m. local time, a national moment of remembrance is held each Memorial Day.
Waterloo, New York was recognized in 1966 as the birthplace of Memorial Day. Waterloo held the first unofficial Memorial Day as early as 1866, during which businesses in the community closed, and residents decorated the graves of fallen Civil War soldiers with flowers and flags.
General John A. Logan, head of a Northern Civil War veterans’ organization, led the call for a national day of remembrance in 1868. First called “Decoration Day,” this day in late May honored those who served and lost their lives in the Civil War. When World War I also claimed the lives of so many brave Americans, this national day of remembrance evolved to honor Americans who died in all wars, past and present, sacrificing their lives in order to protect the common good.
There are ten foundational principles which comprise the social teaching of the Church. The sixth principle of Catholic Social Teaching is the Principle of Solidarity. This principle highlights how as members of one human family, we are called to serve our neighbor, whether they live down the street or halfway around the world. Solidarity binds all humans together as a family, making it impossible for citizens of first world nations such as the U.S. to ignore those in countries whose citizens are denied basic human rights.
This Memorial Day, we honor the fallen military men and women who so bravely served the citizens of our own country as well as the oppressed citizens of countries where the U.S. has intervened for the sake of social justice. Pope Paul VI taught that “if you want peace, work for justice.” Enacting the principle of solidarity helps us to promote the common good by responding to societal issues not just through charity, but also by working towards social justice and peace.
Jesus called us to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. The brave military men and women who have sacrificed their lives for the common good are the ultimate example of being their brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.
The Saint Vincent de Paul Society of Philadelphia has many ways, customized to each local community for you to transform the lives of your neighbors as well as your own life. Like that of its founder, blessed Frédéric Ozanam, the vision of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul “is to embrace the world in a network of charity.”