A nice Mass today. Our local church included one special prayer for veterans in the prayers of the faithful. Okay, I don’t mind that a couple times a year. Everyone deserves prayers. What gets me is when we pray for soldiers every week, especially when we fail to mention civilian deaths or acknowledge the work of peacemakers. That, I believe, sends the wrong message. On Veterans Day weekend, okay, sure, pray for veterans.
The homily was not about soldiers or war or “service”, it was something about marriage? I don’t know. I wasn’t really listening. (Just kidding.) In the end, the whole Veterans Day thing was very played down. In his closing remarks, our priest briefly thanked the veterans for their service and we gave them a round of applause. Yes, I clapped, not because I believe soldiers’ actions overseas for the past 50 years has anything to do with preserving our freedoms, but because I believe soldiers and their families believe that what the soldiers are doing is preserving our freedoms. I clapped because, I don’t know, goodwill toward men, I guess. And because my grandfather was a cook in the Korean War, and I was thinking of him. And because I have family members who went to Iraq. I don’t know. Maybe I gave into sentimentality for a second there, but, well, the essence of idolatry is taking a good thing and making it an ultimate thing, right? The duty to country, the desire to protect and defend — these things shouldn’t, in my opinion, be made into ultimate things, as they are in the military, but that doesn’t mean that there is nothing good there, and that certainly doesn’t mean there is nothing good — good intentions — in the people we were applauding.
Anyway, it was all respectful, but subdued, as it should be, nothing ostentatious or over-the-top, nobody wearing military uniforms in church. The third song at the closing was America the Beautiful. Thankfully it wasn’t the Star-Spangled Banner. I even sang. Couldn’t help it. I have always liked that one.
I think as a general rule, maybe a good measure of appropriateness would be that the brouhaha over Veterans Day and Memorial Day should not outdo the brouhaha over, say, Mother’s Day. The American Catholic Church has a long way to go in terms of educating Catholics on issues of war and peace, but if we can at least subdue the military worship, that’s a start. This year I think my church managed to hit the right balance, acknowledging the holiday, which surely brings some comfort to people who mourn the loss of loved ones to war, without glorifying war or elevating the soldier to the level of savior. Well done, Saint Joseph’s. Still, don’t forget your CAM statements for the collection! Happy day of rest.