Monday, May 28, 2007

"A day of remembrance"

The following is an article from last Thursday’s Catholic Standard. I concelebrated a Mass this morning at Gate of Heaven cemetery with Bishop Holley and several priests from the Archdiocese. Several hundred people attended this beautiful and moving tribute to all those who have died “with the mark of faith”, especially those who sacrifices their lives for the sake of freedom.

"A day of remembrance"

By Mark Zimmermann

Serving as a combat area chaplain with an Army National Guard Unit in Iraq during 2005, Father Sam Giese and his fellow soldiers gained a new respect for Memorial Day, because they lost friends and comrades in the war.

"They now owned Memorial Day in a way they didn't before. It was not just the beginning of summer anymore. It changed from a holiday to a day of remembrance," said the priest, remembering meeting with soldiers that Memorial Day in Iraq.

Father Giese, who was recently installed as the new pastor of St. Mary's Parish in Landover Hills, wrote a popular series of columns from Iraq for the Catholic Standard, chronicling his life as a chaplain there.

He said that Memorial Day Masses, especially at Catholic cemeteries, are meaningful to him, as a priest and as a veteran. "At moments like that, you think this really is a place of prayer, a consecrated sight," he said.

Interviewed last week about Memorial Day, the priest said, "The emphasis (on that day) should be on the debt we owe to those who served and who are killed in war service... So much of the freedom we now enjoy is owed to these people who really sacrificed, who put aside their lives and personal needs" to serve. "It's the sacrifice also of families," he added.

On Memorial Day last year, he spoke at a military cemetery in Baltimore, and he emphasized that line of service extends from the Civil War to those who saved Europe and Asia in World War II, to later veterans in Korea and Vietnam, to those serving overseas today.

Father Giese said he thinks about those whom he met during his rounds in the military camps in Iraq who later made the ultimate sacrifice. "I think about them pretty frequently, particularly the young fellow who didn't want to go, the young medic who was killed. He wanted to stay at home and care for his mother."

That incident reminded him of a gravestone for a Civil War soldier buried at St. Ignatius Church in Chapel Point in Southern Maryland, that includes an inscription, "Oh God have pity on a poor mother who lost her only son."

The priest said he also thinks about the mother whose son was killed in Iraq, yet she continued to send cookies to the soldiers in his unit.

"What Memorial Day should do is bridge the gaps of time we have for ourselves, and for those who've gone before," he said.

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