As I prepare to celebrate Memorial Day weekend with my family I am reminded of a man I met recently who was very angry that the Catholic Church had not spoken out against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan nearly enough. Holidays such as Memorial Day, when we honor those who died in military service, can be a flash point for just this type of tension in our church. Prior to the beginning of the war, Pope John Paul II warned against entering into war unless all other possibilities had been exhausted. The USCCB Web site is full of statements and comments about concern for the people impacted by the wars, the morally questionable use of such extreme force and the call for continued efforts to promote peace in the midst of extremely complex situations.
But none of these statements have quelled the anger on both sides of the argument in our church. It continues to polarize us. So this Memorial Day, in addition to thanking everyone in our nation’s history for their sacrifice for their country, I also plan on spending some particular time in prayer for all of the ways that war destroys: the families on both sides of the conflict, the next generation of children scarred by the memories of war, the divisions within communities on how to proceed, the death of hope in our fellow human beings, the loss of unity in our families and communities. It is my hope that as we try to honor those who commit their lives to defend our country we also honor those who try to work for peace, so that fewer must make such a sacrifice. I believe we can do both.