Memorial Day – A day of remembrance

By JOSEPH ORR

Since shortly after the Civil War, comrades and relatives have preserved this special day as a time for remembering our fallen loved ones by visiting their graves.

When I was a young boy our family located the grave of Sergeant Patrick Farrington, my great-grandmother’s uncle who, after surviving 10 major engagements, was mortally wounded during the battle of Gettysburg. Visiting the battlefield and stopping for a few minutes of prayer at his grave impressed me. He was just a 19-year-old Irish immigrant from New York who loved baseball. Like so many young men and women serving in the armed forces his family worried about his safety and they were deeply distressed when they heard that he had been wounded. His father rushed down to visit him at one of the make-shift hospitals that were set up around Gettysburg and he went home relieved that Patrick had only lost his leg. Shortly afterward the family was informed that due to infection Patrick Farrington had died.

During the Civil war, very village in our country was affected by the loss of friends and neighbors and nearly every family grieved for someone close. Returning soldiers felt the lingering shadows of those who’d marched beside them and were no more. They were haunted by the images of those awful battles when their missing comrades had been killed. The entire nation was in grief. It was natural for people to draw together in mourning and render fitting tribute to those who’d died.

Since the founding of this day of remembering our fallen soldiers, countless others have served and died in every corner of the world. Families today still fear the news of a son or daughter being injured or killed in the line of duty. Fathers and mothers still endure the terrible moment when word comes of a beloved child who has died. And veterans still return home afflicted by awful memories of fallen comrades and a sense of guilt for having survived.

Memorial Day remains for us an important day for gathering and honoring the memory of our fallen loved ones at cemeteries throughout the world. It is our local Catholic tradition to meet at the St Agnes Cemetery Chapel and offer Mass for those who fell in battle; for those who came home; and for those who mourned for them.

“You gave everything, and we will never forget you.”

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Finding Faith is written by area pastors. This week’s column comes from Rev. Fr. Joseph Orr of Holy Spirit Catholic Parish, Lock Haven.

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