The Catholic Thing was founded the week after Memorial Day in 2008, but in eight of the following dozen years, we’ve published a column, either by Robert Royal or me, about remembrance of those fallen in combat. This makes nine.
Our view, being Roman Catholic, is often global, but we are Americans, and we are patriotic. In a column I wrote last year (not on Memorial Day, but one week before), I quoted St. Thomas Aquinas in the context of faddish “woke” anti-Americanism (obviously not what Aquinas had in mind c. 1260 A.D.):
man is debtor chiefly to his parents and his country, after God. Wherefore just as it belongs to religion to give worship to God, so does it belong to piety, in the second place, to give worship to one’s parents and one’s country. (ST IIa IIae, Q, 101, a.1)
That makes me recall the famous Arnold Friberg painting (The Prayer at Valley Forge) of Gen. George Washington kneeling, seeking God’s guidance in the making of America.
My first foray into writing about Memorial Day came in 2009, with a column I wrote concurrent with my older son’s graduation from West Point. Many readers wrote to me, with gentle reproof, that my column was inappropriate, given that the last Monday in May is devoted to remembering those fallen in battle and not to those who may be likely to head into battle – about the dead, in other words, not the living. Yes, but I had also written this about the last cadet parade before graduation:
The music played by the [Army] band echoed around the barracks arches, so that you thought you were hearing the answering sound of marches played by ghosts, welcoming the Class of 2009 into the Long Gray Line that reaches back to 1802 and beyond.