Tuesday, May 26, 2020
My Friends in Christ,
Yesterday was Memorial Day, we took time to remember and to pray for all the men and women who have died while in the U.S. military in service to
We honor them and we give thanks for them.
And as Disciples of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, we must cry out with the words of St. Pope Paul VI who was the first Pope to visit and address the United Nations on October 4, 1965. On that day, he said:
“No more war, war never again!”
This is our challenge, our goal; this is what we are called to make real in our world for this time and this place.
This is the best way to honor all who have given their lives for us!
On this Memorial Day, I thought it would be good to be aware of the history of this day which we celebrate.
Memorial Day--A History
Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.
Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.
Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades.
Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season.
Early Observances of Memorial D
The Civil War which ended in the spring of 1865, claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history and required the establishment of the country’s first national cemeteries.
By the late 1860’s, Americans in various towns and cities had begun holding springtime tributes to these countless fallen soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers.
It is unclear where exactly this tradition originated; numerous different communities may have independently initiated the memorial gatherings.
And some records show that one of the earliest Memorial Day commemorations was organized by a group of freed slaves in Charleston, South Carolina less than a month after the Confederacy surrendered in 1865.
Nevertheless, in 1966 the federal government declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day.
Waterloo--which first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866--was chosen because it hosted an annual, community-wide event, during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.
On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month.
“The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed.
The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.
On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.
Many Northern states held similar commemorative events and reprised the tradition in subsequent years; by 1890 each one had made Decoration Day an official state holiday.
Southern states, on the other hand, continued to honor their dead on separate days until after World War I.
Confederate Memorial Day is still celebrated in several states: Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina.
The practice of commemorating the Confederacy became even more controversial after the massacre at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston in 2015.
History of Memorial Day
Memorial Day, as Decoration Day gradually came to be known, originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War.
But during World War I the United States found itself embroiled in another major conflict, and the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars, including World War II, the Korean War, the War in Vietnam, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
For decades, Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30, the date Logan had selected for the first Decoration Day.
But in 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees; the change went into effect in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.