Flags adorn the gravestones in St. Joseph Cemetery, Toms River, of those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Jeff Bruno photo
Flags adorn the gravestones in St. Joseph Cemetery, Toms River, of those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Jeff Bruno photo
Memorial Day is observed throughout the United States on the last Monday in May. 

This national holiday is widely considered the beginning of summer, a few weeks shy of the actual calendar date.  In the past, families celebrated by displaying the flag, attending parades and carnivals, opening swimming pools, having backyard barbecues and, for many, taking a day off from work or school.

The COVID pandemic has changed much of that for this year.  But one thing will never change: As a nation, different from Veterans’ Day, Memorial Day honors those brave women and men who proudly wore the uniform of our Armed Forces and made the ultimate sacrifices that have become the lifeblood of our republic.  It is entirely fitting that we remember them with gratitude and pride. 

The actual origins of Memorial Day – formerly called “Decoration Day” – are debated, but most people agree that the customs that accompany it date back to the Civil War or shortly thereafter, when veterans and families decorated the graves of the departed.  That patriotic practice gratefully continues. 

For Catholics, sacrifice and dying for others is very familiar to us since it is the foundation of our faith.  We need look no further than the Crucifix that is the central symbol of our religious consciousness to remember how the Lord Jesus redeemed us through his death and freed us from sin. 

“Greater love than this no one has,” our Savior told us, “than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13).”  The sacrifices made by our countrymen and women throughout American history are a reminder of Christ’s message.  

No matter how we celebrate Memorial Day this year, the memory of those who have fallen should never be taken for granted or stray far from our consciousness.  In a real sense, these heroes in uniform who lived and served and sacrificed their lives for our freedoms, still give witness to the Lord’s own words and, in the shadow of his Cross, they now behold his face in glory.