Posted by: fvbcdm | May 29, 2017

Feast of Saint William Arnaud (29 May 2017)

It’s Memorial Day, and last night, I watched part of a very moving ceremony held on the Mall in the nation’s capital in which tribute was paid to those who have given their lives for their country, who have sustained injuries, some of them permanent, and who are left to mourn the dead or care for those who need help.

My high school career coincided almost exactly with our participation in World War II.  I was a freshman when Pearl Harbor plunged us into that war on December 7, 1941, and was a graduating senior when Nazi Germany surrendered in May, 1945.  These memorial days never come and go without two very clear memories coming back to me.  One of them is that of my walking with the other Jesuit High School boys to school in the morning, on South Carrollton avenue in New Orleans.  Often, during those four years, we would have to wait to cross the street while seemingly endless convoys of army trucks went by, carrying men just a few years older than ourselves to the port of embarcation, to go overseas.  As we kids watched those trucks go by, the men in them sometimes waved to us.  And we waved back.  And I used to wonder how many of them would come home “when it was over, over there” as the old song had it.  On June 6, 1944, the Normandy invasions began and in our last year of high school, we watched and listened as the news reports told of the Allies making their painful way from the Normandy beaches to the heart of Nazi Germany, and to victory.

Now, we come forward about 40 years.  I am leading one of my travel groups in France, and we go to visit the American cemetery on the cliffs above what was called “Omaha Beach” in the army code of World War II.  Our bus rolled to a stop, we all got out; I had no idea what was in store for me.  There, before us, in very neat and beautifully manicured lawns, are the graves of some 9000 men who died either right there or nearby.  The average age of those men who did not come home was about 20.  As you stand there looking at those graves, there is a great desire to walk among them and read the inscriptions on the grave markers.  And so we all did.  But I noticed that we all separated and walked alone this way and that, not speaking to one another.  Why?  Because we were all crying.  Our eyes were swimming in tears, we could not have spoken had we tried.  It was an enormously powerful moment.

When people ask me to name some of my most impressive experiences in my travels, Omaha Beach always comes to mind first. There have been audiences with two Popes; visits to magnificent museums, marvelous scenery.  But first and foremost, there was Omaha Beach and those 9000 graves.  As I began my walk among those markers, the very first one I came to was that of a young soldier from Lake Charles, Louisiana.  He might well have waved to us high school boys on South Carrollton Avenue, and we to him. And now, he lay on the cliffs above Omaha Beach, and his family is without a son or brother or maybe husband and father. God bless him, and all his fellow men and women whom we commemorate today.  God bless those who mourn their loss.  And may God give to them a rich life with Himself to compensate for the tragically short life that they lived in this world, and then laid down for us, their beneficiaries.  Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.  Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown.

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