Dear Fellow Parishioners,
I write this on the morning of November 11th, Veterans Day, which has an interesting history of its own. Though it was observed in the U.S. by Presidential Proclamation in 1919, and thereafter throughout the country with 2 minutes of silence at 11:00 am, Armistice Day was not declared a federal holiday until 1938, the 20th anniversary of the Armistice. The end of World War II saw a movement to rename it Veterans Day to include all veterans, which was done in 1954. Some of us are old enough to remember when this day was still referred to by the older generation by its original name.
In the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries, it was (and is) celebrated on November 11 as Remembrance Day or Poppy Day, a reference to the flowers so closely associated with that war, specifically the fields of France where the fiercest battles took place.
In a bitter irony of history, during World War II, Commonwealth observances of Remembrance Day of the end of “the war to end all wars” were moved to the Sunday before November 11 as an emergency measure to avoid disrupting production of vital war materials for World War II.
In the very few years after I was ordained, I would very occasionally see portraits of soldiers in World War I uniforms (“doughboys”) at the bedsides of their widows when making sick calls. The last World War I veteran died in 2011. (The last known Civil War widow died in 2020 – figure that one out!)
I mention all of this because November is a month of remembrance, beginning with All Souls’ Day, and then remembering all our veterans. While Veterans Day honors all who have served, we are perhaps more keenly aware of those who still bear the wounds of their service – physical, emotional and spiritual. These civil observances also have a distinctly religious character, if only because they lead us to reflect on ultimate realities and on the nature of sacrifice, which make sense only in light of the deep unity of all peoples, whether friend or foe, made in the image and likeness of God, and destined for eternity.
Another civil observance in November which has a distinctly religious character is Thanksgiving Day, celebrated officially in a handful of countries, and much more widely throughout the world as a cultural observance. Each has its own particular origin and character. To name just a few, celebration of Thanksgiving Day was inaugurated in Brazil as a result of their ambassador’s enthusiasm over services at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City on Thanksgiving Day, 1909. Thanksgiving is celebrated in the Dutch city of Leiden because many of the early Dutch Pilgrims who migrated to the Plymouth Plantation had lived in that city. Labor Thanksgiving Day in Japan dates back to the American occupation after World War II. Observance in still other countries today arises from American expatriate communities located there.
On Thanksgiving Day, we will have our regular weekday Mass at 8 am, plus a bilingual parish celebration at 10 am We will set up a table for families to bring food items to be blessed at the foot of the Lord’s table, to then bring home and enjoy at your own family table. Those who wish to bring canned goods for donation to local food banks are encouraged to do so as well. Because of storage issues, we are not equipped to deal with anything that is not air-tight and shelf-stable.
Fr. Bill Donahue