Remembrance Sunday was first observed in 1945 to remember the dead of both World Wars, and is observed on the Sunday after 11th November, the anniversary of the end of the First World War in 1918. But Remembrance Sunday now embraces all battles up to the present day so as we remember the dead of all these wars. No one can deny the heroism of the men and women on both sides who gave their lives for their country, their family and their friends. From our Catholic point of view, we don’t merely remember them – we pray for their souls, that those being purified in Purgatory arrive soon in Heaven. We remember especially those who died suddenly on the battlefield with severe injuries and with little or no preparation to meet their Maker. It is for all of them we particularly offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass today and pray for them in earnest, that God grant them eternal rest and peace. We remember also the Chaplains who gave their lives administering the Last Rites to the dying on the battlefield, preparing these brave men for their meeting with God. We can never dispense with remembering them in our prayers. The secularists, of course, will have no concept of praying for them, but we do so because we believe in the ‘communion of saints’ and that the souls in Purgatory have great need of our prayers.
To experience war on the battlefield must be a most terrible experience. So why does God allow this Hell on earth? Why doesn’t He stop war? Well God could stop war, but only if He took away our human freedom. But God won’t do that because He is not a dictator. War is manmade and yet we never seem to learn our lesson. The First World War was said to be the war to end all wars, and yet billions are spent each year building bigger and better bombs which could blow the planet up a thousand times over. This is sheer insanity because in this type of war there can be no winner.
In 1917 Our Lady of Fatima prophesied that the First World War would end soon, which it did, but she also said that if mankind did not return to God, an even worse war would break out in the Pontificate of Pope Pius XI, which it did in 1939. War is the result of sin. If we are to have peace in the world, we must all dedicate ourselves not to seeking worldly happiness, but to holiness and to the re-establishment of the reign of Christ on earth, because it is only through nations following Him that we can ever have true peace. This may seem an impossibility to us, but I firmly believe it will happen, since Our Lady said it would. When it happens it will be the promised triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. JESUS wants the whole world to know the intercessory power of His Mother.
As we remember the Fallen, many of those who died in battle will have already reached Heaven. Most of them we will know little or nothing about. There are the famous canonised saints and martyrs like St Maximilian Kolbe and St Edith Stein, but the stories of the lesser known soldiers and civilians also humble and inspire us. But in a sense we are all Soldiers of Christ and we are all called to show a soldier’s heroism for Christ in whatever our walk of life may be. Let us renew our commitment to Christ and pray to have the grace to do whatever He asks of us, so that we may hasten the restoration of Christ’s reign on earth so that true peace may reign in the world.
Fr Paul Gillham, IC