Our mission at St. Andrew Catholic Church is to become saints.
Following the example of our patron, St. Andrew, with humility we seek to:
Hear God’s call through the truth of the Catholic Church
Respond in love with acts of charity and mercy
Grow continuously through the sacraments and daily prayer and
Proclaim the Good News through our vocation.
Picking up from where I left off last week on my journey, we were in Lisieux with St. Therese. I loved the setting there, it was a beautiful town in Normandy. After spending the day there with St. Therese and her family, we got back on the bus and headed down the road. Our next destination was Mont Saint-Michele.
On the way there, just a bit off the path of the highway system of France, we detoured to visit the American cemetery at Normandy. This was a powerful experience. I regularly do burials at Tahoma National Cemetery in Covington, but that did not prepare me for the experience I had in Normandy. It was an overcast morning and the grass was still wet with dew. Wandering from the visitor center to the cemetery I had no idea what the Lord had in store for us. Immediately, I was struck by the enormity of the cemetery at which nearly 10,000 American soldiers are buried who gave their lives defending our freedom. The tombstones are all lined up with military precision as far as you can see. Most of them are crosses and there are a few Jewish Star of David markers as well. Although I was in France, I was standing on American soil and this made a deep impression on me at that moment. We made our way to the chapel, most of us in silence, struck in awe of our surroundings. Once we had all gathered in the chapel we began to sing our national anthem, the Star Spangled Banner, led by our cantor Amy. Hardly anyone had a dry eye as it was so beautifully resonant in the chapel and in our hearts. We then sang America the Beautiful and ended in prayer for all those who gave their lives in that hallowed place and in gratitude for the freedom we enjoy because of their bravery.
I then stood overlooking the beach, trying to imagine what it must have been like that terrible day on June 6, 1944, when the allied troops arrived at Normandy. So much violence. So much courage.
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
As we were walking through the cemetery our Polish guide and driver pointed out to me something very American. The driver pointed to the edge of the grass perfectly trimmed a quarter inch off of the sidewalk. He said, “This is American.”
I had never felt more patriotic in my life than I felt that day. I truly am proud to be an American. Perhaps this reflection would have been more appropriate closer to Veteran’s Day as it is soon upon us, but it fell to this week in the timeline of my reflections. I am so grateful for the blessings we enjoy as Americans. Let us pray that we will continue to enjoy them as we remember who we are, where we came from, and those that have gone before us.
Fr. Jack D. Shrum
For more of Father Jack's reflections click here