Cardinal Rigali dedicates veterans memorial

His Eminence blesses the monument outside the cathedral following the annual Green Mass

By Dan McWilliams

Cardinal Justin Rigali dedicated a monument to veterans outside the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus on Nov. 7 following the annual Veterans Mass celebrated by Bishop Richard F. Stika.

The Veterans Mass, also known as the Green Mass, is held near Veterans Day each year and “invites us to remember not only those who have served in our country’s Armed Forces but also those currently serving, especially those in harm’s way,” Bishop Stika wrote in his Mass program message to those attending the liturgy.

“We particularly pray for those still suffering the effects of their sacrifices—those with disabilities from wounds seen and unseen. And we also honor in a special way all our priests who have served or are serving as chaplains in the Armed Forces.

“Veterans Day should be a time for all of us to reflect upon the very nature and meaning of sacrifice. It is a time for asking God to bless all our servicemen and women with the strength they need to serve selflessly and courageously. May their example of service and sacrifice inspire us to also be selfless gifts with our time, talents, and resources to others. For we are all called to serve as soldiers—soldiers of Christ—on the battlefield of faith and to be the face, the hands, and the heart of Jesus to others. For this reason is the Church here on earth referred to as the Church Militant,” the bishop’s message continued.

“Given this reality, we can better appreciate why the word ‘battle’ is used 35 times in the Catechism of the Catholic Church to describe the struggles we all face in living out our faith in the daily struggle between good and evil, light, and darkness. Life is ‘a hard battle,’ a battle of faith, of prayer, and purity. We are all called to be saints, and this is why St. Paul calls us to be ‘good soldiers of Jesus Christ’ [2 Timothy 2:3]. He reminds us that ‘our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.’ But we must ‘put on the armor of God’ [Ephesians 6:12-13] if we are to be His instruments of mercy, love, and victory,” the bishop’s message concluded.

Knights of Columbus Fourth Degree Assembly 1083 donated the veterans memorial, which is at the base of the flagpole outside the cathedral front doors.

“Heavenly Father, we are gathered now in this place, a place we set aside to honor the men and women of our armed services, men and women who, in giving of themselves, have endured separation from family and friends; have given of their time and skills; have placed freedom for others over their own safety,” Cardinal Rigali said in his prayer of dedication for the memorial. “In the performance of duty, some have paid the price of loss of bodily members; some have given their all, even their very lives to the call to service. To all of these brave individuals we owe gratitude, deep gratitude.

“Today, in their honor, we now dedicate and bless this monument, crafted with love by human hands, as a tribute to all who have answered the call to duty as members of our military forces today and in days gone by. May we never fail to be grateful for those whose actions are too often left unappreciated. May this monument be a reminder of the sacrifices that have been made, and will be made, to make this world a better place. May it be a strong reminder that testifies to the love and respect that we owe our brothers and sisters in our Lord Jesus Christ. And may we all be enriched and sustained, Lord God, by your blessings. Amen.”

In his homily at the Veterans Mass, Bishop Stika spoke of the day’s Gospel reading, which contained the lesson of the widow’s mite.

“So many didn’t come home. That’s why we have Memorial Day, to remember the dead of wars and battles, popular or unpopular,” the bishop said. “On Veterans Day, we honor all those men and women, especially in these last years, who volunteered to serve. It’s almost like the widow’s mite—they gave themselves for service of country, maybe also for education, whatever it might be, they were willing.

“In World War II, Korea, Vietnam—veterans. They didn’t only give something that was excess; they gave themselves, like the widow’s mite.”

Veterans have often been forgotten, unless one had a relative or friend in war, by society at large, the bishop noted.

“We went about our business, and yet a few thousand died,” he said.

After Mass, cathedral rector Father David Boettner asked veterans to stand, and the dozen or so who stood were given a long round of applause.

Another ovation followed the bishop’s next words.

“In a special way, I have to say hi to my brother Bob in St. Louis,” Bishop Stika said. “Bob is a veteran of Vietnam. He was wounded. He still bears the scars and shrapnel in his back and the loss of hearing in his ear. He donated the American flagpole outside. Bob, thank you.”

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