The Springfield 50 Project
Western Massachusetts Vietnam Veterans Memorial

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...Death is a great mystery.  We all turn our faces away from it.  It is the cessation of life as we know it.  It means the loss of our loved ones, and painful separation from those who are dear and close to us.

We too know that we are part of the natural world.  Like all living things we are born, we grow, mature, reproduce, get old and die.  We see it all around us.  It happens to every living thing.

Even inanimate objects do not last forever.  The forces of nature, heat, cold, wind, rain, ice and snow have their effect and even boulders are pulverized into dust.  Great mountain chains eventually dissolve.  Great seas evaporate and become dry.  Stars explode.  Planets collide.  Nothing lasts forever.  Everything exists but for a time.

For those of us who have no faith, that is all there is to it.  We come and we go.  We are but a part of nature, given a brief part on the stage of life and history, soon to be gone and never to return.

...This morning, gathered here on this beautiful Memorial Day, in this cemetery, we are filled with sentiments of faith and hope.

Through the eyes of faith we see that this place is not one of final and total extinction and disintegration, but a place of rest.  Our loved ones are with God. †What lies here are the remains of their earthly bodies.

We are here to pay them homage.  We are here to remember them.  They did so much for us while they were alive.  We owe them so much.

They are our parents, our brothers and sisters, our spouses, our children, our friends.  We shall never forget them.  They will always be in our minds and hearts.  We shall pray for them, and they for us, always.

We also remember those men and women, mostly young and some not so young, who gave their lives for their country in the supreme sacrifice of total self-giving.  It is because they gave so completely and so generously of themselves that we are here today, that we live in a free country, that we are not slaves to some foreign despot.  May they be blessed forever for having given so much to so many.

How can we repay them?  We cannot.  But if we appreciate and honor their sacrifice we will do our best to keep this country sound and support and defend the values for which they gave their lives.

We must together build a nation where justice reigns, where crime and violence are controlled and minimized, where the elderly can live in peace and security, where children can receive a decent upbringing and education, where men are not judged by race, religion or ethnic background but on their competence and abilities...Only then will we be able to say that our loved ones have not died in vain, nor have we let them down, as a society and as a people.

God bless you all.  Have a pleasant day.  Pray for me, as I shall pray for you and all your loved ones, both living and deceased.

Homily of the Bishop of Springfield, Massachusetts
Memorial Day Mass
St. Michaelís Cemetery
Monday, May 27, 2001

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