Share Your Family History

How can we celebrate Memorial Day in a spirit of Christian mindfulness? First, we bring the presence of Jesus to our cookouts. Even if the crowd is smaller this year, we can offer love to all who gather.

Memorial Day is a good time to share your family’s history with the newest generation. Take a look at the old pictures you have. The picture above is from a family picnic 60 years ago. My Dad is holding me. My granddaughter is named after my mother, who is holding my baby sister.

Your family, like mine, may have a history of military service.

Praying over that service is a good aspect to the day:

Oh God, by whose mercy the faithful departed find rest, look kindly on your departed veterans who gave their lives in service of their country. Grant that through the passion, death and resurrection of your Son they may share in the joy of your heavenly kingdom and rejoice in you with your saints forever.

We lift up those who survived their service and still feel its impact in their emotions. May the peace of God come to these men and women.

We also lift up those who suffer most from war: the homeless, the orphaned, the hungry and the innocent. May they challenge us to turn from warlike ways and accept God’s gift of peace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Confessions of a Civil Rights Reporter

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States, I always reflect on the 9+ years I spent as a reporter in Tupelo, Mississippi, beginning in 1976. I covered just about everything, which means I covered civil rights, the Ku Klux Klan and local government’s response to protests.

Life in Mississippi was an example of intentional living because I felt that everything I did mattered: going to an integrated church (the only one in the city), having African-American friends and speaking against racism.

I had hope for Mississippi when I left. The people – white and black – were the most polite and hospitable I had ever met. Because there was so little to do, we gathered in each other’s houses and talked. An African-American young man was named Homecoming King at Tupelo High School.

Tupelo was a more progressive city than most in Mississippi. I spent most of my reporting time in the surrounding rural region that had the misfortune to be both Appalachian and Mississippian. The poverty was atrocious and generational. The ignorance was often profound.

Yet I was disappointed to read the book “Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta” by Richard Grant, an Englishman who moved to rural Mississippi. At least in the Delta, so little has changed and much has gotten worse for African Americans. I don’t think the intent of the book was to make one depressed, but it certainly did it for me.

The election of Barack Obama gave me hope. But, as the law goes, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. On this Martin Luther King Day, I continue to pray that our nation may break free of its chains of racism:

Lord, our God, see how oppression and violence are our sad inheritance, one generation to the next. We look for you where the lowly are raised up, where the mighty are brought down. We find you there in your servants, and we give you thanks this day for your preacher and witness, Martin Luther King Jr. Fill us with your spirit: where our human community is divided by racism, torn by repression, saddened by fear and ignorance, may we give ourselves to your work of healing.

Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen

From “Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers” (which I still use even though I am no longer Catholic)