“Thank you for your service.”
As a veteran, I have heard this phrase thousands of times. I always appreciate the sentiments behind this saying and never grow tired of hearing it. Not all veterans agree with me on this, but, in my experience, most of us appreciate this acknowledgement of past service even if we believe our contributions were minor. But for Catholics our gratitude for veterans and others who serve the common good should extend beyond this customary statement of appreciation.
One of my “go-to” Catholic dictionaries (A Catholic Dictionary, edited by Donald Attwater) defines gratitude as “a moral virtue, annexed to justice, which disposes one to remembrance and appreciation of kindness received and prompting to return it in any suitable manner.”
Gratitude is a virtue required as part of justice whereby we remember and appreciate the service done for us and the willingness to show kindness in return. This is a wonderful example of the “both/and” of Catholic theology — gratitude requires that we both appreciate and reciprocate.
How would we apply this Catholic understanding of gratitude for our veterans?
While no description could be exhaustive, here are some things I believe everyone should consider.
First, and most important, is prayer. Prayer for veterans (and those still in active service) should be a regular part of the Church’s and our petitions. Parishes can erect sites where the names and/or pictures of those who serve(d) may be displayed, with appropriate decorations (including flags) and invitations for intercessory prayers. Parish Masses for those who died serving our nation should be offered on Memorial Day, and Masses for all those who served or are serving should be offered on or around Veterans Day.
We should also attend to the graves of those who have served by proper upkeep of our cemeteries. Appropriate decorations, including the flag, should be placed on the graves of veterans. These decorations should always be meticulously maintained.
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