Monday is Memorial Day, a federal holiday remembering and honoring those who died while serving in our Armed Forces. Among other admirable character traits, it’s clear that the cardinal virtue of fortitude is found in those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death. Courage, bravery, sacrifice. Our servicemen and women embody those powerful words.
More than 1.1 million Americans have died in our wars, including nearly 500,000 during the Civil War. And of course war has been around much longer than America has. Just read any history book (or the Bible). So what, exactly, does the Church have to say about war?
According to the Catechism, “The fifth commandment forbids the intentional destruction of human life. Because of the evils and injustices that accompany all war, the Church insistently urges everyone to prayer and to action so that the divine Goodness may free us from the ancient bondage of war.”
While there is an exception made for a “just war,” the Catechism outlines specific conditions:
- “The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
- All other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
- There must be serious prospects of success;
- The use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.”
I’m no theologian, but it seems like the message is to avoid war unless it’s somehow the only option left. And while there can be debate on which of history’s wars have been “just,” something we can all agree on is peace is preferred and should always be the goal. So how do we get there?
It’s become sort of a cliché to “pray for world peace.” When I hear that phrase, I tend to picture a smiling beauty queen trying to wrap up a pageant win. But a couple of years ago when Pope Francis visited the burial ground of the 7,860 American soldiers who died liberating southern Italy and Rome during World War II, he bowed his head and said quietly, “Please Lord, stop. No more wars. No more of these useless massacres.”
Our Holy Father, in his improvised prayer on hallowed ground, showed us that we can and should pray for big things. If we limit ourselves to only what we think is possible, we underestimate God’s power and His love for us.
So on Monday, as we pray for the souls of our fallen heroes, let’s also say a prayer for world peace. A powerful way to do so, of course, is to turn to our Holy Mother and pray the Rosary.
The ideal of universal peace may seem far-fetched and far away in our fallen world. But we know that without prayer, it will be impossible to attain.
- Dana Marascia