Friday, May 27, 2011

Spirit & Life - Memorial Day


This week's column is by 

Monsignor Ignacio 
, HLI's Interim President. 

Spirit & Life
 is the weekly e-column of 
Human Life International.

For Media Inquiries: Stephen Phelan 540-622-5270


Memorial Day

Officially celebrated for the first time on May 30, 1868, Memorial Day originally was established to honor soldiers who died in the Civil War. Since then, the last Monday of May has been set aside to remember soldiers who have died serving our nation, and has even become an occasion for many to visit the graves of deceased relatives, whether they had served in the military or not. All cultures through history have honored the memory and achievements of their ancestors, particularly those who have made great contributions to the welfare of society.  

A true memorial, however, is not merely an expression of gratitude; it is a renewed commitment to keep alive the values that inspired their lives. The memorials that count are not in stone or marble, but in our minds and hearts. 

Our ancestors' noble actions not only still effect our lives, but they serve as good examples to follow. Primarily, remembering their actions should increase our commitment to preserve and enrich this heritage, because tradition is a living reality that grows and becomes strong when it is truly adopted by the living.  This is a salutary practice strongly encouraged in the Book of Ecclesiastes, chapters 44 and following, where the author, Jesus Ben Syrah, recounts the achievements of the great men of Israel. The inspired writer of this Book underlines the achievements of Abraham as the father of a multitude of nations through his faithfulness and the covenant he received from God. 

In several ways, America is one of the nations that were established through the faithfulness of Abraham, because it is founded in the Christian heritage whose initial roots were established by this great patriarch. Indeed, for many of us he is an actual physical ancestor, but he also can be our ancestor in faith.


To be "One Nation under God," we must be faithful to the teachings of our Creator and Redeemer. He gives us a Faith that completely understands the reality in which we live, and that teaches how to lead our lives. It is a faith that has an integral unity and coherence, so we cannot merely pick and choose the parts that we like, and forget those that we don't like. 

This is why we so strongly defend life all human life from its biological beginning to its natural end, and why we defend marriage as it was willed by the Creator.  


Two recent developments remind us how precarious our situation is in this nation, and give a glimmer of hope that at least in some corners, Americans are waking up to the threats to life and family. 

Particularly concerning is a recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau. Between 2000 and 2010, the country grew at a rate of 9.7%, which was lower than any decade since the Great Depression. If the population growth in the U.S. continues to decline, we should expect to see the sorts of serious problems we can already see in the nations of Europe and Asia. Just to mention one of the problems, a shrinking workforce leads to a weakening of the economy, as fewer works have to support growing numbers of elderly, who need expensive medical services and other support. 

There is something much more concerning, however, than the economic effects of the potential decrease in population. A decreasing population means that people have lost hope in the mission inherited from their ancestors. In these situations, they have lost the true memory of their ancestors, and thus, have a decreasing confidence in the faith of their ancestors. To be sure, many are ready to abandon their faith altogether. The inevitable economic problems are merely a symptom of the true disease, a loss of hope, and a forgetfulness of the greatness of the tradition they inherited. 

Our Lord's teachings are a great torch that illuminates the nations. But a torch needs caretakers who will keep the flame alive and strong, and bearers to hold it high. When a nation or society begins demographic decline, they are demonstrating that they are not ready to be torch bearers for the future because they have not become good caretakers of the torch they have received.

This is why we must proclaim the importance of being generous with the transmission of life. We cannot let this torch fall to the ground and become extinguished.

In a more hopeful and honorable development, we celebrate the recent vote by the State Legislature of Minnesota approving the following text for a possible amendment to the state constitution:  "Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota." This decision allows Minnesotans to vote the amendment into the state constitution in 2012, and make a stand for traditional marriage.

Let us hope that this Memorial Day, a serene reflection on the many good things that we have received from our ancestors might rekindle our love our inheritance-our tradition-and strengthen our commitment to pass it to our children.  


Sincerely yours in Christ, 


Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro-Carámbula
Interim President, Human Life International