I have never had the experience of serving in combat, thank God, as I know some of you here today have. Yet it takes no great wisdom to recognize that war is a terrible thing. In its conduct, many lose their lives, many many more are disabled or disfigured both in mind and in body. No matter how just the cause, or how favorable the outcome, the families and the society "back home" are touched in many disturbing ways.
War is sometimes necessary, even though always regrettable. Western civilization has spent countless hours upon hours in formulating theories about when war may be just -- and when it may not.
Every war has critics -- some of them frivolous and mean spirited people who just like to hear themselves talk -- some of them correctly demanding that only justice and morality prevail. Indeed, as Americans, we hold the right to public debate to be one of the sacred purposes for which we wage war.
It is the duty of citizens in our Republic to be well informed, and to offer well reasoned criticism of the policies which our nation follows -- particularly when those policies lead to war.
It is a duty in justice, for power must be used justly if it is not to lead to corruption.
It is a duty in morality, for we must keep our nation pure; not allowing it to descend into un-necessary violence, conquest, or theft.
It is, finally, a duty to those who serve, for, traditionally, they are not free to express themselves about the nation's policies as we are in civilian life. We must speak on their behalf.
It is also our duty to remember the sacrifices of those who lost their lives in the service of their country. Whatever our political opinions may be, we must hold those who serve in highest honor and eternal memory. That is why we celebrate Memorial Day.
This Mass is a Requiem -- offered primarily for the dead -- but let us not fail to pray for all who have sacrificed their limbs, their minds, and even their very lives in the cause of freedom, justice, and morality. To those men and women we owe an eternal debt of gratitude.
"It is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they might be loosed from theirs sins." Those words we hear in this morning's reading were written twenty-two or twenty-three hundred years ago about the Machabees, soldiers who gave their life in battle. They are no less true today.