Memorial Day Weekend 2020

Memorial Day is when we honor those who died while serving in this nation’s military.

Or it’s the unofficial first day of summer.

Both Memorial Day perspectives have their traditions.

This year, we’re trying to deal with a pandemic while observing those traditions. Which likely enough explains articles like these:

One of them talks about virtual events. The other says it’s “all the questions you have about celebrating Memorial Day weekend during the coronavirus, answered.”

I won’t, make that can’t, answer all your questions. But I can show you what I’ll be talking about:


Holidays and Silliness

Days to Remember

Quite a few folks who don’t observe Memorial Day do something like it.

There’s Anzac Day, Armistice Day, Confederate Memorial Day, Dodenherdenking and Volkstrauertag.

These days of remembrance tend to cluster around the spring and autumn equinoxes. Like my country’s two equivalents of Remembrance Day: Memorial Day and Veterans Day.1

Oddly enough, I haven’t run across a Memorial Day conspiracy theory. Not that I’ve spent much time looking.

A Weird Interlude

Mixing cliches from my youth and a generous dollop of imagination with attitudes and opinions I’ve seen in my social media feed let me imagine a few alternatively-reasonable views of Memorial Day.

Who knows? Maybe someone’s actually claimed that Memorial Day is a reminder of imperialist oppression. Or a plutocratic plot to pilfer our pocketbooks by peddling puerile products. Or something completely different.

Like part of what I’ll call my Unified Conspiracy Theory. UCT.

You know, like Universal Coordinated Time.

Egad! They are using the acronym for their plot to control our clocks as the name for their nefarious organization!! IT ALL FITS!!!

Anyway, UCT would say that Memorial Day is part of a psychic attack on humanity, waged by Illuminati New World Order Space Aliens.

Operating out of their secret underground base that’s beneath Denver International Airport.2

I do not believe that. I really, sincerely do not believe that.

And maybe I need to get more sleep.


Dealing With a Pandemic

Weekend Plans and the Stearns County Fair

I don’t have special plans for this Memorial Day Weekend. Partly because the COVID-19 pandemic is in progress.

We’re still supposed to act as if spreading an occasionally-lethal disease is a bad idea. Makes sense to me. I’ll get back to that.

Minnesota’s governor has been changing and clarifying the new rules rather often.

Since he’s a member of a political party, I could denounce his oppressive actions. Or sing praises for his enlightened leadership.

Instead, I’ll say that I don’t envy anyone with a job like his. And move on.

The most recent Minnesota executive orders I know of — 20-56 through 20-61 — relate mostly to “Motor Carriers and Drivers.” 20-56 outlined how Minnesota’s public life and economy will begin re-opening, while trying to keep the number of new infections down to what our medicos can handle.

Our limited knowledge of what’s ahead encouraged folks running the Stearns County Fair to cancel this year’s get-together.3

I think they made a prudent decision. But July 29th through August 2nd is going to be unusually quiet around here. I live a few hundred yards north of the Stearns County fairgrounds.

Face Masks and the Common Good: A Sheeple Perspective

I’ve been wearing a face mask/covering on the rare occasions when I’m out in public.

That, apparently, makes me a sheeple.

Sheeple: in this context, one of those dupes who believe that dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic is possible and a good idea.

And don’t believe that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is part of a conspiracy.

Learning that I’m a sheeple emerged from a conversation regarding the efficacy of face masks.

The upholder of open faces had said that face masks are not particularly effective at protecting the wearer from infection. Which is true, at least in many/most cases.4

I’d been wearing, and will continue to wear, a face mask for two reasons. First, it’s strongly recommended by the authorities in my area. Second, and more to the point, it’s a good way to reduce the odds that I will unwittingly spread the SARS-CoV-2 virus.4

I don’t think I’m infected. I’m probably not. But I don’t know for sure. And wearing a face mask in public is a simple and cheap way to reduce the risk of spreading a very infectious disease that occasionally kills people.

So, why should I care about infecting other people? Particularly since I say I’m a Christian and a Catholic. From some viewpoints, thinking about disease and public health is unspiritual. Worldly.

Here’s how I see it. Good health is a gift from God. Getting and staying healthy is a good idea. Within reason. Making good health my religion, not so much. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 21122114, 22882289)

It’s not all about me. I live with and near other folks. Working for the common good and protecting human life is a good idea. (Catechism, One/Two/Article 2 Participation in Social Life/II: The Common Good, 19281942, 22582262)


Principles and Purpose

Remembering and Mourning

If I think protecting human life is a good idea, how come I’m not condemning Memorial Day because it glorifies war?

I don’t think that’s so, for starters.

Granted, a few folks may use Memorial Day and similar holidays as opportunities to promote their brand of jingoism.

I figure most of us either don’t remember why there’s a three-day weekend right before June, or see Memorial as a day for remembering and mourning those who died in wars gone by.

Remembering and mourning the people. Not celebrating what killed them.

Protecting

As I see it, wars break things and kill people. They’re noisy, unpleasant and often lead to more wars.

On the whole, I’d prefer living in a world where disputes between states could be resolved without mass homicide. We’re not there yet.

I think war is something to avoid.

And I think sometimes it’s better than the alternative. This may take some explaining.

I think human life is sacred. That’s why killing an innocent person is wrong. The divine image is in each of us; no matter who we are, who our ancestors are, or what we’ve done. (Genesis 1:27; Catechism, 357, 361, 369370, 1700, 1730, 22682269, 1929, 22732274, 22762279)

What each of us does with our life, and the lives of those around us, is up us: for good or ill. (Catechism, 17011709, 2258)

Everyone’s life is precious. Yours, mine, everyone’s. That’s why defending myself, or yourself, using the least force necessary, is okay: even if that action results in the attacker’s death. (Catechism, 22632267)

That doesn’t make ‘I thought he was going to hit me, so I killed him’ an excuse for homicide.

These principles apply to individuals and nations. Or should. Each of us and all of us should do what we can to avoid war.

But sometimes a person or national leader threatens the lives of others and won’t be stopped by words. Using armed force to protect innocent folks is okay. Provided that doing so doesn’t cause other, worse, problems. What can I say? It’s complicated. (Catechism, 23072317)

“…Certainly, war has not been rooted out of human affairs. As long as the danger of war remains and there is no competent and sufficiently powerful authority at the international level, governments cannot be denied the right to legitimate defense once every means of peaceful settlement has been exhausted….”
(“Gaudium et Spes,” Pope Bl. Paul VI (December 7, 1965))

Past, Present and Posterity

I think remembering, mourning and honoring those who were killed while serving this country is a good idea.

So is making good use of the life and freedom we have.

And considering the possibility that we can help build a better world.

“…The answer to the fear which darkens human existence at the end of the twentieth century is the common effort to build the civilization of love, founded on the universal values of peace, solidarity, justice, and liberty….”
(“To the United Nations Organization,” St. John Paul II (October 5, 1995))

“For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be…
“…Till the war-drum throbbed no longer, and the battle-flags were furl’d
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world….”
(“Locksley Hall,” Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1835))

I think cobbling together a reasonable facsimile of St. John Paul II’s civilization of love will take generations of hard work. Centuries. Maybe millennia. And that’s another topic, for another day.

More-and-less-related posts:


1 Remembering:

2 Weirdness and time zones:

3 Plans and cancellation:

4 Masks and the pandemic:

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Another Pandemic Monday

The Covid-19 pandemic persists, but progress progresses here in central Minnesota.

And our Peacetime Emergency rules are still changing. Which I think makes sense. Our world, pandemic included, is still changing. I’d be concerned if the rules we use didn’t change when our circumstances do.

It’s been an — interesting — two months.

Some weekly newspapers in Minnesota’s metro area shut down, permanently. The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, it was the Fargo Forum in my youth, stopped its ink-on-paper publication but kept the “e-edition.”

Some restaurants, and at least one antiques and eclectic stuff shop, won’t be re-opening.

Hog farmers may not be able to sell enough of their hogs. That’s what happens when meat processing plants shut down.1

Businesses that are still in business are re-opening, gradually. And the local parishes are easing back into a rough approximation of public prayer and worship as it was before March 17, 2020. Carefully easing back.

“Dear Friends in Christ,

“Little by little we are able to open our churches. Last week we were able to open the doors of our churches for a few hours a day. This week we have been given more permissions. For church safety notes see the information below the videos….

“…10 Important Notes
“1. The obligation to attend Mass is suspended until further notice per Bishop Kettler.
2. Attendance will be limited to 10 people until further notice…..
…10. Please be patient. This is new for us as well. We are learning as we go and we desire that this process be as safe as possible for everyone.”
(Catholic Parishes of St. Alexius, Our Lady of the Angels, St. Paul’s (May 2020))

Eucharistic Adoration and the Common Good

Eucharistic adoration restarts at 6:00 a.m. this Wednesday.

I checked with one of the coordinators today. I’ve got my old Wednesday afternoon shift again, and learned what to do if an 11th person comes in while I’m there.

Adoration will be in St. Paul’s sanctuary, not the Adoration chapel. No surprises there. We’re still expected to keep six feet away from each other, which will be easier in the sanctuary.

I’m looking forward to getting back into that part of my weekly routine.

I’m also looking forward to public Mass. It’s “…the fount and apex of the whole Christian life….” (Lumen Gentium, 11; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 13221327)

But I’m not bothered, hurt or offended by Bishop Kettler’s temporary suspension of our obligation to attend Mass. For one thing, it’s temporary. For another, not rubbing elbows with a church full of my neighbors makes sense when COVID-19 is loose in our area.

Part of being Catholic is protecting human life and upholding the common good. (Catechism, One/Two/Article 2 Participation in Social Life/II: The Common Good, 25582300)

Not spreading a highly infectious and occasionally lethal disease strikes me as doing both.

I’ve talked about that before:


1 In the news:

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Missing Public Masses

The COVID-19 pandemic is still in progress.

But Catholics here in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, got good news over the weekend.

“Dear Friends in Christ,
“Bishop Kettler has asked us to begin planning for public Masses again. … Then, if all goes well, we can begin having public Masses sometime the week of May 18th….”
(Catholic Parishes of St. Alexius, Our Lady of the Angels, St. Paul’s (May 2020))

I see it as good news, anyway.

We still don’t know how public Mass will be restarted.

And maybe all won’t go well. A lot could happen before next week. A lot has happened in the two months since COVID-19 became an official pandemic.

Changing Routines

On March 11, two months ago today, the World Health Organization promoted COVID-19 from a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” to a pandemic.

As far as we knew, there were only five cases in Minnesota. None of them in my town.

But within a week, the Minnesota governor banned public gatherings. The bishop in our diocese suspended public Masses until April 18. And the priests in our parishes did what the bishop said they should do.

Two months later, 115,781 Minnesotans have been tested for COVID-19 virus. Test results were positive for 11,799. Several folks with positive results work just a few minutes down the road.

591 Minnesotans have died from the disease. So far.

I didn’t, and don’t, like having no public Masses. And I’m not happy that the resumption date has been moved into mid-May.

But I think changing our routines made sense.1

The Eucharist: a Big Deal

On the ‘up’ side, the local parishes have been providing online video Masses.

They’re not a complete substitute for being there. Which is why each includes a prayer of spiritual communion, along the lines of St. Alphonsus Liguori’s. (April 4, 2020)

Video Mass not being a substitute for the real thing may need an explanation. Or maybe not. Either way, I’ll talk about it.

Each Mass is built around the Eucharist, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

That’s when our Lord comes to be with us under the appearance of bread and wine.

He doesn’t, apart from the very rare Eucharistic miracle, appear as actual flesh and blood. But he’s there. Really. Physically.2

And that’s why Mass is a very big deal. It’s also been a public relations problem for two millennia, and that’s another topic. (December 13, 2019; November 20, 2016)

Loving My Neighbors

So, if Mass is that important, how come I’m not denouncing our parish priests, bishop, archbishop and the Pope for making sense during this pandemic?3

Basically, it’s because I’m a Catholic. Which doesn’t mean I think popes never make mistakes. (July 30, 2017)

As a Catholic, I’m obliged to take care of my health, within reason. (Catechism, 2288, 2289, 2301)

I’m also obliged to act as if I love my neighbors. All my neighbors. (Matthew 5:4344, 22:3640; Mark 12:2831; Luke 6:31, 10:2537; Catechism, 1789)

I figure that includes changing my habits so that I’m less likely to infect them. And not fussing when other folks do the same.

On the other hand, I’m looking forward to public Mass.

And getting back into a weekly Eucharistic Adoration routine.

One of the folks running local Eucharistic Adoration called me this afternoon. Looks like it’ll be some time before that gets back to normal. Make that “resumes.” And that’s yet another topic.

Somewhat-related posts:


1 A mostly-Minnesota view of the COVID-19 pandemic:

2 Definitions:

EUCHARIST: The ritual, sacramental action of thanksgiving to God which constitutes the principal Christian liturgical celebration of and communion in the paschal mystery of Christ. The liturgical action called the Eucharist is also traditionally known as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is one of the seven sacraments of the Church; the Holy Eucharist completes Christian initiation (1322 ff.). The Sunday celebration of the Eucharist is at the heart of the Church’s life (2177). See Mass.”

MASS: The Eucharist or principal sacramental celebration of the Church, established by Jesus at the Last Supper, in which the mystery of our salvation through participation in the sacrificial death and glorious Resurrection of Christ is renewed and accomplished. The Mass renews the paschal sacrifice of Christ as the sacrifice offered by the Church. It is called ‘Mass’ (from the Latin missa) because of the ‘mission’ or ‘sending’ with which the liturgical celebration concludes (Latin: ‘Ite, Missa est.‘) (1332; cf. 1088, 1382, 2192). See Eucharist; Paschal Mystery/Sacrifice.”
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, Glossary)

3 Dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic:

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Happy Death?!

“Happy death” sounds like an oxymoron. Like cold fire, which turns out to be Shakespearean.

“…Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health!…”
(“Romeo and Juliet,” Act I, Scene I, Romeo; Shakespeare (1597))

A happy death is also something Catholics pray for. It’s very much a part of “Catholic culture.”

I expected to find detailed discussions of it in the Church’s assorted declarations, apostolic exhortations and encyclical letters.

I didn’t.

Maybe because it’s one of those things that’s obvious to folks who grew up in Catholic families. Or maybe not. Either way, growing up as a Protestant didn’t teach me what the term means. Not from a Catholic perspective.

So I kept looking.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1014, mentions an ancient litany of Saints that includes “From a sudden and unforeseen death, deliver us, O Lord;” and says that St. Joseph is the patron of happy death.

That’s helpful, but not particularly informative.

There’s no shortage of ‘happy death’ op-ed pieces in Catholic publications, which tells me that it’s part of contemporary Catholic culture.

“Everlasting Bliss”

I also found “happy death” in a prayer to St. Joseph at the end of Pope Leo XIII’s 1889 “Quamquam Pluries” encyclical.

“…Shield us ever under thy patronage, that, following thine example and strengthened by thy help, we may live a holy life, die a happy death, and attain to everlasting bliss in Heaven. Amen.”
(“Quamquam Pluries,” Pope Leo XIII (August 15, 1889))

That’s helpful, too. And tells me a little more about what, exactly, a “happy death” is.

About the encyclical’s title: I don’t know much Latin, but I think “Quamquam Pluries”would be “However Many Times” in my native language.

The late 19th century wasn’t any more serene than the early 21st, which is why Leo XIII said that the “…everlasting bliss in Heaven” prayer should be added to the rosary during October of 1889. Doing the same this year wouldn’t hurt, and that’s another topic.

Living Forever

The 2018 death of my father-in-law, sister-in-law’s 2019 death and recent deaths of two folks I know hasn’t left me feeling like the narrator in Poe’s “The Raven.”

But their deaths, filling out a Health Care Directive and COVID-19 have encouraged an awareness of death, judgment, Hell and Heaven: what Catholics call “last things.”

Which brings me back to “happy death.”

Oxymoronic musings aside, “happy death” sounds bonkers.

Death isn’t, by any reasonable standard, fun. Even without physical pain, death brings loss: separation from friends and family, an end to whatever we found pleasant in life.

And we’re praying for a “happy death?!”

What, we’re supposed to gambol to our graves, giggling all the way?

No. Not from what I’ve read and heard.

Backing up a little, death happens. (Catechism, 1007)

And it’s not permanent.

Living forever is good news or bad news, depending on what happens in my particular judgment. That’s a sort of a postmortem performance review. What I’ve done matters. So does whether I accept God’s love and mercy. Or not. (Catechism, 10211029, 10331037, 10421050)

Saying “thanks but no thanks” to what Pope Leo XIII called “everlasting bliss” strikes me as a bad idea. But it is an option. And not what a happy death leads to.

I gather that experiencing a happy death would — and, I hope, will — mean being on good terms with our Lord when I die, and being ready to say “yes” to God’s mercy.

On the Road to Emmaus: “Some Women” Were Right

This Sunday’s gospel reading starts with Luke 24:13. That’s where Jesus meets Cleopas and someone else on their way to Emmaus.

There’s been considerable speculation about why the two disciples didn’t recognize Jesus.

I strongly suspect it’s at least partly because they knew that our Lord had died.

And assumed, not unreasonably, that someone who’s dead stays that way.

The two chaps on their way to Emmaus and the other surviving disciples were on a steep learning curve — on their way to realizing that Jesus of Nazareth didn’t stay dead.

And that “some women” were right.

“Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning
“and did not find his body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive.
(Luke 24:2223)

The Best News Ever

It took more than a month of meetings and working lunches, but eventually even Thomas realized that Jesus was no longer dead.

Then our Lord gave us standing orders, and left: with a promise that he’d be back.

That was two millennia back now.

If Jesus had been anyone else, we’d have stopped expecting his return long ago.

But Jesus isn’t anyone else, so we’re passing along the best news humanity’s ever had.

Our Lord died. And then Jesus stopped being dead. He was and is really, physically, alive. (John 1:14, 3:17; Acts 2:24; Catechism, 232260, 456478, 631655)

God loves us. All of us. Each of us. And wants to adopt us. (Romans 8:15; Ephesians 1:35; Peter 2:34; Catechism, 13, 2730, 52, 1825, 1996)

I’ve taken God up on the offer.

Event though there’s a catch. Sort of.

Like any other family, God’s has family values. I figure acting as if I accept those values makes sense. (James 2:1719; Catechism, 18141816)

They’re quite simple.

I should love God and my neighbors. Everyone is my neighbor. No exceptions. (Matthew 5:4344, 22:3640; Mark 12:2831; Luke 6:31 10:2527, 2937; Catechism, 1789)

That’s simple, and incredibly difficult. But I think it makes sense.

I’ve talked about life, death and choices before:

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