Remembrance Day falls on November 11 each year. It is the anniversary of the suspension of fighting after World War I — but it’s a day when we remember all those who perished in war. In many private homes and at official gatherings, a minute’s silence will be observed.
This act of remembering events, or people, is critical to our culture and our identity. Remembering helps us make sense of our world and ourselves. Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel wrote, “Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilisation, no society, no future.”
In recent months we have seen memorial events for the 20th anniversary of the Bali bombings and the national memorial service in honour of Queen Elizabeth II. Every funeral is a memorial of a person who has finished their life on earth. Significant birthdays and wedding anniversaries are often opportunities to remember the good times — and maybe the not-so-good times — of years past.
When we come together for these important moments of remembering, they are often marked with sacred words and gestures. Words are important. They can be opportunities to say things we wish we had said before a life-changing event took place. Words allow us to honour the ordinary, or extraordinary, things done by someone. Gestures are important. Sometimes our words are inadequate to express what is in our hearts. Think of the 88 white doves released in honour of the 88 Australian lives lost in the Bali bombings: Symbolic and beautiful.
In the Catholic tradition, the act of remembering plays an essential role. In the Mass, the most important celebration for Catholics, our words and gestures say a lot about what we believe and what is worthy of remembering. When people question the necessity for the Catholic Church’s teaching about attending Mass weekly, it is precisely because we value so highly the important act of remembering God’s presence in our lives that we want people to do this regularly.
So, just as it enriches our lives to remember people and events through special words and gestures, so too will our lives be enriched when we make space for our God. When we gather at Mass, we remember that Jesus is truly present to us in the words of the Scriptures, in his Body and Blood received during Communion, and in each other.
This is the beauty of the Catholic faith. It encourages us to make time for our sacred memories, to cherish them and to learn from them, so that our life journey will be all the richer.
Words: Sharon Brewer