Cardinal Dolan acknowledged gratitude “for the company of our beloved veterans” assembled during the Nov. 6 Mass he celebrated at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
They were a reminder that Veterans Day, Nov. 11, was “on the horizon,” he said, and of “Holy Mother Church’s invitation during this month of November to remember the souls of the faithful departed and indeed, we do remember our men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice.”
The cardinal, in his homily at the 10:15 a.m. liturgy, said, “It’s November” and the Church “invites us this month to consider such things as death and dying, and immortality, the end of the world, judgment, heaven, hell, purgatory, the resurrection of the dead.”
He proposed several lessons from the Bible and the teaching of the Church on life and death: “We’ve been created by God, soul and body, to live forever with Him in heaven…We come from God and we’re destined to return to Him for all eternity.”
Another is, “Life here on earth is fleeting, it’s passing, it’s fading…We have our true citizenship in heaven, as St. Paul tells us.”
Also, “Eternal life is pure gift” of God’s mercy “won for us by the death of Jesus on His cross.”
And, “For us believers, thinking about death and dying is hardly morbid or haunting, it’s filled with a lot of hope…”
The Navy hymn, “Eternal Father, Strong to Save,” was sung by the cathedral choir after Communion.
Before the dismissal, the cardinal asked for “God’s special blessing upon our beloved veterans, living and deceased.”
“It was just a beautiful Mass,” said David Crum, national commander of Catholic War Veterans. “The congregation was very attentive to the ceremony that was taking place,” he added of the laying of the wreath and the playing of Taps after Communion.
Taps is played anytime a wreath is laid, he explained, adding the wreath is for “all the living and deceased veterans.”
Although according to Crum this marked the first such ceremony in the cathedral by the Catholic War Veterans, the intent is to do so annually for both Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
“In today’s world, we need to give veterans their due,” Crum said.
Crum, 74, served in the U.S. Coast Guard, 1968-1972. “It was not a good time to be a 20-year-old,” he said. “I had enlisted” and “I still got a draft notice.”
He belongs to Immaculate Conception parish in Astoria, Queens, where the Catholic War Veterans, USA was founded in 1935 by the late Msgr. Edward J. Higgins, a World War I Army chaplain. The organization received the Apostolic Blessing of Pope Pius XI at the Vatican upon its formation.
One of three veterans’ service organizations chartered by Congress whose membership is religious, it is the only Catholic organization in the country that has been granted the significant honor of a congressional charter.
“We are veterans and we are Catholic,” Crum said. “The purpose of the organization is to assist veterans and their families,” including helping veterans obtain their VA benefits. “If a veteran is in need, we try to take care of the need, whether it’s mental, physical or financial.”
Catholic War Veterans also works with the New York City Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs to bury indigent veterans, Crum said. “They deserve the respect.”