Friday, 12 November 2010
So what are we doing . . ?
It’s been interesting reading the discussion between one of my friends on facebook and the various people – myself included – who have been discussing this coming Sunday : Remembrance Sunday.
It is clear that there are many who feel that, even if it is acceptable to have a Sunday by this title, that piece of reasoning should still not justify a Requiem Mass on a Sunday . . . indeed there appears to be something of an argument that this is not only unjustifiable, but is actually offensive in some way.
So I thought I’d say a little something about it : not because I’m trying to get at anyone in particular, but simply because, as tends to be the way nowadays, I think that the passage of time has changed peoples’ attitudes and approaches . . . and that the question therefore deserves consideration whilst there are still those around for whom it has the original symbolism.
Let me start at the beginning.
In 1985 there was a very fine French film which was shown on TV in the UK. It was called Shoah, and it lasts just slightly longer than most films . . . 570 minutes, to be exact; and it covers, in incredible, and totally accurate, detail the WWII Holocaust and its effect on the Jewish community in Europe.
The UK broadcast was on two consecutive evenings, and on both evenings, although it was on a commercial channel, there was no advertising : just a single break half-way through during which the screen displayed a single image, simply so that those watching could relieve themselves, and if necessary obtain more refreshment . . . but there was definitely nothing to break the train of the film.
Further, every secondary school in the UK was, as far as I know, presented with a copy of that film.
Because it was seen as essential that everyone had, and retained, a clear understanding of the truths of that dreadful time and what happened during it . . . and, by extension, of all the other similar periods and episodes in our history.
And today ? Well, I imagine there are probably some schools who still have a copy somewhere; but I understand that the film is now seen as being of no particular relevance . . . it’s so out-of-date and irrelevant to today’s world.
And, of course, not all that long ago we finally lost the last British personnel who had taken part in the Great War; and the number of people who took part in WWII is also dropping quickly now . . . and whilst it may be another fifteen or twenty years before the very last ones die, it’s very rapidly passing out of public thought except as a sort of academic concept . . .
. . . and so is the concept of remembering the Wars, and the dead, and what it’s all about.
Which is why I think it’s important that we retain the annual Requiems on Remembrance Sunday.
Don’t get me wrong; I’d be perfectly happy if we could keep it always on 11 November instead of always on the Sunday; but I have to accept that it’s nowadays quite impossible to persuade the entire globe that that is a suitable thing to do . . . so Sunday has to be the next best option.
What is important to me, though, is that we don’t simply allow the passage of time to let people accidentally forget, or even deliberately choose to ignore, the effects of war, and conflict . . . and not just the Great War and WWII, but all wars, worldwide, in all generations : and this means that it is important that we remember these essential things constantly.
So : whilst I’m not surprised that many of the younger generation see no point in Remembrance Sunday, and praying for all those – service personnel or civilians, allied or hostile, who died in war or as a consequence of war – I am quite certain, in my own mind, that it is important that such a tailing-off of such a memory is never allowed to take place . . . and that we all, always, remember what happened : because it is in that memory that we retain our best chance of ensuring that it never happens again.
So; on Remembrance Sunday, let us all not only remember, but also pray for the dead of the wars, whether we attend a Requiem Mass or simply prefer to go to the usual seasonal Mass and merely pray for them : but let’s pray for them this year, and next year, and every year . . . and pray also that God will allow us all to learn constantly from what has happened, so that it is never repeated again.