Newsletter 14: 6 November 2018
At the beginning of each November we are invited to remember those who have been before us. The Feasts of All Saints and All Souls draw us to recall the lives of loved ones, and those in whom glimpses of God seemed most apparent. Archbishop Mark Coleridge celebrated Mass in the new Chapel at the Marist Centre in Mascot on All Saints day, and in his homily spoke eloquently of the importance of “memory”. Our Catholic tradition of remembering and celebrating the lives of Saints helps to inform and inspire our actions now and in the future. The Archbishop reminded us of Jesus’ invitation to us at the Last Supper, “Do this in memory of me”.
This coming Sunday, 11 November 2018, marks the centenary of the Armistice declaration, marking the end of hostilities after four brutal and bloody years of fighting endured in Europe between 1914 and 1918 in what was to be the war to end all wars. Like Anzac Day, Armistice Day is a day for remembering. The impact of the Great War on Australia was profound. From a population of fewer than five million, 416,809 Australians enlisted, almost 62,000 died and 156,000 were wounded, gassed, or taken prisoner. The rapid developments in technology and mechanisation during the 19th and early 20th centuries were brought to the theatre of war on a scale never seen before. Tanks, machine guns, aircraft, gas, and submarines were all used with devastating effect causing an estimated 16 million deaths.
As Marist educators who focus so strongly on the hope and future of young people, we are confronted by the poignant loss of so many lives hardly started due to the Great War. The ache of humanity from that barbarous waste has been captured imperfectly in poems and letters from some of those directly involved. “In Flanders Fields” by John McRae and “For the Fallen” by Laurence Binyon are among the most well known. Whilst Australians cite the middle stanza of Binyon’s poem as The Ode, it is worth reflecting on all three stanzas. May our “remembering” with our school communities over the coming days strengthen our resolve to promote and pray for peace in our world, and generously welcome to Australia those fleeing war torn regions of the world.
For the Fallen
They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam