WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Sunday for the first time in two years, in a sign of progress against COVID, Archbishop Timothy Broglio celebrated the annual Memorial Mass at its usual location: in the Great Upper Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Preaching from the ambo, Archbishop Broglio reflected on the Solemnity of the Ascension, urging believers to accept Christ’s call “to go forth, be and experience the signs of the power of God, and offer hope.”
Archbishop Broglio normally celebrates the Memorial Mass each May around Memorial Day to honor all who have served the nation in uniform, living and deceased. The Mass typically draws two-thousand or more Catholics to the Basilica. Last year, though, in compliance with the District of Columbia’s mandated COVID shutdown, His Excellency moved the Mass to the small, main chapel of AMS headquarters, the Edwin Cardinal O’Brien Pastoral Center, where it was combined with the annual late-summer Mass for Vietnam War hero Father Vincent R. Capodanno, M.M., Servant of God, in a single September liturgy attended by only a few seminarians and AMS staffers and benefactors.
On Sunday, with eased social distance guidelines still in place, about 400 mask-wearing Catholic patriots, including a group of more than 20 midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy, spread out among the sparsely-filled pews to pray for those who serve or have served. They included the family of U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Glen Bond, who, fresh from basic training at Parris Island, SC, will soon deploy to Africa—Kigali, Rwanda—where he will provide armed security for the U.S. Embassy. His parents and sister brought Corporal Bond to the Memorial Mass as a way of sending him forth with blessings on his upcoming deployment. They found Archbishop Broglio’s homily especially meaningful.
“Certainly, the key verb of the Ascension is go forth,” Archbishop Broglio preached. “We love to come to this magnificent shrine and contemplate the beauty of the Trinity Dome. It raises our eyes and our spirits, but only as an incentive to be welcomed into our true home and to bring others with us. The journey of life is ultimately about that moment of meeting the Lord Jesus face to face and hearing the words, ‘come, blessed of my Father, and enter the Kingdom prepared for you….’
“The Lord speaks of healing which is so evident today in the commitment of health care professionals, the desire of chaplains to minister even to those gravely ill. The presence of this archdiocese in the Department of Veterans Affairs is a testimony to fidelity to the Lord’s mandate. So also, is the investment of time and talents to care for the illnesses of the psyche.
“You and I must also advocate for those still suffering the deadly effects of the pandemic beyond our borders. India readily comes to mind. Might we not advocate for the distribution of vaccines to those suffering masses much in the same way that this Nation contributed to rebuilding Europe after World War II?
“You know, in Africa the ‘black stone’ is so well known as the antidote to poisonous snake bites. It can be a remedy for even the deadliest venom. We seem to be less protected in the ‘civilized world’ to the venom of gossip, gross generalizations, labels, and attacks on the internet. It is almost as if those poisons are more dangerous and harder to cure. We attempt to recycle in love those disagreeable realities. Love is indeed a miraculous black stone able to neutralize some wagging tongues. (Cf. Pronzato, Il Vangelo in Casa, ciclo B, p. 146.)
“Do not tire looking for and being these signs of the loving power of God.”
“It was wonderful and beautiful and it touched my heart,” said Ms. Ronda Bond, mother of the soon-to-deploy Marine, standing outside the Basilica with her husband Bill and their two grown children after the Mass. Commenting on his upcoming deployment to Africa, Corporal Bond said, “I feel just at ease about the whole matter after attending the Mass. It was very inspiring.” His sister Joanne remarked, “It was a beautiful Mass and it was very honorable being the sister of a Marine. I’m proud of him and I can’t believe it because he’s going away….” While Corporal Bond will be away for at least a year, his father, Mr. Bill Bond, finds solace in Jesus’s promise: “God will be with you until the end of time.”
Because of the COVID scale-back, a video recording of the Memorial Mass will not be televised as usual this year on Memorial Day.