Remembrance Day is a time to pay respects to service personnel who fought in the two world wars and subsequent conflicts. It’s a time to remember sacrifices – something that will perhaps take on a new meaning for many in a year that has been marked by sacrifice.
For Fr John Healy, parish priest at Laverton, and former chaplain to the Air Force, the day has special significance.
It’s about remembering those who have given their lives, that we may have peace; and to be conscious of their selfless giving and conscious of the families of those many hundreds of thousands who didn't come back. It’s a time and a day to pray for peace in those troubled parts of our world today.’
Not only is it important to remember those that have made a great sacrifice for our country, Fr John says, but also to remember those who are continuing to do so.
‘We sometimes tend to forget that we still have men and women deployed, so to be conscious of them is important.’
'In that sense, Remembrance Day is a combination of past, present and future.'
Laverton parish marks the time of Remembrance with the Last Post and the minute silence at Mass.
Those present normally come forward as part of the prayers of the faithful to a light a candle and doing two things: remembering those who gave of their life and their light for peace. And then also praying for peace.’
‘And I'll wear my medals on my vestment,’ Fr John says.
‘Seeing as it’s not a public holiday, people tend not to do things in their streets like they did for Anzac day. But I just hope that people, wherever they are, stop for a minute's silence.’
In a year that has been spent largely in isolation and without the usual social supports, many communities of service personnel and returned veterans will be having a more difficult Remembrance Day than usual.
‘In previous years, Remembrance Day has been a day to come together, to remember and mourn together. This year, it’s particularly difficult for veterans who can’t gather with their mates. Because mateship is an important thing that has come from our conflicts: what they are left with is the bond that they have.’
Fr John raises the question of why an exception can't be made for the allowable number of people who can gather to seventy, as is the case in restaurants, rather than keeping it contained to ten.
That would honour our diggers and our veterans, allowing them to actually meet up and to remember, and to connect with their mates. For some of these men and women, just physically to be together would lift their spirits.’
No other year in recent memory has made clear the importance of the simple act of gathering, to celebrate, to mourn, and to remember.
And now with the state coming out of lockdown, ‘people are delighted that they can get to church,’ Fr John says, ‘because even though they've watched Mass on TV, they've missed communion. And they missed the fellowship. Now they’re seeing friends they haven't seen for months and reconnecting.’
Laverton parish will be using the pandemic as an opportunity to reinforce the social fabric of the community. ‘We never thought that we’d see our churches close, but it allows us to make some positive changes.'
The focus for the parish next year, Fr John explains, will be on continuing to build fellowship for those who have been disconnected. ‘That's going to be a key priority for us, how we can get people back together, not just for worship, but to see each other socially.’
And next year, he hopes, the parish will be able to once again be at full capacity to gather for Remembrance Day Mass in person, to be together, to support one another and to pray for peace.
To read Fr John’s Remembrance Day prayers and reflection, click here: Remembrance Day: Lest We Forget
Melbourne Catholic25 February 2021