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In Remembrance

Sister Doreen’s Reflections

God’s Call to Live in Remembrance.

Musing today about remembrance and remembering, I called to mind two quotes that began to give me food for thought. One was by Desmond Tutu who said: “Without memory, there is no healing. Without forgiveness, there is no future.” and the other was by Corrie ten Boom who said “Memories are the key not to the past, but to the future.”

I thought how memories from past experiences offer us potential solutions to current problems and can help guide and direct us when solving them. Joan Chittister in her book “The Monastic Heart” wrote in her chapter called Memento Mori – On Valuing Yesterday: “The monastic memory of the dead is a long one … they go before us like light at midnight. …Our past prods us daily to go on, to do more, to be more.”

In a very real sense, it is also personal memories that are essential for giving us skills in social interactions. Being able to recall personal memories provides important material when making new friends, forming relationships, and maintaining ones we already have. Remembering is important. Remembering people, remembering events, remembering personal growth and triumphs, as well as personal faults and failures. We remember significant moments in our lives and in the lives of others, both happy and sad moments. We think back on relationships and how they shaped our lives. We commemorate special occasions, anniversaries and births and deaths. We set aside days as holy days and holidays to remember their importance and meaning. And why? My own heart’s desire is that we do this so that we can learn from the past and try to create a better future.

Today is a combination of the Feast of St Martin of Tours and Remembrance Day. Musing on today and what it means, I began to think that there was an important intertwining of memory and prayer, solitude, and sacrifice. Experience tells us how important remembering is, that it is not passive but an action that brings power into our lives. One of the central Christian observances is based on remembering: it is the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, the Eucharist, Holy Communion when Jesus at the last supper with the disciples instructed them to remember whenever they shared the bread and cup again. Remembering is at the core of who we are as the children of God – it reminds us of who we are, and of whose we are.

It is memories: remembering that helps us form our own identity, solves problems, creates relationships, helps us to regulate our emotions, and makes us function in our wider communities. Every year in Canada we have opportunities to remember – to remember difficult past history and reach out in truth and with a heart for reconciliation and deeper understanding. The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, originally and still colloquially known as Orange Shirt Day, is a Canadian holiday to recognize the legacy of the Canadian Indian residential school system. It is a day called to remember the many thousands of Indigenous children that did not return home, and abuse and tragedy of the residential school system in Canada. The orange shirt has become a symbol of hope, reconciliation, and a commitment to a better future. By wearing an orange shirt on September 30th, you make a statement to support reconciliation and commit to the enduring truth that EVERY CHILD MATTERS. It is a call to remember, every child matters here, and everywhere in our global world community.

I am reminded of Jesus words from the cross to the penitent thief – Jesus’ answer to the cry of the thief ‘remember me’ – “Today you will be with me in paradise”. Words of promise, of hope, of unconditional love and acceptance spoken from the sacrifice of the Cross. How often in my own life have I found myself in different experiences crying out ‘remember me’ and how often do I remember the words ‘today you will be with me’, promise, hope, unconditional love and acceptance. Remember me, they heal my sense of self-worth, my vision of my own destiny and possibilities, they bring new life, richer life, deeper awareness, and a higher consciousness. I know an invitation into the intimacy which is communion with God and with one another.

St. Martin is remembered for heroic charity, who worked amongst the poor and disabled, and is often thought of in connection with passage in Matthew 25: 26 – 40: “I was naked, and you clothed me …inasmuch as you did it to the least of my children you did it to me.” He was born into a military family, served as a military man, became a monk when released from the army and established the first monastic community in Gaul, then was called to be the Bishop of Tours in the year 371. The core of St. Martin’s spirituality was prayer, solitude, and sacrifice which enabled an active and compassionate ministry.

And today we remember, we honour those who gave their lives to save others, in the countless wars that have been part of our life together as a global community – those in the First World War, those in the Second World War, and since then the countless other wars, lives sacrificed. Still today there are wars and rumour’s of wars, tensions, poverty and starvation, strife, murdered, missing, and abused men and women in Canada and all over the world, and an environment that is hurting. So many lives have been lost or damaged. Life is hard and messy.

Today on Remembrance Day while we remember, not just the past wars but the present wars, tensions, poverty, homelessness, food insecurity, missing and hurt people, and our ravaged, hurting planet, I hope that in remembering we don’t get stuck in the grief, the anger, or the desire for revenge that might so easily consume us. I hope that our remembering will be a way of choosing to remember instead during these troubled times that we live in now, that we are committed to working to find some way to live our best lives together once again. I hope that today in remembering we can find some creative cooperation in solving the big problems that face our country and our world. “I use memories but do not allow memories to use me.” –  Shiva Sutras. May God’s call to us to remember give us the courageous imaginations and determination that we need to indeed reach out in creative cooperation to be better!