Remembrance Day 2017

Posted November 9, 2017 7:56 pm by Editor

Remembrance Day 2017
What should we think and pray about this Remembrance Day 2017? When we were still teaching high school students, we often read the Wilfred Owen poem, “Dulce et Decorum Est.” It was part of our unit on introducing students to the study of poetry. We used a great book titled, Sound and Sense by Laurence Perrine.

“Dulce et Decorum Est” was written by Owen during World War I and published after his death. It describes the hellish nature of war. It condemns war and rejects the idea that it’s noble and an honour to die for your country. it’s all a “lie.” Owen experienced the meaning of war because he fought on the front line with the Manchester Regiment. He suffered terribly from what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder. Owen died on November 4, 1918. His mother was told of her son’s death seven days after Armistice Day, the day we celebrate Remembrance Day.

Just a note about the Latin words in the title: they come from an ode by Horace. These words were well known and often referred to before the First World War began. They mean “It is sweet and right.” And in the ode there are three more words: “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori:” it is sweet and right to die for your country. But Owen’s poem turns the meaning on its head: it’s not at all wonderful and a great honour to fight and die for your country. It’s a “lie” to tell young people to give their lives for their country when you have experienced the horror of war that Owen had to endure.

Let’s remember during this Remembrance Day and the month of November all those members of the Church Suffering (the souls of our dearly departed) and we pray for them: “O Lord God almighty, we pray that by the Precious Blood which thy divine Son Jesus shed in the garden, deliver the souls in purgatory, and especially that soul among them all which is most destitute of spiritual aid; and vouchsafe to bring it to thy glory, there to praise and bless thee forever. Amen.”

Let’s also remember the innocent souls of close to 1.5 billion aborted unborn babies. This is the shocking number of pre-born babies intentionally killed world-wide since 1980. It’s the greatest, silent on-going genocide in human history.

In reading the poem or hearing it being read and if we pay attention, we quickly realize that no commentary is needed. Here is the poem:

DULCE ET DECORUM EST

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori. 

Here is a video of the poem being read with actual war footage of the Battle of the Somme. Over 3 million men fought in this battle and one million were wounded or killed. It’s one of the worst and bloodiest battles of all time.

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