Newman House is very much an international community, and it hadn’t occurred to me before that the wearing of poppies is very much a British thing; thus, those of us wearing poppies have attracted a few quizzical glances. It began as a mark of respect for the war dead in the UK in 1921, inspired by a famous 1915 poem written by Canadian medic John McCrae. He had noticed that amidst the carnage in the fields of Flanders in Belgium, only poppies still grew. Their blood-red petals set against the churned mud stand today as a vivid metaphor for the massive loss of life, and the sale of millions of these paper flowers serves to help ex-servicemen & women, those serving today, and their families. Lt Col McCrae is himself among those that we remember: he died in a field hospital in the final year of the war.
Official Remembrance events are usually presided over by the Church of England, but we Catholics also have distinctive ways to mark their sacrifice- all year round. At Holy Thursday services, the priest washes the feet of the congregation, recalling that Christ lowered himself to wash the feet of the disciples at the Last Supper. The concept of Christ’s servanthood is part of the wider theme of sacrifice; indeed, sacrifice in a world that often forgets to be thankful. It was entirely appropriate then that in Westminster Cathedral this year, Archbishop Nichols washed the feet of a group of Chelsea pensioners.
Picture credit: © Mazur/catholicchurch.org.uk
So you might wish to pause for a few moments at 11am tomorrow, the 93rd anniversary of Armistice Day, and say a small prayer for those serving in uniform around the world today and those who have fallen in conflict, including some 42 British servicemen & women who have died on active duty since last Armistice Day.