This poem of John McCrae is well known and taught to children in schools.
He wrote from the point of those who were killed in the Great War. It reflects a view of war that remained too romantic and early in the war, before bitterness and cynicism set in.
In our days, many think that celebrating Remembrance Day is glorifying war. In the present toxic political climate in the UK, anything is possible. What cannot be doubted is our duty of remembering those who were sacrificed and died in their late teens or early twenties. Their souls are joined to all the souls of the Departed for whom we celebrated Mass on 2nd November.
I took the above photo in a field just a few minutes away from where I live. In summertime, poppies grow in profusion all along the northern coast of France. I live about an hour by car from the Somme where much of the bitterest fighting took place. A little over one hour the other way, westwards, and I can be on the D-Day beaches of 6th June 1944. I once had the honour of a conversation with an American veteran of Omaha Beach. The carnage was horrible and soul-maiming. To get some idea of how it was, watch Saving Private Ryan. Whether in the Somme or on the beaches, the horror and fear can still be felt.
I will pray for these poor souls, and ask them to pray for our sinful world that we may never know and suffer what they went through, not only the soldiers, airmen and sailors, but also civilians and the victims of genocide. As Christians, we believe that they live on and watch over us like the Angels. May this be our thought and prayer as the poppy petals fall at the appointed moment tomorrow.
In Flanders fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.