#651 – Dick Bernard: An American Hymn on Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 2012

Today I ushered at 9:30 Mass at Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis. We had run out of the bulletins which contain hymns for the day and thus, as Communion was being completed, I was surprised when the magnificent Basilica Choir began to sing “O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain….”
Usually, a choir member leads the congregation in the singing, but in stanza one this did not happen, nor in stanza two. This was surprising, since at this Mass the congregation are robust participants in singing. This is not a quiet group.
I found a program booklet as the choir began stanza three, and noted why we weren’t singing (see photo below, click to enlarge).

By the time it was my turn to sing, I was too emotional. I didn’t regain composure until “America! America!”
It was a magnificent moment.
This year Armistice Day (others call it Veterans Day) happened to be on a Sunday.
Every year since Nov. 11, 2002, I’ve joined the MN Veterans for Peace (VFP) for their annual bell ringing: 11 bells at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11. A long time ritual commemorating the first such event, on November 11, 1918, when WWI officially ceased at 11 a.m.
I left Church a little early and made my way over to St. Paul and the USS Ward Memorial where, for a number of years, the VFP has had the bell-ringing ceremony. Some years I’ve been pensive about this event, this year I was enthusiastic. It was a dismal dreary day, and there was no place to park, so I found a space, put on my blinker lights, and walked over to the site to take a couple of photos. There seemed to be a pretty good crowd given the wet chilly day. When I was there, VFP President Larry Johnson was speaking.

Veterans for Peace at USS Ward First Shot Memorial, State Capitol Grounds St. Paul MN November 11, 2012

A block away, at the Vietnam Memorial, another group of people was commemorating Veterans Day.
We’ve just finished another grueling divisive election.
There is, once again, a call for doing things a bit differently.
This time it seems more serious: let’s find ways to talk civilly and tamp down the “win-lose” mentality.
Pastor John Bauer’s column in today’s Basilica Newsletter helps kick start the process. It is one of many. Bauer Civil Conversation001. Father Bauer and I don’t agree on everything, but that’s okay. Let’s talk civilly, and together help make America a little more Beautiful.

At the Fr. Hennepin Statue on Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, November 11, 2012

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