Remembrance Day 2021


I must be getting old. I recall as a child hearing Vera Lynn on the radio every November 11th, singing popular wartime songs such as We’ll Meet Again. My favourite was always The White Cliffs of Dover. “There’ll be bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover, Tomorrow, just you wait and see.” She sings of the people “braving those angry skies” and how tomorrow “there’ll be love and laughter and peace ever after. Tomorrow when the world is free.”

Well, we know that the skies are still angry in many parts of the globe as the bombs are dropped, stones and grenades are thrown and stealth drones sneak up on people. We don’t have peace ever after and there are nations in our world that are anything but free.

That is one of the reasons why it is so important that we have days such as Remembrance Day, days to remind us to pause and give thanks for the men and women who suffered in war and to think of those who continue to suffer in war zones around the world. Something like the traditional red poppy worn on our lapel is a good reminder of that need to pause.

Remembrance Day is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth countries since the end of World War I on November 11, 1918. The hostilities of that war ended “at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.” The 11:00 a.m. moment of silent remembrance is preceded by the bugling of Last Post.

King George V dedicated the memorial as a day of remembrance for members of the armed forces who were killed in WW I. We’ve since added many more people to our list of remembrance. Veterans Affairs Canada states that the date is of “remembrance for the men and women who have served, and continue to serve our country during times of war, conflict and peace.”

As a young adult, I used to see the red poppy in our lapels as a glorification of war and I would not wear one. Then, one day, I realized that it was more about remembering those who have suffered in war and about our hope for the world that Vera Lynn sings of. “The shepherd will tend his sheep. The valley will bloom again. And Jimmy will go to sleep in his own room again.”

Perhaps it’s an innocent and naïve hope that we’ll ever see a world like that. But we need to hold on to that hope. As soon as we lose hope, we give up our lives. Wearing a red poppy seems appropriate in a month that includes All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. We remember!

And on this day, we recall that Colonel John McCrae, from Guelph, Ontario has given us In Flanders Fields, the world’s most famous war memorial poem.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
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.

Philip Shano, SJ has many years of rich and varied experience working with Ignatian spirituality: teaching, writing and using it in his ministry. He resides in the Jesuit community in Pickering, Ontario.

  • graeme quinlan
    Posted at 04:11h, 11 November Reply

    Yes remembrance day once again. Each and every year it comes around and we pause to reflect to remember to give thanks for those members of our communities who went off to take up the challenge to secure freedom and peace . I gathered among a very small number at our very beautiful cenotaph, on which my fathers name is inscribed among many others from our town. I always remember my father, a troubled , quiet man, not really knowing why till I was to learn in my latter years ,that through the war he experienced so much pain and suffering that he was never able to openly speak about . I loved my father, and him I will never forget . Thank you Dad.

  • Bernice Khan
    Posted at 06:07h, 11 November Reply

    Thanks Fr. Philip for this memorial day reflection. May this disturbed world be filled with “love and laughter and peace ever after”.
    God bless.❤️

  • Sally D Kelly
    Posted at 07:35h, 11 November Reply

    Gréât article Fr Philip, Thankyou. 30,000 of us kids in the UK, were evacuated from London , during the war. The song that I recall from the war is Vera Lynn singing “ “Good night children everywhere, your Mummy thinks of you tonight….” I’ve always hated it, but can’t lose it. Now of course I réalisé why we were sent away, and my heart goes out to all those babes in refugee camps, whose parents are missing, and whose future is so untenable. In retrospect I was one of the luckier ones and I’m still standing. I pray everyday, for peace and for the powers that be to see how untenable the world situation is, the way it is now. Good bless you, Sally K

  • Pauline Mary Theresa Lally
    Posted at 09:41h, 11 November Reply

    Thank you, Phil. However, do you think the last stanza in “Flanders Fields” jives with the Gospel in today’s liturgy on the Beatitudes?

  • Suzanne renaud
    Posted at 11:37h, 11 November Reply

    Thank you.

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 13:31h, 11 November Reply

    Thank you Philip!

  • Richard Grover
    Posted at 13:33h, 11 November Reply

    Thanks Phil. On this special day, I pray that those who are beginning to beat the drums for a war against China would desist . Nobody wins in a war. Richard

  • Esther Gilbert
    Posted at 13:36h, 11 November Reply

    Thank you, Philip. I’m grateful for your message. It’s made meaning of a day I’ve often considered pointless. I wonder how we could organize a Peace Day

  • Mark Hubbard
    Posted at 06:27h, 12 November Reply

    I remain opposed to the red poppy for two reasons. One, it calls us to remember the killing of military men and women but omits the killing of the many more civilians who are euphemistically simply “collateral damage”.
    Secondly, and more importantly, the red poppy still speaks to the need for the militarization of our planet. It is silent in its opposition to the staggering sinful situation in which trillions of dollars a day are spent around our planet on military spending.
    Some years ago i came to discover the history and meaning of the white poppy – less than ten years younger than the red one. I will leave it to your own edification. The link:

  • Maria Skarzynski
    Posted at 11:59h, 16 December Reply

    Father Philip, listen please to the “Dropkicks’ who sing one of the most beautiful songs for veterans I have ever heard. I think you would want to hear it.

  • Maria Skarzynski
    Posted at 12:07h, 16 December Reply

    Sorry Father – it’s officially called ‘The Green Fields of France.”

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