Wednesday, November 08, 2006


This morning, on arriving for work at Vatican Radio, I knew exactly what music I needed for Sunday's programme. After all, it will be Remembrance Sunday, when we'll be commemorating all those who have died in war.

Remembrance Sunday began after the first World War and is a very sacred occasion. I learned this morning that the Americans have a counterpart, in Veterans' Sunday and, whilst I had a cup of coffee with my community, we racked our brains trying to remember the dates and names of similar celebrations across the world.

For those of us from Britain, we see red paper poppies appear in increasing abundance as the Sunday closest to 11th November, Armistice Day, approaches. They recall the poppies in the fields of Flanders, where so many young men of so many nationalities died in the horrors of trench warfare. On Remembrance Sunday itself, there will be wreath laying and special ceremonies at war memorials and prayers in all places of worship throughout the country for all those who have died in war.

The music traditional to Remembrance Sunday are Nimrod from Elgar's Enigma Variations and 'I vow to thee, my country' from Holtz' The Planets. There is also a lengthy poem, but the final verse and sometimes the one before it, are read, generally with the background of Nimrod. Very often, before the reading of the poem at war memorials, a bugler plays the Last Post followed by a minute's silence. Finally, the bugler plays Reveille, symbolising that, after death, there is the resurrection.

In England, the entire Royal family goes to the Cenotaph in Whitehall in order to lay wreaths with a representative of every Commonwealth country. There is a procession of veterans, bands and representatives of the Armed Forces, who also lay their wreaths. Religious leaders pray for the souls of all those who have died in war and then after the above little ceremony and the minute's silence, that's it. It's carried live on all radio and television channels. It's very beautiful and deeply moving. When we were children my father used to insist on us watching it on TV.
Remembrance Sunday is a time for remembering and for giving thanks. We recall the sacrifices, the hopes and the shattered dreams. As we hear so often at this time of year, "They gave their tomorrow so that we might have our today." May they rest in peace.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
God bless,Janet