Monday, May 31, 2010


The train of thought I’m expressing here was triggered by a post by my blogging hero, Rocco Palmo, on “Whispers in the Loggia.” It is a performance of the “Nimrod” variation from Sir Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations, played for Remembrance Day in England. The quality of the music speaks for itself as to why it is chosen for this occasion. But why would I also choose it?

There is much that we need to remember on Memorial Day when we think of ultimate sacrifices: I think of the Honor Flight which brings World War II veterans to Washington, DC for a special tribute and visit to the WWII Memorial. One of our own parishioners, Paul Hogan, made the trip last year. He, a survivor, did honor to those who gave their lives in the course of the combat to break the Nazi war machine and the machinations of Adolf Hitler. And I think of the ultimate of all sacrifices for freedom, fought and won almost 2,000 years ago on a cross on a hill outside Jerusalem. Every of Eucharist is a “Memorial Day” for us…

But as I prepare (along with the other priests of our Archdiocese) to enter into retreat, my mind goes back several years to another retreat. It was at Spring Hill College, and we were gathering in the Gautrelet Room for the afternoon conference when Msgr James Oberkirk heard a joke, laughed, and dropped to the floor with a massive heart attack. He was given CPR by Fr. Paul Halladay (and anointed by another priest) and was rushed to Spring Hill Memorial, but he died that day. We were all shaken by what had happened right in front of us. And after the conference, we moved slowly to St Joseph Chapel for Adoration and Evening Prayer—and the organist just happened to be playing “Nimrod” as we entered, not knowing what had happened (the organist, Chris Uhl, was a close friend of Fr Oberkirk). It was surreal, and tremendously appropriate.

On this Memorial Day, please remember those who have fallen for the sake of freedom; please remember those who have passed into the true Sanctuary after a lifetime of ministering in sanctuaries here; and pray for all of us who remain to be dedicated to the freedom which truly sets us free (John 8:34-36). We are all called to be ‘soldiers of Christ’ in spiritual warfare. May we be armed with the virtues (Eph 6:10-17) that enable us, in Him, to persevere and share in the victory.

Below is a performance of “Nimrod” for your Memorial Day pleasure, performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, led by Daniel Barenboim.

1 comment:

  1. I knew Fr. Oberkirch had passed away suddenly, but never knew the real facts. I was a lifelong friend of his younger brother Vaun. How sad he must have been and since has passed away himself. The music is so beautiful and a perfect tribute to his brother. Very touching. Thank you.