When President Abraham Lincoln gave his famous address for the dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg in 1863, he spoke not only of the sacrifice made by those who had fought and died during that bloodiest of battles, but also about the place itself, the blood-soaked ground that they had fought and died upon. This ground, he said, was made sacred by their sacrifice:
“But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.”
As Catholics we can agree wholeheartedly with Lincoln without fear of committing idolatry. Indeed, Lincoln would be the first to agree that America is not God. However, the ideas upon which America was founded – liberty, equality, self-government – these are good things, Godly things. In that sense, the final resting place of those who have laid down their life for these things can rightly be called “consecrated” ground.
Gettysburg was our nation’s bloodiest battle, and yet it was still but one of many places where Americans have shed their blood for the cause of freedom. Around the world, for over two centuries, our countrymen have followed our beloved flag into battle, and many have not come back. There are many who still lay on foreign shores, near the spot where they fell.
These places, these American cemeteries around the globe, remain consecrated ground, above our poor power to add or detract.
Following are but a few of the American cemeteries around the world:Gettysburg National Cemetery, where over 3,500 Union soldiers are buried.
Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in Belleau, France near the site of the battle of Belleau Wood during World War I. 2,289 Americans are buried here.
Cambridge American Cemetery in England, where 3,812 American sailors and airmen who died in World War II are buried.
Florence American Cemetery in Tuscany, Italy. Final resting place of 4,402 Americans who died in World War II.
Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines, with 17,206 graves, including American servicemen who died in the Pacific during World War II.