There were a couple of things on the choir pilgrimage last month that were so new to me that I had never even heard of them. One was Pointe du Hoc. I knew about the D-Day beaches, but not Pointe du Hoc. Here’s the lead in to the Wikipedia entry. “[It] is a promontory with a 100 ft cliff overlooking the English Channel on the coast of Normandy in northern France. During World War II it was the highest point between Utah Beach to the west and Omaha Beach to the east. The German army fortified the area with concrete casements and gun pits. On D-Day (6 June 1944) the United States Army Ranger Assault Group assaulted and captured Pointe du Hoc after scaling the cliffs.”
I won’t go further into what you can read here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pointe_du_Hoc
I was struck by how ingenious was the site’s selection by the German army as a defensive location and the extent of its fortification. But something else got my attention even more than the bunkers, gun emplacements, and craters from the allied bombardment.
At one of the points on the self-guided tour of the various points of interest, there was a photograph of Field Marshal Rommel and his aides inspecting the fortifications. Of course it is totally obvious in the literature at the memorial kiosk and in the very existence of the site that it was a German wartime facility, but the photo of Rommel and the other officers made it more contemporary than just looking at the ruins and made me wonder what Germans today think when they come to that place and see that photo.
That started a train of thought that took shape later at the cemetery – that the people of Europe have made more progress in the 70 years since World War II in putting the war behind them than we Americans have made in 150 years in putting our Civil War behind us. It is a complex question, and I haven’t come up with any satisfactory explanations for the difference; I just keep coming back to this prayer:
For the Human Family
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work though our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Ron Hicks, Parish Verger St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC, 4-August-2015.