Chaplain John W. Forth presiding at a service for the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa near Caen, France, in July 1944. Photo by Harold G. Aikman from Canada Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada

Reflections from The Register 75 years ago on D-Day

  • May 29, 2019

June 6 marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day, one of the defining points of the Second World War as Allied forces invaded Europe for the final push to victory over Hitler.

Canada played a crucial role in what was called Operation Overlord. The Catholic Register reflected on the momentous day on its editorial pages, noting the role of prayer in the march to victory. Here are passages from that June 1944 edition of The Register:

As the fateful hour of invasion struck, General Dwight Eisenhower issued a special order of the day to the Allied Expeditionary Force which began with a reminder that they were embarking on a great crusade and concluded with a request that “all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.”

Later that day the king called upon his subjects to offer up “earnest and continuous and widespread prayer throughout the present crisis of the liberation of Europe.”

Broadcasting to the people of Canada, Prime Minister Mackenzie King advised that “the heart of all, in Canada today, be filled with silent prayer for the success of our own and Allied forces and for the early liberation of the people of Europe.” And that night the President of the United States substituted a beautiful prayer of his own composing for a talk to the people of the great republic.

Thus the Commander-in-Chief, the king, the Prime Minister and the president rose to a great occasion by solemn public consecration of our cause to Almighty God. Thus they proclaimed that, whatever our shortcomings, we are a Christian people fully conscious of the need of divine assistance in the herculean task to which we have set our hands. 

The sixth of June 1944 will be remembered forever, and not merely because it marks a date in the calendar pregnant with consequences for the future of civilizations, but also because it has demonstrated that when the soul is stirred by acute crisis it turns to God in simple faith and surest confidence.

The king’s broadcast reached to the depths of all our hearts. We believe that it was given to His Majesty in that hour to speak as one inspired. Because our beloved Sovereign enunciated what we would have written had we also been touched with divine fire, we let His Majesty speak to you again from this editorial page.

Declaring that prayer would fortify “the determination of our sailors, soldiers and airmen to go forth to set captives free,” King George continued: “At this historic moment surely not one of us is too busy, too young or too old to play a part in a nationwide, perchance a worldwide, vigil of prayer as the great crusade sets forth. 

“After nearly five years of toil and suffering we must renew that crusading impluse on which we entered the war and met its darkest hour. We and our Allies are sure that our fight is against evil and for a world in which goodness and honour may be the  foundation of life of men in every land.

“That we may be worthily matched with this new summons of destiny, I desire solemnly to call my people to prayer and dedication.

“We are not unmindful of our shortcomings of the past and present. We shall not ask that God may do our will, but that we may be enabled to do the will of God; and we dare to believe that God has used our nation and Empire as an instrument for fulfilling His high purpose.

“If from every place of worship, from home and factory, from men and women of all ages and many races and occupations our intercessions rise, then please God, both now and in future not remote, the predictions of an ancient psalm may be fulfilled, the Lord will give strength unto His people: the Lord will give His people the blessing of peace.”

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