In 1918, on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month,” a cessation of hostilities was signed between the Allies of the Western front and Germany, thus ending World War One. The War at the time, was known as the “War to end All Wars” because it was one of the deadliest conflicts in history… it was so bad that the citizens of the world said at the time that war was such an atrocity that it could not ever be allowed to happen again.
Perhaps coincidentally, November 11 is also the day we celebrate the Feast of St. Martin of Tours. Born in the early 300s, his father was a Roman Soldier and he was named after Mars, the God of War. He eventually became a soldier as well, but then early in life he had a conversion experience in which he maintains that he encountered Christ in the appearance of a beggar. Soon after this experience, he determined that his faith prohibited him from fighting, saying, “I am a soldier of Christ. I cannot fight.”
One of the reasons we remember St. Martin of Tours is because his life represents a transition from a condition of war, to a condition of peace. And after World War One ended, President Woodrow Wilson established November 11 as a national holiday to honor a day in which a similar transition from condition of war to a condition of peace was made: Armistice Day. The day in America would eventually become known, of course, as Veterans Day in order to honor and thank all of those who have served our country in the armed forces, in order to honor all of those who put themselves in harms way to preserve our safety and our freedom.
The freedom and the safety we have received from these men and women as well as their families, is a tremendous gift, so we commemorate and celebrate those individuals who have sacrificed so much for us. But in doing so, we might want to ask God for guidance on what ways we ourselves can—both as individual people and as a collective nation—move from a condition of war and conflict to a condition of peace. As St. Martin of Tours has shown us, there could be few better ways to use the gifts of freedom and safety we have received, than to honor the memory of those that sacrificed so much, by working for that transition from war to peace… both as Christians and as citizens.
Deacon Juan F. Lezcano, OFS