Saturday, November 11, 2006

Veterans' Day

As you know, today's my birthday!

Yes, I still acknowledge it. No, I'm not as happy about my age as I used to be.

The Blushing Bride, Fine young Fool and I will head out soon to enjoy a sumptuous breakfast. Tonight, the Bride and I plan a quiet dinner out.

Needless to say, blogging may be light, today. Yes, I know I haven't been back long enough. Life happens.

Here's a reflection of today that I wrote last year. Enjoy:
Besides being the Feast of St. Martin of Tours, today--in the United States of America--it's Veterans' Day.

There are many fitting Godincidences to this day. First of all, there's the origins of Veteran's Day:
At 5 A.M. on Monday, November 11, 1918 the Germans signed the Armistice, an order was issued for all firing to cease; so the hostilities of the First World War ended. This day began with the laying down of arms, blowing of whistles, impromptu parades, closing of places of business. All over the globe there were many demonstrations; no doubt the world has never before witnessed such rejoicing. In November of 1919, President Woodrow Wilson issued his Armistice Day proclamation. The last paragraph set the tone for future observances:
To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nation.

In 1927 Congress issued a resolution requesting President Calvin Coolidge to issue a proclamation calling upon officials to display the Flag of the United States on all government buildings on November 11, and inviting the people to observe the day in schools and churches...But it was not until 1938 that Congress passed a bill that each November 11 "shall be dedicated to the cause of world peace and ...hereafter celebrated and known as Armistice Day."

That same year President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a bill making the day a legal holiday in the District of Columbia. For sixteen years the United States formally observed Armistice Day, with impressive ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where the Chief Executive or his representative placed a wreath. In many other communities, the American Legion was in charge of the observance, which included parades and religious services. At 11 A.M. all traffic stopped, in tribute to the dead, then volleys were fired and taps sounded.
Then, there is the day's transformation:
After World War II, there were many new veterans who had little or no association with World War I. The word, "armistice," means simply a truce; therefore as years passed, the significance of the name of this holiday changed. Leaders of Veterans' groups decided to try to correct this and make November 11 the time to honor all who had fought in various American wars, not just in World War I.

In Emporia, Kansas, on November 11, 1953, instead of an Armistice Day program, there was a Veterans' Day observance. Ed Rees, of Emporia, was so impressed that he introduced a bill into the House to change the name to Veterans' Day. After this passed, Mr. Rees wrote to all state governors and asked for their approval and cooperation in observing the changed holiday. The name was changed to Veterans' Day by Act of Congress on May 24, 1954. In October of that year, President Eisenhower called on all citizens to observe the day by remembering the sacrifices of all those who fought so gallantly, and through rededication to the task of promoting an enduring peace. The President referred to the change of name to Veterans' Day in honor of the servicemen of all America's wars.
So this American commemoration of all US veterans originated as a celebration of peace. St. Martin of Tours is one of the patron saints of armies. He's also a warrior that refused to shed blood:
It was the practice at the time to give money to soldiers before battle, in order to infuse the soldiers with a greater love of their country and desire to fight. When Julian lined up the soldiers in Gaul to give them their bounty, Martin refused to accept the money -- and to fight -- saying, "Put me in the front of the army, without weapons or armor; but I will not draw sword again. I am become the soldier of Christ." There seems to be no evidence that Martin had been in combat before so perhaps he never had to reconcile his Christian beliefs with war. In any case, it does seem an unfortunate time to make such a decision. Julian, furious at what he saw as cowardice, told Martin he would grant him his wish and put him right in the middle of battle the next day. Until that happened, he had Martin imprisoned. However, against all predictions and all explanation, the nomads sent word that they wanted to negotiate for peace and the battle was postponed. Martin was released from his prison and from the army.
Who says God doesn't have a sense of humor?

America, the world's last Superpower, celebrates Veterans day, which began as Armistice Day, honoring the end of combat in WWI. On the same day, the Catholic Church celebrates the solemnity of a patron saint of the military, and this saint refuses to fight for anyone save Christ. What message may we Fools discern from this?

Perhaps this one: all war--even a just war--is a defeat for humanity. While the fulfillment of the strict conditions for a Just War may render a conflict morally licit, nothing makes it morally commendable. Ultimately, nations justly fight war in order to achieve peace. They fight against unjust aggression when all else fails to redress just grievances. Therefore, they fight to restore justice--a necessity of authentic peace. We would do well to remember this. Our society fights a just war against islamofascists that celebrate murder as acts of reverence and resistance. Such enemies refuse any measure of diplomacy or redress; we fight them to defend our very lives and our existence as a society. However, we fight them ultimately in order to live in peace once again.

True peace comes only from Christ. If we want peace, then we must work for justice, as Pope John Paul the Great has said. Finishing his thought, he also said that if we want justice, we must live in the Truth. Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. As we, whom the Reasonable world call Fools, share our personal encounter with Christ with the world, we foster peace. Once the warriors have accomplished the necessary work of ensuring our society's defense, we Fools must witness to Christ before those desperate for him. Special Forces and smart bombs are not enough. Only Christ is sufficient.

Honor our veterans today. Without their sacrifice, we would lack the opportunity to evangelize. Thank our Veterans today. Without them, we lose the freedom to witness to the Lord. Celebrate their accomplishments, while remembering always that they fought for us, not to forever walk the path of Ares, but to secure our home for peace.

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