I greet you in the Name of the Lord Jesus on this commemoration of “Veterans Day.” On November 11, 1919, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Armistice Day, as it was called originally, to be observed annually. To honor the armistice ending World War I— formally ending the “great war” at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. It was suppose to end all wars but that didn’t happen as we very well know. After WWII, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law, that November 11 would be a day to honor all veterans, and so today our country celebrates Veterans Day.
You might ask yourself what the link is between St. Martin of Tours and Veterans day. For one November 11th is his feast day. Second because Martin of Tours was a veteran himself. He was a soldier before receiving his calling. So it is quite fitting, for today is a feast day of one of our Church’s well known and beloved soldier Saint, a patron Saint of soldiers along with St. Michael, St. George, and St. Ignatius, and St. Joan of Arc. St. Martin of Tours, born of pagan parents, was the son of a veteran, a soldier and officer in the Roman army, though Martin was actually forced to serve in the army against his will at the age of 15. The word Chapel and Chaplain is been said to go directly back to St. Martin…because he cut his cape or cloak (cappa or cappella in Latin). In English it is a little hard to recognize the word in cappella but in my native language, Dutch, it is not. In the Dutch word kapel you can easily recognize cappela. Cappelanus came to the English language via Old French as ‘chaplain’. In Dutch it became kapelaan (associate priest).
While, serving in the army, Martin began to desire Christian baptism, and was enrolled as a catechumen. There is the famous story when on a bitterly cold day ,the soldier, Martin met a poor man, almost naked, trembling in the cold and begging at the city gate. Martin had nothing but his weapons and his clothes. So he drew his sword, cut his cloak into two pieces, gave one to the beggar. Some of the bystanders laughed at his now odd appearance, wearing only half a cloak; others were ashamed at not having relieved the man’s misery themselves. That night in his sleep Martin saw Christ dressed in the cloak he had given to the beggar and said, “Martin, still a catechumen, has covered me with his garment.” At the age of 23 he told his commander: “I have served you as a soldier; now let me serve Christ.” Martin was discharged from the army and became a hermit under the direction of another saint, St. Hilary. Martin was elected bishop, dedicated much of his efforts to evangelization, founded a monastery, and attracted many vocations to the monastic life. He continued to live the ascetic life as a bishop, always keeping to heart, “that which you did for these least of my brethren, you did for me” as he did for that beggar. St. Martin reminds us of our duty as Christians towards those in need, and our duty to conform ourselves to Christ whatever our vocation—through prayer, detachment from material things, prayerful and right living, that our whole lives might be put at the service of our King and shepherd, for the glory of God and salvation of souls.
Back to Veterans day. When Veterans day was proclaimed it was supposed to end all wars…but it did not happen. Undoubtedly, those wars can make us depressed and sad about the state of the world. We were so hopeful that goodness and truth would come out of violence and evil; and it did not happen. Moreover, we are even now living through precarious and dangerous times. We had our own ‘tribulation” with all the wars. From Vietnam to Korea and from Afghanistan to Iraq (and so many more). In times of ongoing war there is always fear around the corner. There is an unspoken undercurrent of anxiety and uncertainty. We don’t know what the future holds. But what we do know is that there is a true and living God. To speak in the words of Job: “I know that my Redeemer lives” (Job 19). Let us be hopeful that the good will always win. Our veterans deserve our respect because they fight for the freedom we enjoy. Veterans fight to preserve our constitutional rights. Veterans die so we can live. So, on this Veterans Day, let us give thanks to God for their service and keep them in our prayers always. Amen.