Veterans Day and the World War I Memorial at St Andrew’s, Billerica

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Veterans Day is the day when we honor our military veterans. Thank you for your service. All around the world, the 11th of November is called Armistice Day or Remembrance Day. This is to commemorate the ceasefire which went into effect on the western front effectively ending World War I in 1918. Roughly 20 million people lost their lives in the hostilities.

Insofar as men are sinful, the threat of war hangs over them, and hang over them it will until the return of Christ. But insofar as men vanquish sin by a union of love, they will vanquish violence as well and make these words come true: “They shall turn their swords into plough-shares, and their spears into sickles. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4).

From the Gaudium et Spes, #78

This memorial hangs in St Andrew Church in Billerica, Massachusetts. The Savior hangs from the cruciform hilt of a sword to remind us that our sufferings cannot be separated from His.

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The memorial inscription reads:

These are they who, having sought the Sacraments in this House of God, raised their swords to defend the Law of Love and went forth with gladness to die, if required of them, in order that peace and happiness, truth and justice, religion and piety might be established among all nations.

IMG_1298Detailed figures of a soldier and a sailor represent the men who went forth.

IMG_1300“In gratitude to Almighty God”

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In the United States, we would do well to reflect on the twofold nature of today. First, we should think about the veterans themselves. In this regard, we can take our marching orders from Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, “to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan.” No person who has had to witness the scourge of war firsthand should be left alone. Second, we ought to consider the route cause of all war: sin. Sin attacks peace and justice and if left unchecked results in large-scale brutalities. The battle against sin must first be fought in our hearts. In our hearts we must learn to love God, virtue, and our neighbor. In this way, we will truly be people of justice. Nations are only as just as their citizens.

St Martin of Tours, who the Church celebrates today, is a model of the love with which we should act. We see this in the most famous story from his life. Before he was a bishop, St Martin was a soldier in the Roman army. One day, as he was approaching a city he came upon a beggar in scant clothing. Immediately he took his sword and cut his cloak in two so as to give half to the beggar. That night as St Martin slept, he had a dream in which Our Lord was clothed with the cloak.

“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).

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