In Europe, this day is celebrated as Armistice Day. Traditionally, November 11 had previously served as a day of signing peace treaties in honor of Saint Martin. Thus, it was fitting to end Europe’s Great War on this same day – the festival of Saint Martin of Tours. It recalls the ending of World War I at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice.
However, there is a deeper, Catholic meaning to November 11th. This day is the feast day of Saint Martin (c. 316 – 397) – who became a monk and bishop after being a soldier. Saint Martin is Europe’s chief example of the transition from soldier to saint; from bringing peace through military service to bringing peace through his ministry in the Catholic Church.
Saint Martin is most famous for having cut his military cloak in half to share with a beggar while he was still in the Roman army, who soon after entered into the Catholic Church saying, “I am now a soldier of Christ.” His example reminds us that all walks of life can lead to a life of virtue including those who fight to protect their country.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that although war is to be avoided where possible, there is such a thing as just war. Sometimes it is necessary to fight, and those who do the fighting in those cases do a noble service.
The Catechism states: “Those who are sworn to serve their country in the armed forces are servants of the security and freedom of nations. If they carry out their duty honorably, they truly contribute to the common good of the nation and the maintenance of peace.”
So we Catholics celebrate both Saint Martin’s Day and Veterans Day.
PRAYER: St. Martin, you were first a soldier. Converted to the Catholic Church, you also became a soldier of Christ, a priest and then the Bishop of Tours. Lover of the poor, and model for both pagans and Christians alike, protect our soldiers at all times. Make them strong, just, and charitable, always aiming at establishing peace on earth. Amen.