The terrible First World War ended at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918. This Sunday marks the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day. The guns weren’t silent for long, but at least they stopped for a while. Eagerly lain down, reluctantly taken up again.
Speaking of reluctance, this Remembrance Sunday is also Martinmas, the feast of St Martin of Tours (d 397). Martin was both a soldier and a bishop, though reluctant in both roles. He was a bit of a conscientious objector and he was practically forced to become a bishop. He even tried to hide among some geese, but they gave him away, as geese do. Surely this is why there is a tradition of eating geese, the traitors, on Martinmas.
We belong to the Church Militant, ecclesia militans. Like pilgrim soldiers on the march, we are surrounded by perennial foes which seek to thwart our progress: the world, the flesh and the Devil. God has provided spiritual arms of defence and of offence through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and by our membership in Christ’s Mystical Body, the Catholic Church. The sacraments and sacramentals are mighty arms which we eagerly receive and only reluctantly postpone.
As November continues, we offer through the month special prayers for the Poor Souls in Purgatory, our brethren in the ecclesia dolens or expectans, the Church Suffering or Expectant, a beautiful spiritual work of mercy. We should also tend to the souls of the poor soldiering along with us in this vale of tears by helping them with clothing, a beautiful corporal work of mercy, and with other needs. Donations to clothing drives are one way, and not all that difficult. St Martin is depicted as cutting his cloak with his sword to give half to a beggar, shivering in the cold. The beggar was Christ. Christ is in our beggars.
We might make ours what reluctant yet eager St Martin prayed in his old age: “Lord, if you bid me continue to hold the battle line in defence of your camp, I will never beg to be excused from failing strength. I will do the work you entrust to me. While you command, I will fight beneath your banner. Amen.”
Fight for Christ with mercy. In this season of long, cold nights many are alone. Kindness and company may bring even more succour than bread and stockings.
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