Tag Archives: Armistice Day

I Will Bless The Lord At All Times

I’m reading a biography of Woodrow Wilson, the 28th president of the United States from 1913 till 1921, who led the country through the brutal years of the First World War, which we remembered yesterday, November 11, Armistice Day.

Wilson was a deeply religious man, the son of a Presbyterian pastor, a wonderful writer and an eloquent speaker. Biographers today tend to use the tools of psychology to explain their subjects but the biographer of this book explains Wilson mostly through his religious beliefs– a refreshing approach.
{ Woodrow Wilson, A Life for World Peace, Jan Willem Shulte Nordholt, Berkeley. Ca. 1991}

Wilson believed that God was good, that people were good, that God was calling all nations to live in peace, and that God had given our country, the United States, a providential role among the family of nations, as a beacon of goodness and righteousness.

He was too much of an optimist, his biographer says. He didn’t see the dark side of humanity or the dark side of our own country. He thought that if you appealed to the better nature of people they would do the right thing. He couldn’t believe people would throw themselves into an awful war, or America could exploit other nations. He saw the world as the beautiful world described by Wordsworth in his poems, not a world devastated by storms (like the one that just struck the Philippines}. He was too optimistic, a Christian without the cross.

And that caused him to underestimate evil and to overestimate political solutions and possibilities. He saw the world incompletely. How many Christians are like him today?

“I will bless the Lord at all times.” (Psalm 34) The psalm is the response to our reading from the Book of Wisdom at today’s Mass; God is with us at all times, good and bad, it says. No need to be blind to evils like death and destruction, the psalm continues. “The Lord has eyes for the just, and ears for their cry… The Lord confronts the evildoers…The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.” The Lord is with us in bad times as well as good.

We can “bless the Lord at all times.”

Veterans Day

Today is Veterans Day, honoring those who fought in our country’s wars. It was originally called Armistice Day celebrating the end of fighting between the Allies and Germany on November 11, 1918. The United States lost 116,516 troops in the 1st World War; other countries lost millions more. The wars that followed added to that count.

Our church calendar today celebrates the Feast of St. Martin of Tours, the great 5th century saint, who is remembered especially as the soldier who gave a beggar half of his cloak on a freezing day at the gate of that city. Son of a Roman officer, Martin chose to become a monk, a man of peace, instead of a soldier. He died on a peace-making visit to a squabbling church in the diocese where he had become bishop.

As a bishop, Martin lived a noticeably poor life; he lived and dressed as a poor man, his biographers say.  Poor in spirit, he identified with the poor. Evidently, the beggar he met at the gate of Tours had a lasting effect on him. In a dream that night, Christ told him he was the beggar Martin clothed that day.

It was customary in Europe for farmers to put away meat for the winter on St. Martin’s feast. They were also urged to put away a portion for the poor this day too.

In Martin’s time as bishop, a group of Christians were following a teacher named Priscillian, who was convinced that the evil in the world was so ingrained in life that only severe ascetical practices could root it out. Other bishops convinced the imperial authorities that the leaders of this heretical group should be executed. Their execution marked the first attempt by Christian leaders to stop heresy by killing those suspected of it.

Martin was against the execution. He believed you didn’t deal with people with wrong ideas by killing them; you had to live with them. You need to have a soldier’s heart to do that.

Pope John XXIII was an admirer of Martin of Tours. I think he wrote a thesis about him. After he was elected pope he wanted to go and pray at his shrine. Another soldier of a sort.