It’s Remembrance Day here in Canada as well as Britain and the rest of her dominions and territories, called Veterans’ Day down south. In the Church, it’s also the feast of one our most well-known and beloved of saints, Martin, Bishop of Tours, a providential coincidence to which we will return to in a moment.
If it is dulce et decorum pro patribus mori – ‘sweet and fitting to die for one’s country (or ancestors) – we in turn owe it to remember and pray for those ancestors who made that ultimate sacrifice, especially in the horrors of both World Wars. Millions of young men on the battlefield, along with untold numbers of civilians, women, children, as the war to end all wars spread beyond the trenches, into the sanctuary of homes and churches. Nothing and no one was spared. Even those apparently unscathed were at the very least willing to face the worst, as they stormed over hills, onto fortified beaches in the face of machine guns and artillery; fierce guerilla warfare from house to house; infernal battlegrounds the world over.
There are distinctions to be made here, however: We do not rejoice in war itself, nor even in the oft-limited victories won. Many, perhaps all, of the more recent wars and conflicts in history have not fully fulfilled the criteria of what the Church calls a ‘just war’, and most end in some sort of uneasy and unjust compromise – as the last World War did with Stalin’s Communism, which often sets the stage for further conflict. In this life, we will have no lasting peace.