Sunday, November 08, 2009

St. John Lateran , St. Martin and Veterans

As we begin the second full week of November, we celebrate the Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran.
I have many good memories of visiting this huge church in Rome. Next to the church is the Lateran Palace which was home to a succession of Popes for many years. Whenever the Church announces a Jubilee year, there is the holy custom of visiting Rome's four major basilicas. St. John Lateran is one of the four. Even though St. Peter's Basilica is much larger and more famous, since the Holy Father lives next to it, St. John Lateran is really the "cathedral" of the diocese of Rome.
On Wednesday, November 11, Americans and Canadians celebrate or better, commemorate the sacrifices of all veterans. In both countries, there is the custom of purchasing poppy shaped lapel pins to commemorate the sacrifices of those who fought in Flanders Field.
The poem "In Flanders field" by Lt. Colonel John McCrae is a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made long ago by some, and more recently by others:
In Flanders Field

In Flanders field the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singling, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from falling hands we throw
the torch, be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

In Canada, November 11th is called "Remembrance Day." In the USA we call it Veterans' Day or Armistice Day. It is fitting that this day falls in the middle of the month dedicated to prayer for the departed. We honor those veterans who have died, and those who among us who have survived combat.

November 11th is also the feast of St. Martin of Tours. Many bear the family name of "Martin" in various forms. Researchers say it comes from Martin of Tours, a holy monk who evangelized the countryside in what is now France. I chanced upon a book on St. Martin's life. I am fascinated by how much he traveled, and how his charisma influenced many who chose to become monks through his example. I wish happy name day to all who bear the name Martin--either as a first name or as a surname. May his zeal inspire all of us.

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