O St. Martin, Equal to the Apsotles!
Praised be Jesus Christ and Mary His Most Holy Mother! As everyone knows, on Wednesday of this week November 11th we will celebrate Veterans’ Day. We will all pray for the members of the armed forces of our nation and we pray for all those who have given their lives for our country, making the supreme sacrifice. Some parishioners may recall when the holiday was called Armistice Day. My father always referred to it by the former name until the day of his death. The origin of the holiday goes to the year 1918 when at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month the armistice was signed ending what we call today the First World War. But the day itself was sacred long before, for it is the Feast of the great Soldier-Saint, St. Martin of Tours who is the only saint given the wondrous title Equal to the Apostles. (In Latin he is called Martinus, Pars-Apostoli).
In 1918 November 11th was a Monday. The hostilities between the warring powers had ceased on Friday November 8, 1918. The German Emperor fled to Holland on Saturday the 9th, and the last Austrian Emperor, the Blessed Karl (beatified in 2004) and his family left Vienna on Sunday the 10th. But the warring parties made the solemn agreement that the armistice would wait to be signed until the Feast of the great St. Martin. For he is the Patron of all soldiers and the patron of both Germany and France. Who was this saint upon whom history waited and what is his story?
St. Martin lived at the end of the fourth century and was from the Roman province of Panomia (in present day Hungary). As a young man he enlisted in the Roman Army and was a centurion assigned to the province of Gaul (present day France) where there was fierce fighting. He was considered the bravest and most valiant soldier serving in the Imperial Army at that time.
Soon he heard of the preaching of the Faith and became a catechumen, one preparing for baptism. One day the great Martin entered a French village where he found an old man freezing in the cold. He immediately drew his sword and with one graceful swoop, cut his red military cloak in two, giving half of it to the shivering man. That night in a dream Our Lord appeared to Martin wearing the half cloak. And Our Lord said to him, “Martin whatever you have done for the least of my brethren, you have done for me. From now on you shall be a soldier in my army, marching beneath the Cross.” Martin was immediately baptized and began to live in the forest as a monk.
Soon his reputation for holiness became so great, that when the city of Tours needed a Bishop the townspeople came looking for him to be their Bishop. Rather than seeking this honor, he fled from them and actually hid in a barn under a bale of hay. When the people entered the barn in search of him, he almost eluded them until suddenly a flock of geese ran into the barn, making their characteristic honking noise near the bale of hay and betrayed him. He was discovered and the people brought Martin back to Tours there to be made Bishop. He became the holiest Bishop in the world and was noted for his love for the poor and his desire for the priests to live exemplary lives. The bravest soldier of the Roman army now became the greatest bishop in the history of the Church.
There are several charming customs that have grown up around the figure of this great Saint. On his feast day, it is the custom in Germany, France and Austria that families gather in a similar way to our American Thanksgiving and one can guess what is served as the family feast, roast goose. (Some say it is to honor the geese for leading the faithful to Martin; others say it is a punishment for their treachery that they are eaten!)
On St. Martin’s Day in Italy the first of the new wine is drunk, wine that had been grapes on the vine just a few weeks earlier. There is an Italian Proverb that goes:
Nel giorno di San Martino
Si beve il buon vino!
(On St. Martin’s Day, one drinks the good wine!) Finally, St. Martin’s last gift to us is the unusual meteorological phenomenon that occurs each year in mid-November in the Northern Hemisphere. At that time there is a slight warming of the earth, almost two months into the autumn season. This is called St. Martin’s Summer.
O Glorious St. Martin, Equal to the Apostles, pray for us and save us. Watch over our armed forces and watch over our children! May You who gave your life to doing good, and still do so from heaven, bless and protect us. Warm the coldness of our hearts so we may love God as did You. Help us to see Our Lord in the poor and suffering as You did. O St. Martin bring peace to the nations of the world and save us who pray to You!
May I then on this Veterans’ Day extend the gratitude of the parish to all of our own parishioners serving in the armed forces and to all our (and my fellow) veterans. (I had the honor to serve in the USAF for eight years).
But today I also salute another category of parish veterans. Although some did indeed serve in the armed forces, the veterans of whom I write are our founding parishioners. How blessed we are that so many of them are here with us; they are our mothers and fathers in the faith. They saw the dream of a church arise here and their sacrifices have built our parish. How happy I always am, when standing in front of the Church, people approach me and say with true and justified pride, We were here at the beginning. You saw Monsignor Potterton (then Father) unearth the first shovel of dirt. We will ever be grateful for all you have done, dear Veterans of St. Paul the Apostle. May God bless and reward you! To that end, I would like to invite all of the founding parishioners of St. Paul to the 11.00am Mass on Sunday November 22nd , the Solemnity of Christ the King. I would ask them all to sit in the “pie” close to the shrine of the Blessed Mother to receive a blessing and our recognition and gratitude. To that Mass also I would like to invite all parish volunteers so that we may thank them on the Sunday before Thanksgiving and that they, too, may be blessed and recognized. After Mass refreshments will be served in the Lower Church.
THE LITTLE SISTERS OF THE POOR: The Little Sisters of the Poor will visit St. Paul’s on the weekend of November 28th and 29th. They will speak of their selfless apostolate in serving the elderly poor.
CONGRATULATIONS, KNIGHT OF ST. GREGORY AND THE NY METS: As I mentioned last week, three of our parishioners were recently honored by the Pope and the Bishop. Last week I wrote of Mrs. Doris Mardovich who received the St. Agnes Medal and Mr. Eric Anderson who received the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice. On Sunday, November 1st I was present at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph on Pacific Street in Brooklyn as our own parishioner (and Chair of the Finance Council) Mr. Joseph Palumbo was elevated to the Equestrian Order of St. Gregory. This was in grateful recognition of all Joe has done for the Church. After the celebration I returned to the Rectory and began to watch the World Series. Like everyone, Iwas rooting for the Mets. How well I remember 1969 and even more 1986. I so well remember watching the last game of the ’86 World Series and being so nervous near the end of the game that I could no longer watch it. I went to bed convinced the Mets would lose. I woke up the nest day (a Sunday) to discover that a miracle had occurred and the Mets had won. Last Sunday the 1st I went to bed at the end of the tenth inning. It was too intense for me to continue watching but I was convinced that if I went to bed, all would be victory in the morning as it was 29 years ago,
When my alarm went off at 5.30 on Monday I learned from WCBS News the sad news that the Mets had lost. My hope had been dashed. History did not repeat itself. You may wonder why is it that am writing about the Mets in this column. It is simply because from the world of sports we learn great lessons. In this world we can never be certain of anything and ultimately the most important thing is that we please God. We can never place our confidence in anything other than God. Disappointment is always part of life but there is one who will never disappoint us and who will always be our changeless friend, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
GALA DINNER DANCE: Our Gala Dinner Dance was a great success this year. So many parishioners came out and really enjoyed the evening with all the excitement of the casino and dancing as well as the delicious food. The Gala is THE major fund raiser of the year and as such was a great success. I am most grateful to Mrs. Paula Maturo and her committee: Anne Maione, Tracy Lynch, Avril D’Costa and Joe Rinklin who tirelessly sold the chances. May God bless them and all of you.
However, the greatest success was for me to see all of our parishioners in a beautiful spirit of unity. As you know, a parish is not a corporation which seeks to make greater and greater profits. It exists for one reason only, the salvation of souls. So as the gala ends let us make the resolution that Marco of the M&M Twins encouraged us in: never to miss Holy Mass and to go to confession frequently. These are the true treasures of the Church.
In Jesus and Mary
Monsignor James F. Pereda