In 1918 November 11th was also a Monday. The hostilities 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 betraying 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:
Si beve il buon vino!
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 23th, 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.
MINISTRY OF HOSPITALITY: Please consider being part of this very important ministry in our parish. For many years Mrs. Ursula Coughlin and Mr. Andy Coughlin have selflessly dedicated themselves to this important work of evangelization. Many hands make light work, so please sign up for this important ministry by contacting Mrs. Coughlin.
MEMORIALS: For those who would like to give a memorial in memory of a loved one, please call the Parish Office and speak with Mrs. Genna, our administrative assistant. We are presently memorializing a statue of St. Paul for the chapel, and six pavement lights for funerals. These are quite beautiful and they burn unbleached wax candles. We also have two more St. Kilian candle racks to be memorialized. We are grateful for all you have contributed to our new state of the art sound system (done by Monte Brothers who installed the sound system in the newly renovated St. Patrick’s Cathedral).
Monsignor James F. Pereda