I want you to think about heroes. Think about who you might say is one of your heroes. Maybe it’s an athlete, someone who is great at baseball or football or hockey, or whatever sport you like. Maybe it’s someone in your family who has done great things and has helped you in some way. Whoever our heroes are, they are people who make us think of becoming more than what we are, people who help us to become who we are meant to be.
Today we have the opportunity to celebrate some heroes. One hero is today’s saint, Saint Martin of Tours, who was actually a veteran and a fierce defender of our faith. The other heroes are our nation’s veterans, who have fought in wars to protect us and to protect our freedoms.
St. Martin of Tours is a fitting saint to pray for veterans today. His father was a veteran and he himself became a soldier and served his country faithfully, even though that was not what he most wanted to do. But, at fifteen he entered the army and served under the Emperors Constantius and Julian. While in the service he met a poor, naked beggar at the gates of the city who asked for alms in Christ’s Name. Martin had nothing with him except his weapons and soldier’s mantle; but he took his sword, cut the mantle in two, and gave half to the poor man. During the following night Christ appeared to him clothed with half a mantle and said, “Martin, the catechumen, has clothed me with this mantle!”
During this time, Martin became a catechumen, someone preparing to become a Catholic, and he wanted to focus on doing that. He asked his superiors in the army, “I have served you as a soldier; now let me serve Christ. Give the bounty to those who are going to fight. But I am a soldier of Christ and it is not lawful for me to fight.” After a time, he asked for and received release from military service. Having received his release, he became a monk and served God faithfully. As a soldier of Christianity now, he fought valiantly against paganism and appealed for mercy to those accused of heresy. He was made a bishop, also not his first choice of things to become, and served faithfully in that post.
On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day in the eleventh month of the year 1918, an armistice was signed, ending the “war to end all wars” – World War I. November 11 was set aside as Armistice Day in the United States to remember the sacrifices that men and women made during the war in order to ensure a lasting peace. In 1938 Congress voted Armistice Day as a legal holiday, but World War II began the following year. Armistice Day was still observed after the end of the Second World War. In 1953 townspeople in Emporia, Kansas called the holiday Veterans Day in gratitude to the veterans in their town. Soon after, Congress passed a bill renaming the national holiday to Veterans Day. Today, we remember those who have served for our country in the armed forces in our prayers.
On this Veterans Day, we honor and pray for veterans of our armed forces who have given of themselves in order to protect our country and its freedoms. We pray especially for those who have died in battle, as well as for those who have been injured physically or mentally during their military service. We pray in thanksgiving for all of our freedoms, gained at a price, and pray that those freedoms will always be part of our way of life.
I found a prayer for veterans which I adapted to be part of our prayer today. As I pray it, think of someone you know who may be a veteran, one of the veterans here today, or perhaps is currently serving in the armed forces. Maybe that veteran is even you. If you don’t have anyone particular to pray for, ask God to hear this prayer on behalf of a veteran who has no one to pray for them. So let us pray:
God of peace,
we pray for those who have served our nation
and who laid down their lives
to protect and defend our freedom.
We pray for those who have fought,
whose spirits and bodies are scarred by war,
whose nights are haunted by memories
too painful for the light of day.
We pray for those who serve us now,
especially for those in harm’s way.
Shield them from danger
and bring them home safely.
Turn the hearts and minds
of our leaders and our enemies
to the work of justice and a harvest of peace.
You are the One who calls us to peace,
who gives us your everlasting peace.
So let the peace you left us,
the peace you gave us,
be the peace that sustains,
the peace that saves us.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.