This week on November 11, the United States celebrates its annual observance of Veterans Day. This national holiday dates back to 1918, when the armistice between the Allied countries and Germany on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” brought an end to World War I. President Woodrow Wilson declared November 11 would be observed as “Armistice Day.” Congress officially changed the name to “Veterans Day” in 1954 to recognize all men and women who had served within the military during times of war. We continue to remember all those who have served, and also those who currently serve in conflicts in the name of peace around the world.
Ironically, November 11 is also the feast day of Saint Martin of Tours. Martin was born into a pagan, Roman military family. At an early age, he felt God’s calling to become a Christian. He became a soldier at the age of 15, and a famous tale is told about the young man and a poor beggar. Martin took pity on the poor man, cut his military cloak in half, and gave it to him for him to keep warm. Later that night, Martin had a dream that the poor man was actually Jesus wearing the cut half of the cloak. Martin eventually left the army and followed Christ as a monastic hermit. Martin would be later pressed into becoming the bishop of Tours, where he preached about God’s non-discriminating love and acceptance of all people, regardless of their background. He died at the age of 81 in 397 in France. His simple life and love for the poor have made him a popular saint in Europe today.
So, what do these two celebrations on November 11 say to us as Catholics? We are called as disciples of Jesus Christ to make a difference in our world through our witness and presence. A guiding factor for all of us is to always remember the principles of Catholic Social Teaching:
- Life and Dignity of the Human Person—Every person is created in the image of God and therefore has dignity and worth they can never lose.
- Call to Family, Community, and Participation—Human beings are social beings by their very nature. We are called to connect with others through family and society.
- Rights and Responsibilities—Because all humans have dignity, they are entitled to life, which includes food, housing, health care, education, and employment. We are called to support these basic rights for all people.
- Option for the Poor and Vulnerable—Society is scrutinized for how it takes care of its most vulnerable. The poor are not able to share in the goods that God intended for all. We need to constantly ask ourselves how decisions will affect society’s most vulnerable.
- Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers—Work is more than just a job. Work is also participation in God’s ongoing creative work. All workers are to be respected and have access to adequate wages in order to support their families.
- Solidarity—Because we all belong to one human family, we are our sisters’ and brothers’ keepers, regardless of who they are or where they live.
- Care for God’s Creation—From the beginning, God set humanity as stewards of his creation. Through creation, God’s existence is continually revealed. We are called and challenged to protect our planet and all it contains.
This week, be sure to thank the veterans you encounter for their service, and for what their sacrifices have meant for us as Americans. Also remember Saint Martin of Tours and his example of reaching out to the poor and the lost in society. We follow in his footsteps on the formative journey, and continue to work for peace and justice for all of the people of God.
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Paul Schroeder works as a sales representative for RCL Benziger in the East Region. He brings over 30 years of experience to catechesis and Catholic education. Paul has served as a parish catechetical leader, diocesan director, Catholic school principal and teacher throughout his ministerial career. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies from John Carroll University, a Master in Theological Studies from Saint John Seminary, and a Master of Education in Catholic School Leadership from Marymount University.