In two weeks we will celebrate two important dates on the calendar. One date is on the secular calendar and the other date is on the church’s calendar. They converge on the same day. On Wednesday November 11, 2015 the church will celebrate Saint Martin of Tours. You already know about his life. He was a Roman soldier who unknowingly encountered Jesus hidden in a poor and homeless man. While Martin did not know it was the Lord, still he gave the poor man half his cloak. Later Jesus was to appear to Martin with the cloak. Immediately Martin realized the words of scripture: “What you have done for the least, you have done for me.” Martin left the army and became the Bishop of Tours, France.
The secular date shared with the former soldier Martin is Veteran’s Day when all of America recognizes her own soldiers who have served The United States of America. In a special way we remember those who gave their lives for this country.
This Veteran’s Day I will have the privilege of saying Mass on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France. This is the place of the “D-Day Landings.” I will offer that Mass amidst the countless headstones of those youths who gave their lives for us. I am told that the majority of those headstones are marked by crosses that silently tell us that they gave everything for our freedom. These men and women are in a secular sense “American Martyrs” who gave their lives for us. I recall the words of General Colin Powell who spoke in 2003 of those Americans who have continuously given of themselves: “We have gone forth from our shore repeatedly…and put wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives, and we have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them.”
And so I shall have that greatest honor for any priest as done from antiquity: to offer Mass for their souls upon their very graves. I write to you a few weeks in advance to ask a favor. Please give me those names of your family and loved ones who gave their lives for us in service to the country. Most especially if they were at Normandy on D-Day. I will carry their names to the beaches of Normandy. I will remember each one by name at Mass and I will leave their names there with the prayers and gratitude of a grateful nation.
Fr. Gerard Gordon