11.11.08

Thoughts on November 11.

Once again I have the honour to post an article from my friend Matthew Palardy. de Brantigny

November 11 is the memorial of St. Martin de Tours, who was a cataphract in the Imperial Roman Army. Named for the war-god Mars and son of a tribune, he was destined for a promising military career, until the famous and oft-repeated incident in which he divided his scarlet cloak in half to clothe a naked beggar in Amiens, only to see in a dream later that the beggar to whom he had extended his charity was Jesus Christ Himself. Awakening in the morning, he found his cloak had been restored whole, and it became a treasured relic of the kings of the Franks. Unable to fight a Gaulish insurrection due to his religious principles, Martin was subsequently imprisoned and discharged from the Roman service. Taking on the mantle of religion, he went on to establish the first monasteries in Gaul and to become the Bishop of Tours.

Appropriately, the armistice ending the fratricidal devastation of the First World War on the Western Front was signed and came into effect on the memorial of this soldier-saint in 1918, 90 years ago. Having rejected the peace overtures of Pope Benedict XV and Charles I of Austria, peace in Europe finally came at the hands of “the Big Four,” an American racist and eugenicist, a Welsh Baptist Whig, an anticlerical French republican, and a Sicilian Mafioso—and no lasting peace, as Marshal Foch rightly pointed out, but a reprieve for 20 years. Charles I, the last reigning Habsburg prince, had been deposed, and would die several years later. The Russian Empire was dead, the Czar and his family summarily executed, and that diabolical idolatry, the Red Terror of Communism, had emerged to destroy the Russian people. What historians call the “long 19th century,” which began at the Bastille, was over, and an even more wicked age of feuding ideologies had been ushered in. Christendom, that traditional order of Europe, met her end. The past of Europe was dead, just as the future of Europe, the brave poilus and Tommy Atkinses whom we today commemorate, lay beneath the red poppies. It is rather appropriate that we should honour them with the memory of All Souls’ Day so clear in our minds.

The first blood of this long 19th-c. battle against Christendom was shed during the French Revolution, particularly heavily in the loyal Vendée and other western regions of France—areas St. Martin had evangelized. The armistice itself was signed in Foch’s railway carriage in Compiègne, where 14 subsequently beatified Carmelite nuns were sent to the guillotine, and where earlier, Ste Jeanne d’Arc was captured. And from there the insatiable river of blood widened as materialism marched through Europe turning nation against nation, people against people, brother against brother, and everyone against the Church, ending, in a sense, where it had begun.

We are likely today not to be called upon to defend our fatherlands from foreign aggression, to take up arms in the manner of the noble fallen of 1914-18. However, I have not given up on Christendom, occupied territory that she is today, and, I presume that, because you are reading this, neither have you, reader. The glorious war dead were certainly no pious caricatures, but they had virtue strong enough to have made the ultimate sacrifice for the honour of their nation and for their way of life. Certainly, the fallen were ordinary men before the call to arms, just as we are ordinary men today. As Catholics, would we make such a sacrifice for our Church and those that hold the Catholic Faith? Or would be barter away our culture and our identity for a trifle? Let us take example from St. Martin, who contested paganism and Arianism, and contest the false doctrines and cultures so prevalent in our midst, all the while promoting the true Catholic faith and cultures, for which our ancestors fought and died, that the sacrifice of those who have gone before us and whom we honour so deeply will not have been in vain.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


-from In Flanders Fields, by Lt.-Col. John McCrae, Canadian Army Medical Corps

Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis.

St Martin, priez pour nous.

Pour Dieu et La France,
Matthew Palardy

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