Tuesday, November 11, 2014
At eleven minutes after the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, World War I ended.
It was a war entered into by most of Europe with jubilation 4 years before. The astonishing slaughter of the trenches in pointless battles at Verdun, Ypres, the Somme, the Argonne, the Marne, and Gallipoli turned the jubilation into bleak despair as Europe's generals could think of nothing better than to have an entire generation slaughtered and maimed, marched into machine-gun fire and left to hang on the barbed wire of no-man's land, while their governments ginned up what popular enthusiasm they could by proclaiming it a war to end all wars.
World War I ended Europe's dominance of the world.
It's outcome abruptly ended the rule of the Romanovs, Habsburgs, and Hohenzollerns.
It brought the menace of communism to reality in Russia.
It made the rise of Nazism in Germany possible.
It butchered innocence and optimism along with millions of young men.
The airplane, the tank, and the submarine for the first time became significant instruments of war.
Europe no longer had the self-confidence, or the money, to maintain colonial empires after the war, so most of mankind was swiftly cut adrift into the modern world without proper guidance in how to cope in it.
It brought the US and Russia to the fore of world power.
But the battle of attrition of that war wasn't properly concluded. The peace that was imposed was so mild, yet seemingly so harsh, that Germany was both motivated to, and able to attack again in 30 years, bringing on even greater human catastrophe, and dimming Europe's star, perhaps forever.
The day that ended that nightmare of a war has been commemorated solemnly ever since.
When I was a child there were still many World War I veterans alive. But, as Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy sang, "The old men still answer the call/But year after year, the numbers get fewer/Someday no one will march there at all." Today the youngest veteran of World War I is in his late 90s and very few people have contact with anyone who fought that grievous, bloody, pitiless war. They are almost all gone now, except for a handful for particularly hardy men across the globe. Sadly, World War I has become a forgotten war.
Today, World War II veterans are disappearing at a rate similar to the mortality of World War I veterans when I was young.
The subsequent history of mankind has made a mock of the claim that "The Great War" would end all wars.
On a personal note, my grandfather and 2 of his brothers enlisted in the 1st Battalion, Connaught Rangers (formerly the 88th Regiment of Foot) in 1915. My grandfather was a gas casualty at Ypres, but survived the war. He died in 1936, 28 years before I was born.
The Green Fields Of France, by Davey Arthur and the Fureys
Ronnie Drew and the Dubliners, singing And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda
Thank you for your sacrifices!
Today the Church celebrates Saint Martin of Tours, one of the most important saints in western Christendom.
Martin was born in Pannonia around 325, and entered the Roman army's elite cavalry at an early age. Encountering a beggar while was stationed at Amiens, he divided his cloak with him. According to legend, the beggar revealed himself to be Christ himself.
Shortly after age 20, he was baptized and left the army, becoming an exorcist under the direction of Saint Hilary of Poitiers. He lived as a hermit on the island of Gallinaria, and returned to Gaul where he founded a monastery at Liguge, the first important monastery in the West. His monastery followed the Rule of Saint Basil.
In 371, he was forcibly carried off to become bishop of Tours. He had hidden from the delegation from Tours, but his hiding place, it is said, was revealed by a goose, hence the custom of eating goose on Martinmas.
He ruled the see of Tours for 26 years. In that time, he made numerous conversions in Berry, Touraine, Anjou, Beauce, Dauphiny, Paris, Luxembourg, Trier, and Sennonais. Wherever he went, he cast down idols, built churches, and left priests and monks to carry out his work.
In 397, worn out, he lay dying at Candes. His followers begged him to live. He struggled to say, "If God finds that I can still be of use to His people, I do not at all refuse to work and to struggle longer." He died with his face turned to Heaven.
He became almost immediately, the most popular saint in Chistendom. In France alone, 4,000 churches are dedicated to him, and over 500 villages are named for him.
Martinmas in Europe corresponds to the traditional time for slaughtering animals not intended to be kept alive through the winter. It also signals the time that the new vintage of wine is ready for drinking. Fresh beef and Beaujolais Noveau have traditionally meant feasting in Europe. So Martinmas has traditionally been a jolly time, a last opportunity to enjoy God's bounty before the fast of Advent starts.
Here is what Fisheaters has on Martinmas and its customs.
Monday, November 10, 2014
As addicted as our Argentine Pope and his closest advisors (I almost used the word henchmen, my bad) seem to be to Machiavelli, they forgot an old dictum, which if Niccolo himself didn't say it, he certainly should have: "Keep your friends close, and your enemies even closer!".