There was a time when people thought of going to war not only as a duty and responsibility that they owed to their homeland but as a point of honor. It was something that many young men looked forward to. We can’t imagine that because we live after the war that changed all of that, that changed civilization forever, the Great War or the War to End All Wars, what we normally call World War I.
The world powers in England, France, Germany, and Russia saw this war coming decades ahead of time, knowing that the system of alliances that kept the peace couldn’t last forever. They also saw the technology of war changing with the invention of machine guns, more powerful explosives and artillery, airplanes, and even poison gas. Tsar Nicholas II of Russia called the leaders of 26 nations, including all of the major world powers, to the Hague Conferences in 1899 and 1907, where these nations agreed to outlaw the use of poisons and any technology developed after the Conferences.
However, in 1914 this all went out the window when World War I began. In January 2015, the Germans were the first to use poison gas against the Russians, first against the Russians and then the French and British. They were soon emulated by the British and French. During the course of the war three types of poison gas were developed, bromide, chlorine, and mustard gas. Each one was worse than the last, and even if you survived the initial attack, you might have to deal with debilitating effects from it for the rest of your life. When you add in the first wide-scale use of machine guns, aerial bombing, modern artillery, and trench warfare, the casualties of World War I were higher than any previous war (around 10 million military and 6 million civilian lives lost), and the survivors suffered terrible physical and psychological effects from the war.
This all lead to a greater understanding of the effects that wars have on the people who fight them and are caught up in them. What previous generations thought of as cowardice or weakness, we now understand to be normal human reactions to horrible, traumatic experiences. The soldiers on both sides of that war were honored by the establishment of Armistice Day on November 11, the day that the war ended. In the United States it was raised to a national holiday in 1938. It occurs on the “11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month,” which is when the armistice was signed. In 1954, President (formerly General) Dwight D. Eisenhower changed it to Veterans Day in 1954.
On this November 11, at 11 AM, let us pause to offer a prayer for the roughly 18 million living Veterans in the US, and countless who have already passed away. Let’s also remember that we join countries around the world in honoring their own Veterans and all those, no matter what country they’re from, who fight to protect their homes and people.
St. Michael the Archangel, patron saint of soldiers, pray for them.
In one of my favorite quotes, the one that I put on the end of all of my emails, Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos said, “Time, in which we have found nothing to offer up to God, is lost for eternity.” Blessed Francis Seelos goes on to explain how we can offer things up to God, like our work, our sufferings, inconveniences, and also prayers and obedience to God, but I want to focus on time.
Today is the day when we “fall back” in daylight savings time and lose an hour on the clocks. The idea of daylight savings time is to add an extra hour of daylight to the workday, so we can get more work done. We don’t like to waste any time that we could be using to accomplish our own priorities, whether that’s business or pleasure. We want to give ourselves more time in the day to work or play, to accomplish things, and we go so far as to adjust the very clocks that we use to tell the time. Unfortunately, we don’t actually gain an hour. There are still 24 hours in a day. There’s still the same amount of sunlight and darkness in the day as there would have been anyway, we just adjust what times of the day are bright so we don’t lose an hour of sunlight before people wake up and go to work.
We may be able to control the clocks, but we don’t control time itself. There is only One who is outside of time, and He is the only One who can give us more time or take it away. We only have so much time left, and we don’t know how long it will be until our time is up. On that day we will have to answer for how we used the time that we were given. Did we use all of our time for ourselves and our own priorities, or did we spend our time on the things of God? Only God is eternal, because only God has no beginning or end. We cannot become eternal like God, but we can enter into God’s eternity. Whenever we invite God into our souls and put Him at the center of our lives we consecrate the hours and days of our lives by dedicating them to God.
So, reassess your priorities. What are the most important things in your life? What is valuable to you? What do you believe in? Would someone know that by observing the way that you live? Would they know what is important to you by seeing how you spend your time? Only God can give you more time; only God can bring you into heaven. One day we will all have to stand before the judgement seat of God. If we try to rely on our own accomplishments in life, without building up a relationship with God and with His family, the Church, then we may be disappointed in the outcome. If we ask for help from God the Father, in the Son, and through the Holy Spirit to live out the Divine Law by loving God above all things and loving our neighbor as ourselves, then we will be greeted as children returning to their Father’s house.
Fr. Bryan became pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes on July 3, 2017. Read his bio here.