Photo: Felix Carroll
The Marians decorated the Shrine on Veterans Day with flags of the five branches of the military: the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard.
Military veterans process with the offerings during the Shrine's Veterans Day Mass.
Veterans Day on Tuesday fell on the feast day of a conscientious objector, the fourth century monk St. Martin of Tours.
But that isn't to say St. Martin wasn't a fighter. When he asked for, and received, release from military service, St. Martin said to his superiors, "I have served you as a soldier; now let me serve Christ," which he did faithfully, fighting valiantly against paganism and appealing for mercy to those accused of heresy.
The National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, in a special Mass Tuesday, Nov. 11, marked Veterans Day. The celebrant, Fr. Victor Incardona, MIC, couldn't help but to honor St. Martin as well.
Fittingly, in the gospel reading from Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus lays out the criterion upon which all of us will be judged. We will be judged by whether we have accepted Jesus and shown that acceptance through deeds of mercy done for the "least ones" — the ones suffering from hunger, thirst, poverty, loneliness, and despair.
Ultimately, St. Martin and members of the military point to similar fundamental virtues — of giving time, talents, and even their lives for the sake of others, all for the purpose of achieving peace on earth.
"On this Veterans Day this afternoon, here at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, we honor and pray for veterans of our armed forces who have given of themselves in order to protect our country and its freedoms," Fr. Victor said in his homily. "We pray especially for those who have fallen in battle, as well as for those who have been injured physically or emotionally during their military commitment of service."
Veterans Day, celebrated since the end of World War II, honors all American veterans, both living and dead. In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank living veterans for dedicated and loyal service to their country.
Conspicuous among the pilgrims were three veterans dressed in iron-pressed military uniforms. Along with Fr. Victor, the vets processed during the opening hymn of "America the Beautiful," whose words include a nod to members of the military who have put country above self and who love "mercy more than life."
Calling military service "a noble vocation," Fr. Victor said the sacrifice made by servicemen and servicewomen pleases God and strengthens us all because it is done out of love.
He invited pilgrims to think of someone they know who may be a veteran or who is currently serving in the armed forces.
"If you don't have anyone particular to pray for," he said, "ask the Lord to hear this prayer on behalf of a veteran who has no one to pray for him or her."
The prayer is as follows:
We ask for blessings on all those who have served their country in the armed forces.
We ask for healing for the veterans who have been wounded, in body and soul, in conflicts around the globe.
We pray especially for the young men and women, in the thousands, who are coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan with injured bodies and traumatized spirits. Bring solace to them, O Lord. May we pray for them when they cannot pray.
Have mercy on all our veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Bring peace to their hearts and peace to the regions they fought in.
Bless all the soldiers who served in noncombative posts. May their calling to serve continue in their lives in many positive ways.
Give us all here present today creative vision to see a world that, growing weary with fighting, moves to affirming the life of every human being and so moves beyond war.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Jesus, I trust in You!