In the New World, far from the ancient centers of Christendom, we have tended to de-emphasize and de-sacralize the Church, while at the same time giving more weight to the importance of politics and imbuing it with an improper religious significance.
Thus, in the States, the Founding Fathers are likened to the Apostles and/or Church Fathers, the Philadelphia Constitution is sacred writing like the Bible, and the peoples of the States are referred to as the New Israel. And when we come to Veterans’ Day, Nov. 11th, we see how war veterans are exalted like the saints once were.
But this sort of thing will get us into trouble in a hurry. Actually, it already has. It is good and right to honor virtuous men and women from the past and to protect good political traditions. But to begin speaking about America as some sort of new chosen people who will enlighten the world with the gospel of our constitutional system is a great danger. It has led us to undertake crusading wars all over the world, which usually end in disaster for all involved – Somalia, Kosovo, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and the one on everyone’s mind lately, Afghanistan.
This is quite far from the sensible restraint of George Washington and other Southern statesmen in foreign policy, and it is a good reason to keep in mind the chasm between Yankees and Southerners that still exists. For it is the Puritan-Yankees who thought of themselves as a City on a Hill, as being called by God to build New Jerusalem (literally) in North America so that Christ could return to the earth and re-establish Paradise. If you believe that is consistent with traditional Christianity, I’ve got a nice iceberg in the Brazilian rainforests to sell you.
It is that restless, zealous, reforming, messianic New England spirit that has led us into quagmires overseas and caused social upheavals at home (progressive movements like feminism and alcohol prohibition and same-sex marriage, to name a few) and continues to inspire them – e.g., the push to accept LGBTQ rights, BLM and CRT, etc. The Southern people have always had the opposite tendency, to respect traditional religious and moral boundaries, and to try to have peaceful relations with foreign countries based on friendly commerce.
Yet it is on the day of one of the United States’ secular holidays, Veterans’ Day, that we have a chance to right the heretical turn of the American union back towards traditional Christian practices. We can turn that day from simply a celebration of the secular saints into a celebration of one of the most glorious saints of the Church in the West, St Martin of Tours (+397 A.D.), whose Feast Day is also Nov. 11th.
Though we only recognize a couple of Saints’ Days in modern America – St Valentine’s and St Patrick’s – the Christian calendar used to be full of them. The honoring of the saints goes right back to the beginning of the life of the Church. The Orthodox priest Fr Michael Pomazansky writes,
Numerous are the testimonies of the Fathers and teachers of the Church, especially from the fourth century onwards, concerning the Church’s veneration of the saints. But already from the beginning of the second century there are direct indications in ancient Christian literature concerning faith in prayer by the saints in heaven for their earthly brethren. The witnesses of the martyric death of St. Ignatius the God-Bearer (in the beginning of the second century) said: “Having returned home with tears, we had the all-night vigil … Then, sleeping a little, some of us suddenly saw blessed Ignatius standing and embracing us, and others likewise saw him praying for us.” Similar records, mentioning the prayers and intercession for us of the martyrs, are to be found in other accounts from the epoch of persecutions against Christians.
But why should we be concerned about such a thing? Because the prayers of the righteous avail much, as one of the Bible’s writers proclaims (the Letter of St James, 5:16). In the life of St Martin of Tours, we see just how helpful the prayers and example of the saints could be for us.
Do you want a defender of normal gender definitions and roles? St Martin recognized them and defended them:
Martin, for his part, turning to us (for a great crowd of brethren had surrounded him), said: ‘Let not a woman enter the camp of men, but let the line of soldiers remain separate, and let the females, dwelling in their own tent, be remote from that of men. For this renders an army ridiculous, if a female crowd is mixed with the regiments of men. Let the soldier occupy the line, let the soldier fight in the plain, but let the woman keep herself within the protection of the walls.
Do you want to overturn the forces of globalism, Wokeism, etc.? The prayers of St Martin are certainly strong enough:
The blessed man had often enjoined its destruction on Marcellus, who was there settled as presbyter. Returning after the lapse of some time, he reproved the presbyter, became the edifice of the idol-temple was still standing. He pleaded in excuse that such an immense structure could with difficulty be thrown down by a band of soldiers, or by the strength of a large body of the public, and far less should Martin think it easy for that to be effected by means of weak clerics or helpless monks. Then Martin, having recourse to his well-known auxiliaries, spent the whole night in watching and prayer-with the result that, in the morning, a storm arose, and cast down even to its foundations the idol-temple.
Another saint celebrated on 11 Nov. also illustrates the might of the saints. St Menas (+304), a martyred Christian soldier of Egypt, performed a stunning miracle in World War II:
In 1942, General Erwin Rommel had conquered almost all of North Africa, and was heading toward Alexandria. The Nazis had reached El Alamein,1 where they camped for the night, intending to attack Alexandria in the morning. Saint Mēnás, however, did not allow this to happen. At midnight (October 23-24) certain people noticed Saint Mēnás coming out of his ancient church leading camels into the German camp. Overcome by panic, weakness, and confusion, Rommel’s troops fled. The battle ended on November 4th with the enemy in full retreat. It is regarded as a turning point in the whole war. Later, Winston Churchill said: “Before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein we never had a defeat.”
We focus on St Martin for a particular reason, however. He is the Patron Saint of France, and Louisiana, being the offspring of France, is also under his special care. The settlers of Louisiana showed their high veneration for St Martin by naming a parish, St Martin, and a town, St Martinville, and church, St Martin de Tours, after him. By a miracle of the Lord, a bone relic of St Martin also rests in St Martin de Tours Church: Most of St Martin’s holy relics were destroyed by the atheist Revolutionaries in France.
The Christian saints can be a powerful force promoting unity in society if we let them. Such is the case in traditional countries around the world. Of Georgia, for instance, it is said,
Celebrated by the whole Christian world, Great-martyr George was slain by Emperor Diocletian in the year 303.
The holy martyr is appropriately considered the intercessor for all Christians and the patron saint of many. He is regarded with special reverence among the Georgian people, since he is believed to be the special protector of their nation. Historical accounts often describe how Saint George appeared among the Georgian soldiers in the midst of battles.
The majority of Georgian churches (in villages especially) were built in his honor and, as a result, every day there is a feast of the great-martyr George somewhere in Georgia. The various daily commemorations are connected to one of the churches erected in his name or an icon or a particular miracle he performed.
It could be the same way for us with St Martin – every day a feast for him somewhere in la Louisiane. He could be our shield against evil and the fount of many great blessings, not the least of which would be the unifying effect Statewide honor of him would bring to her citizens.
We love our veterans here at the South. What would she be without a J.E.B. Stuart, a Richard Taylor, and so on? But we can and should go further. Particularly on Nov. 11th, Louisiana should honor her Father among the Saints, St Martin, privately and publicly, in homes, in churches, and in public places. Since that day is already a holiday, it would be an easy thing for Louisiana’s governor and legislature to declare it also a day to remember and celebrate St Martin.
If we return to traditional Christian practices like these, Wokeism, socialism, and the rest won’t stand a chance.