“I Will Not Avoid the Toil”: The Motto of Veterans and St. Martin Alike

Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641), "St. Martin Dividing His Cloak"
Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641), "St. Martin Dividing His Cloak" (photo: Register Files)

Each November 11, the United States observes Veterans Day to honor all the military men and women who have put aside their own lives to protect our freedom. But the real name for this observance day is Armistice Day.

World War I, or "The Great War," as it was known at the time, officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919 in the Palace of Versailles outside of Versailles, France.

In actuality, fighting had ceased seven months before that - on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month - November 11, 1918. An armistice between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on that day, and for that reason November 11 came to be known as Armistice Day.

Fittingly, November 11 also is the Memorial of St. Martin of Tours, one of the most popular saints of the Church and one of the first to be proclaimed a saint without having been a martyr.

That's one of the things I love most about St. Martin of Tours. Of course, I love and honor all of our martyrs, but St. Martin testifies to the fact that faithful service also can lead to sanctity.

He shows us that there are other ways to die for Christ.

Here's one of my favorite quotes from St. Martin:

“Lord, if your people still have need of my services, I will not avoid the toil. Your will be done. I have fought the good fight long enough. Yet if you bid me continue to hold the battle line in defense of your camp, I will never beg to be excused from failing strength. I will do the work you entrust to me. While you command, I will fight beneath your banner.” (St. Martin of Tours, Bishop and Confessor, Patron Saint of Soldiers)

I will not avoid the toil. Six little words that say volumes.

Not avoiding the toil means hanging in there, day after day, through thick and thin, and remaining faithful to my Christian ideals and all that the Church - that Christ himself - asks of  me.

It means not shirking my responsibilities to my fellow man and not skimping on my  prayer and sacramental life.

It means following God's every command without question and to the best of my ability, regardless of whether I agree with it or not.

It means showing fervor and love of Christ in all I do, in spite of human frailty, laziness, or indifference.

Sounds a lot like the life of a soldier, doesn't it?

It is. It's the life of a soldier for Christ.

That's what St. Martin of Tours was and still is. He's a great example for all of us and the perfect patron for our military men and women who face the toil of military life day in and day out.

So, today, on this Armistice Day/Memorial of St. Martin of Tours, pray with me. Pray for the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual safety of all our military personnel. Pray for the repose of the souls of the departed military. And pray, for yourself and for the entire Church, that we may be given the grace and strength to fight the good fight and not avoid the toil.

From the Collect of today's Mass:

O God, who are glorified in the Bishop Saint Martin both by his life and death, make new, we pray, the wonders of your grace in our hearts, that neither death nor life may separate us from your love. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son. who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.