Monday, 11 November 2013

For a War Memorial

The hucksters haggle in the mart
The cars and carts go by;
Senates and schools go droning on;
For dead things cannot die.

A storm stooped on the place of tombs
With bolts to blast and rive;
But these be names of many men
The lightning found alive.

If usurers rule and rights decay
And visions view once more
Great Carthage like a golden shell
Gape hollow on the shore.

Still to the last of crumbling time
Upon this stone be read
How many men of England died
To prove they were not dead.

And some further profound wisdom from G. K. Chesterton:

The line breaks and the guns go under,
The lords and the lackeys ride the plain;
I draw deep breaths of the dawn and thunder,
And the whole of my heart grows young again.
For our chiefs said "Done," and I did not deem it;
Our seers said "Peace," and it was not peace;
Earth will grow worse till men redeem it,
And wars more evil, ere all wars cease.

The dreadful affliction of war is an horrific thing that carries within it a paradox of Chestertonian proportions.

Suffering often brings out the best in people; supernatural merit for those who believe and act accordingly, and natural virtue in the infidel which allows grace to act upon the soul.

During the First World War less than 15% of the British Expeditionary Force were Catholic, and many of them Irishmen who thought that by fighting Britain's war they would help gain Home Rule for Ireland. An astounding quarter of the BEF chaplains were Catholic priests. Many of these priests were, again, Irish and the Catholic priests became famed for placing themselves in the greatest danger to provide the Sacraments whenever called for.

This led to some 40,000 conversions amongst the British Forces on the Western Front - 40,000 precious souls who otherwise may well have been on their way to damnation.

The French lost 5,000 priests serving on the Front, so great was their thirst to provide the Sacraments. An incredible sacrifice to save as many souls as possible.

St. Martin of Tours, Roman soldier who refused to take up arms against the Gauls and later became Bishop to them, had been adopted during the Franco-Prussian War some 44 years previously as patron and protector of France. During the First World War special devotion to him found new and widespread vigour once again. St. Martin also has a widespread devotion in Ireland that can be traced back 1500 years to St. Patrick and St. Columba.

The Armistice was signed on 11th November, 1918 - the Feast of St. Martin of Tours!

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