Parishes | Schools | Priests | Masses |
More in this section MAIN MENU

Observing the end of ‘the war to end all wars’ – the right way

English Spanish

On the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month in 1918 an armistice was declared, effectively ending one of the worst conflicts in history – World War I.

On Nov. 11 the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and several other nations will observe the 100th anniversary of that historic day when the warring nations of the world finally stopped all the killing, injuring and destruction which filled the years between 1914 and 1918.

On Dec. 7, 1914 Pope Benedict XV pleaded with the warring parties to observe a Christmas truce. He asked, “that the guns may fall silent at least upon the night the angels sang.” He was hoping that such a truce would lead to sincere peace negotiations (see: https://bit.ly/2evHJsb). Tragically, his plea was officially ignored. But on Christmas opposing soldiers along various spots on the Western Front inspiringly declared their own unofficial truce (see: https://bit.ly/2vgYUsq).

And a courageous Catholic American, Ben Salmon, walking in the footsteps of the nonviolent Jesus, refused to kill. He was sentenced to death, which was later commuted to a lengthy prison sentence of hard labor (see: www.bensalmon.org) and https://bit.ly/2pMexCD).

World War I caused over 8 million military deaths. And the civilian death toll was even worse at approximately 13 million – largely due to starvation, exposure, disease, military encounters and massacres (see: https://bit.ly/2QMM9vX).

World War I – “the war to end all wars” – instead became a precursor to the even more horrible World War II – the worst war in human history – and scores of wars since ever since. Honestly, for what?

And the veterans who survive wars, very often come home with serious physical, mental and spiritual wounds. Why do Christians allow our government to put them in harm’s way? Shouldn’t followers of the nonviolent Jesus demand an end to this sacrilege – the sacrilege of war and war preparation?

Adequately taking care of veterans’ needs, like mental and physical health care and housing, is a moral imperative that demands much more funding.

But for the sake of helping create a culture which opposes war and war preparation, a culture which decries sending more young men and women into one senseless war after another, we need to deemphasize the nationalistic fervor of flag waving and military parades associated with Veterans Day (similarly observed as Remembrance Day in the British Commonwealth), and instead recapture the prayerful and peaceful meaning that was central to what this day was originally called: Armistice Day.

In a June 4, 1926 congressional resolution officially recognizing the end of World War I, Congress declared that the recurring anniversary of the day when hostilities ceased  “should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.”

And 12 years later Nov. 11 was designated a legal U.S. holiday to be known as “Armistice Day” dedicated to the cause of world peace.

But unfortunately, in 1954 President Dwight Eisenhower changed the name of Armistice Day to Veterans Day which lent the annual observance to become more nationalist and militaristic, and far less centered on its original purpose to pray, give thanks, and perpetuate peace, good will and mutual understanding between nations.

This year, let’s join the national movement led by Veterans for Peace to reclaim Armistice Day by saying no to more war, and demanding justice and peace at home and abroad (see: https://bit.ly/2NCqbto).

Comments from readers

james - 11/13/2018 09:24 AM
Armistice Day! I agree. Focus on Peace. Focus on Prayer. May God bless us all. Thank you for the article. Blessings, In Unity,
Gustavo - 11/12/2018 02:12 PM
Many of these Wars could have been averted if the Church would have followed the Blessed Mothers request at Fatima that Russia be Consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The consecration would be made by a specific act of a Pope along with all the other Catholic bishops of the world. One of the prophesies made by the Blessed Mother was that the consecration would usher in a period of World Peace. Unfortunately, this act has not been followed by the Popes and Bishops that followed (don’t be fooled by the ‘Consecration of the World” or "the peoples of Russia"). The results that followed for this disobedience and censoring of The Blessed Mother have been catastrophic for the World as well as the Church. Today let’s say a prayer for all the brave veterans who have served our country so honorably only to be treated so disgracefully by many of the corrupt politicians who sent them to war in the first place.
JOSE IGNACIO JIMENEZ - 11/12/2018 01:17 PM
While I agree that observance of Veterans Day should be prayerful and focused on working towards a peaceful resolution to future conflicts, I don’t think this needs to be mutually exclusive with patriotism. I’m not sure if you draw a line between nationalistic fervor and nationalistic pride, nor am I sure that one needs to be drawn, but apparently this stems from your question: “Honestly, for what?” The United States entered these wars reluctantly, and some would argue that the United States waited too long to respond to a threat from totalitarian dictators on genocidal missions. These dictators did not intend to end all wars, but rather to end all civilizations that threatened their own megalomaniacal objectives or eugenicist ideals. The United States can and should be proud of its role in responding to these threats and should embrace and promote the very Catholic virtues of courage, fortitude, and charity in coming to the aid of the oppressed. We cannot hope to do that if we are not adequately prepared. If we fail to recognize that peace can and has been achieved through strength, we do so at our own peril. As faithful Catholics we must actively work to insure that we avoid war whenever possible, and that if we enter an armed conflict we do so only for reasons of self-defense and to protect the innocent and those threatened by evil forces. We must also enter these conflicts with the conviction that we cannot stand-by and allow our rights or property to be threatened by foreign powers, or watch others being slaughtered by ruthless dictators. These threats must be dealt with swiftly to prevent as many deaths as possible. That is the Christian thing to do. We can and must keep elevating our prayers for peace so that future generations will never need to pay the ultimate price for keeping our country safe and protecting the innocent from annihilation.

Let's Talk Blog

Meet the Bloggers