A wave of patriotic colors rolled past the third-graders of St. Peter Interparish School in Jefferson City.
Representatives of various local veterans’ organizations processed into church, venerated the altar and placed their flags in a row near the sanctuary.
It was St. Peter parish’s Holy Name Society’s Veterans Day Mass and Prayer Service, a decades-old tradition.
“I think it’s nice to celebrate the veterans today because they served our country, so we should celebrate with them at Mass,” third-grader Olivia Peters commented afterward.
“Like my mom says during parades, ‘Thank you for your service!’” said third-grader Allison Amick.
Parishioners and veterans, many dressed in regalia pertaining to their past military service, occupied the pews.
An arctic blast made for a patriotic trifecta that morning in the Capital City, with blue hands and red noses accented by the glistening white substance falling from the sky.
All of this set an appropriate mood for what Catholics also celebrate as the feastday of St. Martin of Tours, “the Soldier Saint,” with his ties to winter.
“While the weather isn’t particularly warm, our hearts are warm, because we are celebrating with our veterans,” said Monsignor Robert A. Kurwicki, vicar general for the diocese and pastor of St. Michael parish in Russellville.
He told of how St. Martin, a fourth-century son of a Roman soldier stationed in present-day Hungary, followed his father into military service as a member of the cavalry.
Once while making his military rounds on a horse, young Martin caught sight of a sick, weak-looking beggar, freezing in the cold, sleet and ice.
The future saint took his sword, cut his own heavy riding cloak down the middle and placed half of it around the cold stranger.
That night, he had a dream — “more like a vision,” said Msgr. Kurwicki — of that beggar, wearing the cloak.
“He looked closely at the beggar, and do you know Whose face he saw? The face of Jesus!” the priest stated.
“Talk about service”
Msgr. Kurwicki noted that this year’s Veterans Day marked the 101st anniversary of the end of World War I.
“Many individuals fought and died on both sides of that war,” he noted. “They said this was ‘the War to End All Wars,’ but sadly, it was not.”
He said Mass on Veterans Day is a chance for people to do three important things: worship God, pray for all veterans and their families, living and deceased, and cultivate hope and gratitude.
He said veterans share four special responsibilities:
•to continue to honor their country by presenting themselves in a dignified manner to their family, the Church and the public, staying active in veterans affairs, assisting fellow veterans in need, praying for the souls of deceased veterans, and comforting their families;
•to stay connected with the culture, speaking up about the good work they participated in during their military service.
“Because without the good work of veterans, where would we be today?” the priest inquired. “Where would our country be? What kind of a world would we live in? It would be downright frightening.”
•to inspire young men and women to consider entering military service.
“When you see those kids, explain to them your medals,” he said. “Explain to them where you were. Explain to them what you did.
“Inspire them to be a part of something bigger and greater than themselves, the defense of the nation, which we need so much today,” he said.
•to help educate young people and the rest of the public about love for God and country.
“Don’t be afraid to talk about service, sacrifice and difficulty,” said Msgr. Kurwicki. “Talk to people who don’t have military experience. When they ask questions, don’t be embarrassed to answer them.”
He said every veteran has been decorated with the medal of peace — a gift to humanity that isn’t always appreciated.
“Peace of mind, peace of heart, peace in our country — so many men and women fought and died to secure a peace that we hold and should never take for granted,” the priest stated.
“The Lord has brought us here today to commemorate and thank and pray for all those who were willing to make the supreme sacrifice for the nation,” he said.
“Let us offer our prayers for these individuals, to thank God for them, to thank God for their families, to thank God for those who are still healing and recovering, and for those who need our prayers the most.”
Parishioners, several in full military dress, served in liturgical roles at the Mass, including as greeters, altar servers, lectors and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion.
Members of the choirs of St. Peter, Cathedral of St. Joseph and Immaculate Conception parishes joined in stirring renditions of “America the Beautiful,” “For the Healing of the Nations,” and “the Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
Representatives of veterans’ organizations and auxiliaries and local law-enforcement agencies carried flags and banners in the procession past an honor guard of Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus from the Dan C. Coppin and St. Jude assemblies of Jefferson City and Mary’s Home, respectively.
At the end of Mass, parishioner Jack Dayton led the congregation in a prayer for veterans who had died, and their families.
Joe McGrail offered a reflection on some of the experiences all veterans share.
The choir led the singing of the National Anthem.
Members of the Samuel F. Gearhart Detachment of the Marine Corps League fired a three-volley rifle salute in the street outside the church, followed by “Taps” played by bugler James Rice, a student at Helias Catholic High School, echoing down the choir-loft stairwell.
Three sections of third-graders from St. Peter Interparish School attended the Mass and prayer service.
After Mass, third-grader Allison Amick talked about the veterans in her family tree, including great-grandfathers who served in the Navy in World War II.
“It’s nice to celebrate with our veterans,” said Allison. “They might feel thankful for that.”