‘You Defend What You Love’: John Paul’s Thanks to Veterans
St. John Paul II knew uniquely the blessings and difficulties of being in a soldier’s family. His father was a captain in the Polish army and he himself did military training in Ukraine. In the Jubilee Year 2000, the Holy Father scheduled a special celebration of military, police and their families. His words, excerpted below, are an important reminder for Veteran’s Day.
In the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, an account is given of St. Peter’s visit to the centurion Cornelius, “a devout man who feared God with all his household” (Acts 10: 2). He accepted the proclamation of Christ’s Gospel by Peter, to whom he gave hospitality for several days, and received Baptism together with his family members.
Thus the first pagans to be baptized by Peter were members of a soldier’s family.
It is not easy to be a soldier’s family, because even the hardships of his mission must be shared. Yet the family is the principal support of each one of you, committed to defending peace and life. One defends what one loves and where does one learn to love peace and life if not in the family? Therefore, dear families, feel fully involved in this mission and collaborate in safeguarding justice and peace.
Who better than you, dear soldiers and members of the police, young men and women, can testify to the violence and to the disruptive forces of evil present in the world? You fight against them every day: indeed, you are called to defend the weak, to protect the honest, to foster the peaceful coexistence of peoples.
The role of the sentinel, who scans the horizon to avert danger and promote justice and peace everywhere, befits each of you.
The work and sacrifice of all of you help to ensure the peace and security of individuals and societies. I pray that you yourselves will always be kept safe as you fulfill your professional duties, and that the divine gifts of wisdom and strength will ever accompany you in the service of your own countries and of your fellow men and women.
Images: Karol Wojtyla, 19, who would become Pope John Paul II, briefly attended a military training camp;
Pope John Paul II in Ireland in 1979;
young Karol Wojtyla with his father, Captain Karol Wojtyla.