St. Martin of Tours, November 11

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Martin of Tours is a saint worth reflecting on,

Saints are the antidotes to the poison of their times, Chesterton said,  so what poison did Martin confront?

One was the poison of militarism. Martin was born into a military family in 316,  his father a Roman officer who came up through the ranks and  commanded the legions on the Roman frontier along the Rhine and Danube rivers. When his son was born his father saw him as a soldier like himself. He named him Martin, after Mars, the god of war.

Rome was mobilizing then to stop invading barbarian tribes, and soldiers, like the emperors Constantine and Diocletian, were its heroes.  But Martin wanted nothing to do with war. As a young boy he heard a message of peace and non-violence from Christians he knew. Instead of a soldier, he became a Christian catechumen, over his father’s strong objections. Martin was a lifelong peacemaker.

He died on his way as a bishop to settle a dispute among his priests.

Another poison Martin confronted was the poison of careerism. Elected bishop of Tours by the people, Martin adopted a lifestyle unlike that of other bishops of Gaul, who were increasingly involved in imperial  administration and adopting the privileged style that came with it.

Bishops set themselves up in the cities;  Martin preferred to minister in the country, to the “pagani”, the uneducated poor.

Are the poisons of militarism and careerism around today? We remember our war veterans today.So many died in terrible wars these 100 years and many bear the scars of war. Militarism is still around. So is careerism .

The story that epitomizes Martin, of course, is his meeting with the beggar in a cold winter as he was coming through the gate in the town of Amiens, still a soldier but also a Christian catechumen. He stopped and cut his military cloak in two and gave one to the poor man. That night, the story goes, Christ appeared to him in a dream, wearing the beggar’s cloak. “Martin gave me this,” he said.

Pope Benedict XVI commented on this event.

“ Martin’s gesture flows from the same logic that drove Jesus to multiply the loaves for the hungry crowd, but most of all to leave himself to humanity as food in the Eucharist… It’s the logic of sharing.

May St Martin help us to understand that only by a common commitment to sharing is it possible to respond to the great challenge of our times: to build a world of peace and justice where each person can live with dignity. This can be achieved if an authentic solidarity prevails which assures to all inhabitants of the planet food, water, necessary medical treatment, and also work and energy resources as well as cultural benefits, scientific and technological knowledge.”

That’s well said.

In medieval Europe farmers were getting ready for winter at this time, putting aside food and meat for the cold days ahead. Martin’s feast day was a reminder to put aside something for the poor. The poor are always with us; are we remembering them?

Today’s  Veterans Day in the USA, honoring those who fought in our country’s wars. It was originally called Armistice Day celebrating the end of fighting between the Allies and Germany on November 11, 1918. The United States lost 116,516 troops in the 1st World War; other countries lost millions more. The wars that followed added to that count.

4 thoughts on “St. Martin of Tours, November 11

  1. cenaclemary12

    Christ has no body but yours, no arms but yours no hands but yours, etc. Acting as Christ is acting with kindness. Martin, the Shepherd, had the smell of the sheep on him from being Christ to others, How well rewarded were those Bishops with land projects and money! No lack of vocations back then!

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  2. Gloria

    Fr. Victor, you ask if militarism is still around today and how many wars have there been in the last 100 years, and you answer that many still bear the scars of war as we celebrate Veterans Day. Human history, unfortunately, is soaked and splattered with the blood of wars, and God’s children still continue to kill one another. I have thought about war since I was a terrified child when WWII began. The words that follow are a result of my thoughts.

    One Hundred Fifty Horsemen

    One hundred fifty horsemen
    thundered down the mountain
    and into the valley,
    followed by a thousand foot soldiers
    trampling grasses and flowers,
    leaving ruin in their wake;
    charging into cities, towns and villages,
    thundering through cobbled streets,
    crushing men women and children,
    leaving a trail of death and destruction.

    We’re much more civilized
    in modern times.
    We have bombs and missiles,
    deadly and accurate,
    that target homes and hospitals,
    that leave blood and destruction
    in their wake.
    We have weapons that vaporize
    and leave no trace of who or what
    once lived there, grew there, played there.

    Weapons that might make ancient horsemen
    and foot soldiers recoil in horror
    are employed in our times.
    After all,
    we’re much more civilized
    than those barbarians of ancient times

    Gloria Ziemienski
    October 24, 2016

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