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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Saint Martin of Tours - November 11

Saint Martin of Tours
November 11

Saint Martin was born around 315 in the Roman province of Pannonia (now Hungary).  He was the son of a Roman soldier.  Saint Martin is most noted for an event that occurred when he was a young teenage soldier and also a catechumen.

“Sulpicius Severus (c. 425) records an account of Saint Martin’s compassion and charity that has become iconographic of Saint Martin.  He recounts that on a freezing winter day, Martin met a beggar, shivering terribly, at the gate of the city of Amiens. No one paid the beggar any attention. All Martin had was his clothes and weapons.  So, he drew his sword and cut his cloak into two pieces, giving one half to the poor man.  Some of the bystanders laughed at how Martin was now dressed, while others were ashamed not to have assisted the beggar. 

On the following night, in a dream, Martin saw Jesus wearing half of his cloak.  The God-man instructed Martin to examine it closely, and asked him whether he recognized it.  Jesus then said to the troop of angels surrounding him:  Martin, while still a catechumen, clothed me with this garment.

We might glean two lessons from this richly detailed account.  First, in giving the beggar half his cloak, Martin established a bond of fraternity that he would not have, had he given him the whole thing.  Had he simply given him the cloak - a perfectly charitable act – the dynamic would have been I can take the cold, but you can’t – whether that’s because I’m stronger or because I’m willing to die.

Or it could have been I give you my cloak because I can get another one from my abundant resources, which you don’t have.  You’re needy and I’m not.  I’m ministering to you;  I’m giving, and you’re taking.

But the dynamic of sharing the cloak is different; it is one where we’re brothers’ it’s very cold; we have one cloak.  Well, that’s easy; I’ll cut the cloak in half, and we’ll each take a piece.  We’ll both be a bit cold, but hopefully we’ll both make it.  Your problems are my problems; we suffer together.

Martin’s dream offers a poignant confirmation of Christ’s words that “whatsoever you do to the least of my brother, you do to me.”  Seeing Jesus clothed in the half of the cloak he gave away, and hearing Christ’s words to the angels, Martin knows that the Lord is saying back to him, we’re brothers, your problems are my problems; we suffer together.

Second, Martin’s act of charity provokes a confrontation.  Sulpicius’ account is like the Gospels in that it gives us the crowd’s response.  Some were stung with shame for their inaction but others mocked him with words like “Nice cloak, Martin. Is that supposed to be a Superman cape?  I hope you got that at half price!”

The Lord challenges the people through this act of charity... Some repent and are converted; others step away and judge charity to be stupid, or at least silly.  Let us ask Saint Martin of Tours to pray for us that we may always be moved to conversion when confronted by saintly acts of charity." (Father John Baptist Ku, O.P., Magnificat, November 2014, page 143-144.)

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 Church please visit Lynn's Timeless Treasures 

The Charity of St. Martin - Jean Fouquet
Saint Martin Dividing His Cloak - Anthony van Dyck
Saint Martin and the Begger - El Greco

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