Today the Church celebrates St. Martin of Tours, one of the earliest persons recognized as a saint who was not a martyr.
Born to a pagan father, he became a catechumen, preparing to join the Church. But, since his father was in the military, Martin had to join the Roman army. There are stories that he had to be dragged away to the army in chains.
Still a catechumen he distinguished himself by his care for the poor. One cold day, near Amiens he encountered a beggar. According to his biographer Sulpicius Severus, he had only his armor and his cloak, since he had given away everything else to the poor.
Martin cut his cloak in half and gave it to the poor man.
That night, in a dream, Martin saw Christ clothed in the cloak who said, “Look. Martin, still a catechumen, has clothed Me with his garment.”
At that point in his life, Martin took seriously the works of mercy in Matthew 25, something that he lived out later when he was bishop of Tours.
Soon after this event, when the army was about to engage in battle, Martin asked to be released from the military. “I am a soldier of Christ, and I cannot fight,” he told his commander. Martin offered to go into battle the next day at the front of the troops, unarmed.
There are two stories of what happened next.
In one, the opposing army sued for peace that very night.
In the other, Martin was imprisoned for his “cowardice.”
He was released, was baptized, founded the first monastery in France, and was ricked into becoming the bishop of Tours.
Martin was a saint who loved the poor and gave his all for them – as the widow gave all she had in today’s Gospel, Mark 12: 41-44. But even more, he refused to kill, believing that following Christ meant walking the way of nonviolence and love of enemies.
He would not make many people happy these days with his concern for the poor and his refusal to kill.
He also did not believe that heretics should be executed, though he was forced to give in to one case, which he regretted all his life.
Martin of Tours is a saint whom we should remember – not just with our prayers but with our lives.
Will we become a people who live the poor, seek the way of nonviolence, and refuse to kill our enemies?
That’s quite a challenge.