St. Martin of Tours, whose feast is celebrated today, is well known for a simple act of charity.
He had been forced to join the military, probably in part due to his father being a member of the military. One day, in Amiens, in the cold of winter, he encountered a beggar. Having nothing more than his cloak, he cut it in half and gave one half to the poor man. That night in a dream he saw Christ clothed in the cloak; Christ affirmed the charity of this simple act: “Martin, still a catechumen, has covered me with this cloak.”
Martin then proceeded to be baptized.
But baptism brought another challenge.
Martin refused to go into battle. “I am a soldier of Christ. It is not lawful for me to fight.”
He was accused of cowardice and imprisoned, though he was subsequently released from military service.
Martin shows us that the way of Christ is care for the poor, sharing what we have, and refusing to kill, even our enemies.
Neither of these acts is easy, but love of the poor and the love of the enemy should be the marks of a follower of the poor man of Nazareth who died on a cross, forgiving his enemies.
They are also what we need today.
Today is also Armistice Day, the anniversary of the end of World War I, the war to end all wars.
Recalling this, I want to share the words of General Omar Bradley, which compliment the example of St. Martin:
“With the monstrous weapons man already has, humanity is in danger of being trapped in this world with its moral adolescence. Our knowledge of science has clearly outstripped our capacity to control it. We have too many men of science, too few men of God. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. Mankind is stumbling blindly through spiritual darkness while toying with the precarious secrets of life and death….
“…the world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience, Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace; more about killing, than we know about living.”
Would that we learn how to live and love as Martin showed us, following in the steps of Jesus.