Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Veterans Day and St. Martin of Tours
Does anyone see the irony in the fact that Veterans Day is also the feast day of St. Martin of Tours? Martin, was named after the God of War, Mars but refused to continue fighting in the army after his conversion.
This is from Wikipedia: "While Martin was still a soldier at Amiens he experienced the vision that became the most-repeated story about his life. He was at the gates of the city of Amiens with his soldiers when he met a scantily dressed beggar. He impulsively cut his own military cloak in half and shared it with the beggar. That night he dreamed of Jesus wearing the half-cloak Martin had given away. He heard Jesus say to the angels: "Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptised; he has clad me." (Sulpicius, ch 2). In another story, when Martin woke his cloak was restored, and the miraculous cloak was preserved among the relic collection of the Merovingian kings of the Franks.
The dream confirmed Martin in his piety and he was baptized at the age of 18. He served in the military for another two years until, just before a battle with the Gauls at Worms in 336, Martin determined that his faith prohibited him from fighting, saying, "I am a soldier of Christ. I cannot fight." He was charged with cowardice and jailed, but in response to the charge, he volunteered to go unarmed to the front of the troops. His superiors planned to take him up on the offer, but before they could, the invaders sued for peace, the battle never occurred, and Martin was released from military service."
I am myself conflicted about the military. I am not a pacifist but I think we go to war far too often. As St. Paul says "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."
By the way, my mother's maiden name was Martin so I feel some kinship.