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Saint Martin

Fr. Joseph K. Horn
13 November 1994
St Norbert’s Parish
Orange, CA

Last Friday was Veteran’s Day. I had always thought that Veteran’s Day was a holiday that was started in honor of our war veterans, but that’s not quite true. It used to be called Armistice Day, and was started to celebrate the armistice that ended the hostilities in World War I and World War II. The peace after the wars was such a cause for joy that Armistice Day was declared a national holiday, and only later came to be known as Veteran’s Day.

It is a fitting coincidence that Veteran’s Day falls on the same day as the Church’s feast of St. Martin of Tours. St. Martin was born a pagan of pagan parents, and his father always remained a pagan. When Martin turned 15 years old he joined the Roman army and became a soldier. Although he was a pagan, Martin heard stories from other soldiers about the courage that Christians showed when persecuted, and Martin became attracted to the religion of Jesus Christ, and became known for his generosity to the poor, even to the point of giving away all his money to beggars.

Martin’s regiment was quartered in France during a bitterly cold winter. One day he met a homeless beggar shivering in the icy wind. Our hero had already given away all his money to other needy folk, and so Martin felt distraught. What could he do? All he had was his cloak, which he needed to keep from freezing to death, and his sword, which he needed as a soldier. Then an idea came to him, and he made his now famous decision. He took off his cloak, took out his sword, and with a strong swing of his arm, cut his cloak in two. He gave the surprised beggar one half of his cloak, and went on his way wearing the remaining half.

That night, Martin had a dream. In his dream, Martin once again saw his cloak, actually half of his cloak, but not being worn by a beggar but by Jesus Christ himself, who was surrounded by angels. Martin heard Jesus say to the angels, “My servant, Martin, though not yet baptised, has thus clothed me.”

Martin was baptised soon afterwards, and became a great Christian, even going on to become a bishop, and spending many years working for peace, and fighting only poverty and homelessness. Martin had seen enough of misery as a soldier, and knew how evil war could be, so as a bishop he did all he could to bring peace and warmth to the lives of all those entrusted to his care.

Martin died on November 11th. Let’s remember him as we remember all our own veterans, who, like Martin, know better than anybody just how precious peace and warmth really are. Like Martin, our veterans know the meaning of sacrifice. And each year, as we thank God for the armistice that brought peace to our war-torn world, and as we thank our veterans for giving their all for their beloved homeland, let’s not forget to thank St. Martin for inspiring all Christian soldiers.

St. Martin of Tours, pray for our veterans. Keep them safe from the nightmares of war. They made great sacrifices to preserve our freedom; please wrap them now in your holy cloak, and keep them warm through the cold night. Amen.

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