Monday, November 11, 2013

Memorial of Saint Martin of Tours, bishop

(Wisdom 1:1-7; Luke 17:1-6)

It seems ironic that the memorial of St. Martin of Tours, the icon of pacifist saints, is celebrated on the day given to remember war veterans.  Yet the juxtaposition of events for November 11 was not done cynically, but by coincidence.  Martin’s traditional feast day happened to be the day World War I ended.  Perhaps, though, the two remembrances are not as incongruous as they appear.

Martin was once a soldier as was his pagan father.  When he became a Christian, he thought his profession incompatible with the faith and resigned from the army.  Whether it was because of the possibility of entering mortal combat or because of other behaviors characteristic of military life, history appears silent.  It should be said, however, that often the most valiant soldiers eschew killing.  They will fight only out of love for justice as the reading from the Book of Wisdom today recommends.

Martin too loved justice.  He did not want to see the heretic Priscillian executed for his false teaching as the emperor demanded.  Rather, he thought that the state should stay out of the Church’s business.  He was at once a man of great capacity and humble aspirations.  He is rightly celebrated as one of the holiest men of the Patristic Age.