Mike Aquilina

Anybody Here Seen My Old Friend Martin?

Wednesday November 14th 2007, 3:04 am

On Sunday the Pope threw us all a curveball and covered one of the Fathers during his weekly Angelus address. (Till now he’s been doing them on Wednesdays. Tricky guy. Keeps us on our toes.) Phil will be happy to hear it’s St. Martin of Tours. The unofficial Zenit translation follows.

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today, Nov. 11, the Church remembers St. Martin, bishop of Tours, one of the most celebrated and venerated saints in Europe. Born around 316 to pagan parents in Pannonia, present-day Hungary, he was directed by his father to a military career.

When he was still an adolescent, Martin encountered Christianity and, overcoming many difficulties, he registered among the catechumens to prepare himself for baptism. He received the sacrament around the age of 20 but still had to remain for some time in the military, where he gave testimony to his new way of life: Respectful and understanding toward all, he treated his servant as a brother and he avoided vulgar entertainments.

Leaving military service, he went to stay with the holy Bishop Hilary at Poitiers in France. Ordained deacon and priest by Hilary, Martin began a monastery at Liguge with some disciples. Martin’s is the oldest known monastic foundation in Europe. About 10 years later, the Christians of Tours, being without a pastor, acclaimed Martin bishop. From that point on, Martin dedicated himself with ardent zeal to the evangelization of the countryside and the formation of the clergy.

Although many miracles are attributed to him, St. Martin is famous above all for an act of fraternal charity. While still a young soldier, he met a poor man along the road who was frozen and trembling from the cold. Martin took his own cloak and cutting it with his sword, gave half of it to the man. That night Jesus appeared to Martin in a dream, smiling and wrapped in the cloak.

Dear brothers and sisters, St. Martin’s charitable gesture inscribes itself in the same logic that moved Jesus to multiply the loaves of bread for the famished crowds, but above all to leave himself in food for humanity in the Eucharist, supreme sign of God’s love, “sacramentum caritatis.” It is in the logic of sharing that the love of neighbor is concretely expressed. May St. Martin help us to understand that it is only through a common commitment to sharing that it is possible to respond to the great challenge of our time: that of building up a world of peace and justice in which every man can live with dignity. This can happen if a global model of authentic solidarity prevails, one that is able to assure all the inhabitants of the planet food, water, necessary medicines, and also work and energy resources, as well as cultural goods and scientific and technological knowledge.

We turn now to the Virgin Mary to implore that she help all Christians to be, like St. Martin, generous witnesses of the Gospel of charity and tireless builders of solidary sharing.