Saint Martin of Tours and Martinmas November 10 2021

Saint Martin

The feast of St. Martin coincides with Veterans' Day which is fitting since St. Martin of Tours started as a conscripted soldier in the Roman army and quickly rose to a leadership position.

Legend has it that St. Martin was much beloved by the soldiers he commanded for he tended to ride behind his men to ensure that no soldiers were ever left behind in danger or in a wounded state. St. Martin is a golden symbol of the bonds that form among militaries.

St. Martin’s most remarkable act was ensuring his men safely inside the walls of a citadel on a harsh wintry evening. He rode behind, as usual, as the city's gates were about to close. Anyone left behind would sleep out in the cold. His men hurried forward, and all were within the gates when a beggar in tattered clothing approached Martin on horseback and pleaded for help because, the beggar explained, he was freezing and had inadequate clothing. Martin unhesitatingly took off his heavy, woolen cloak, drew his sword, and sliced his cloak into two parts. He gave one to the beggar and kept one himself. After wrapping himself in the half cloak, he turned to make sure the beggar was all right, but the man had vanished.

Because he had helped the beggar, Martin was locked out of the city and had to curl up on the ground to rest for the night. It was on this night that a vision came to him. The beggar had been transformed into a Being of Light and he told Martin that his way was blessed because he could love a beggar and risk his well-being for one so lowly. Martin was told that Heaven had witnessed his deed and all there rejoiced in the warm nature of his loving heart.

Later, on the battlefield on the evening before a decisive battle, Martin entered the tent of his superior and addressed him. Martin handed the general his sword and said, "I can kill no more. I must devote my life to God." The general was upset—he knew Martin must prevail in battle the following day because his men loved him and they would fight in the way necessary for victory because of Martin's leadership.

After trying to persuade him, the general, in anger, had Martin arrested and chained with a threat of court-martial and then tried as a traitor for his insubordination. When the next morning dawned, the general was sorry for his anger but was still perplexed at Martin's sudden refusal to be the military leader all had come to respect, but to the general's amazement, scouts came in to report that a surrendering brigade was on its way from the opposing army. Emotionally touched, the general understood that Martin's resignation was somehow linked to this sudden surrender. The general released Martin with forgiveness and thanks.

Martin went on to follow his vocation and to found an order of monks. His life is a fitting tribute to the sacrifice and suffering endured by soldiers the world over.

Martinmas in Waldorf Schools