Thursday, November 10
Thought and Prayer of the Day
by Fr. Grant Schwartz
Saint and SoldierAs November 11, 1918 approached, the people of France prepared for their annual celebration of St. Martin’s Day. They knew that the festivities would be muted again as they had been since 1914. The country was at war and all energy was devoted to avoiding harm from and inflicting harm on the enemy. Their spirits were buoyed by rumours of a possible cease fire as early as the Feast of Saint Martin. Then the official word came through: At 11:00 am on November 11 all guns were to cease firing and the troops were to hold the line wherever they were and make no effort to move forward. People could only wonder if the intervention of St. Martin, soldier in the Roman Army 1500 years before who, after his baptism, refused to carry a weapon when he went into battle, had hastened the end of World War I. Martin was born the son of a soldier and it was assumed that he would follow in his father’s footsteps. He was actually named after Mars, the Roman God of War. Although while still a youth he was attracted to the lifestyle of the neighbouring Christians and was not attracted to the army, out of respect for his father he reluctantly joined up. The story that is best known about Martin is that one day while he and his fellows were riding through Amiens, they passed a shivering beggar on the side of the road. Martin used his sword to slice his cape in two and gave one half to the beggar. (It is believed by some that the beggar was Christ in disguise.) Shortly after this episode, Martin was baptised. The newly baptised Martin refused to accept military pay or to carry a weapon but was still prepared to go into battle, now understanding himself to be a “soldier of Christ.” The first time the unarmed Martin faced the enemy, a truce was declared at the last minute. After that it was agreed that Martin should leave the army. Martin was ordained priest, founded a monastery and in time became Bishop of Tours. Some people regard Martin of Tours as the patron saint of France. Every year on November 11, Christians and pacifists in France give thanks for his life and witness.
November 11 is designated as St. Martin’s Day by both the Book of Common Prayer and the Book of Alternative Services.O God. you who are glorified in your Bishop Saint Martin both by his life and death, make new, we pray, the wonders of your grace in our hearts, that neither death nor life may separate us from your love. Through our Lord Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and for ever.