St. Martin of Tours, Nov. 11

From The Sign of Peace:

“Anyone whose shadow has darkened the door of a chapel ought to know the story of Saint Martin of Tours, whose feast the Church celebrates every November 11. Indeed, the life of this fourth century saint figures into the origin for the very word chapel and is an inspiration for what happens there. The story goes like this…st-martin-of-tours-biography-card-500-243-f5-494-459x800

As a soldier in the Roman Empire, Martin was riding his horse in military exercises one cold winter day when he passed a shivering beggar. His conscience was stung, so he stopped to tend to the man. He dismounted the horse, took off his heavy military cape (called in Latin a cappa) and used his sword to cut a blanket-sized half to cover the man. That same night, he saw the beggar in a dream. Warmed by the cape he had been given, the beggar looked at Martin and, with the face and voice of Jesus Christ, thanked him.

After this rite of initiation into discipleship, Martin knew that all his weapons and all his armor must be turned over to Christ. He immediately sought baptism and discharge from the Roman army. In explaining his stance as a conscientious objector, Martin spoke the same words used by a soldier-martyr forty years earlier, Marcellus of Tangiers. Martin declared, “I am a soldier of Jesus Christ; it is not permissible for me to fight.” Once baptized, he was ordained a priest, then a bishop, and was revered for his holiness throughout his life.

When Martin of Tours died, people acclaimed him a saint and raised up devotion to him. As the principal act of their devotion, the faithful obtained half of the famous cappa, the half that Martin kept, enshrined it in a tent, and prayed there with it. The tent that held the cappa was called the capella, which became the Latin word for chapel…

Read the rest here.

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