Thursday, November 11, 2010

Martin of Tours

The patron of soldiers (& horses & more) was, no shocker here, a military man (just in time for Veteran's Day).  What did catch me up was the one particular story of Martin of Tours:  he refused to take communion with bishops who had ordered the slaughter of heretics.  When he did finally take communion with the leader of the military action, it was because there was a threat to give the same treatment (torture, execution) to supporters of the former emperor.

Let me repeat this in plain words, the current leader slaughtered people who differed with his religion.  When embarrassed about this he threatened to slaughter people who SHARED his religious beliefs but differed from him politically.  Only a PR event on the part Martin of Tours prevented that slaughter.  That is: a man of the SAME religion & SAME politics, calling himself a man of g*d intervened.  When I think of the category "christian" this used to be the kind of person I thought of.  Now, I associate it more with the emperor.

An interesting choice for a man who was conscripted as a child (well, fifteenish).  He was already expressing a desire to be a christian monk, neither of which made any sense at all to his non-christian military family.  Lucky for them, it was the law of the land that sons of veterans spend some time in the army themselves.  According to his biographer, he was lead away in chains to take his oath & serve this country.   It came as no surprise to me (although same biographer said it was fortunate) that he was assigned to a largely ceremonial cavalry unit & saw little in the way of armed conflict.  After all, what else can you do with a soldier who does not want to be a soldier & keeps talking about pacifism except keep him as far from the rank & file as possible.

There are quite a few stories of him making a show of washing the feet of socially lesser men, giving away parts of his uniform to shivering paupers, etc.  I am guessing when his contract was up they were probably just as happy to watch him go.

The links have slews more stories, more or less on the same lines, including an explanation why this particular early saint is so well documented. 

As I said, he is the patron of horses & soldiers, cavalry specifically & is invoked against alcoholism more broadly.   As you would expect, vintners, innkeepers, & France also fall under his umbrella.  As do geese (go figure) & the Swiss Guard.  Martin was the first non-martyr made saint. 

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