Tuesday, November 11, 2014

St. Martin of Tours and Veterans' Day

Today is Martinmas, the feast of St. Martin of Tours. It is also the American holiday of Veteran's Day, so it is an especially appropriate day to consider Catholic spirituality in light of military themes such as sacrifice, duty, and discipline. Let's begin by discussing St. Martin.

St. Martin was a Roman soldier who is best remembered for cutting his cloak in half to share with a beggar. This is a beautiful act of charity, and we should all aspire to such acts. But we should not forget that St. Martin's charity was the fruit of his fervent life of prayer. The following regarding St. Martin comes from today's Office of Readings:
Here was a man words cannot describe. Death could not defeat him nor toil dismay him. He was quite without a preference of his own; he neither feared to die nor refused to live. With eyes and hands always raised to heaven he never withdrew his unconquered spirit from prayer. (Emphasis added) (from Universalis.com)
So St. Martin, who is remembered for his great charity, was in fact a contemplative who always prayed; he never withdrew his spirit from prayer. In other words, St. Martin constantly united himself in prayer with God. His very life became a prayer--a regular outpouring of self to God. And thus immersed in the grace of God, this grace manifested itself in acts of charity and apostolic zeal. Hence, if we want to have the charity of St. Martin, we must emulate the prayer of St. Martin.

This lesson was reinforced to me this past weekend as I attended a weekend retreat based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, who also was a soldier. While recovering from his battle wounds, St. Ignatius read the life of Christ and the lives of the saints and was so inspired that he traded his worldly life as a soldier and became a soldier of Jesus Christ, doing all things "for the greater glory of God." (The religious order that led my retreat was Miles Christi, which literally means soldiers for Christ. This wonderful young order of priests and brothers was inspired by St. Ignatius of Loyola and has as its goal the sanctification of the layity.)

(St. Ignatius of Loyola, c. 1600, by Peter Paul Rubens via Wikipedia Commons)

This is what we are called to be: soldiers for Christ. As Christians, we are enlisted into the Army of Christ. And daily, we must ask ourselves: Do we truly desire to follow our Captain and King? Will we obey His orders? Will we sacrifice our will for His? Will we do all things in Christ?

For a true Christian, there can be only one answer to these questions. "Yes." And this "yes," cannot remain as only a word, but must become a way of life. We must unite ourselves to Jesus Christ in prayer as St. Martin and St. Ignatius and the saints did. It is not enough to give God a mediocre piety--a piety that prays from time to time but cannot be bothered to commit to a life of prayer. We must give God our all. We must become saints. And to do so, we must be disciplined as soldiers. We must cultivate a daily habit of prayer. Most importantly, this daily habit must begin with morning mental prayer.

I am not a suitable person to explain all the salutary benefits of mental prayer, and this blog post is not the place. But if you have not yet developed this habit, or do not know how to engage in mental prayer, or are not yet convinced of its benefits, I highly recommend The Soul of the Apostolate by Dom Jean Baptiste Chautard. (It is available for $.99 for Amazon Kindle here.)

St. Martin of Tours, pray for us! St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us!