|Memorial, St. Martin of Tours
Psalm 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
We celebrate today the feast of St. Martin of Tours. His life story may be helpful for us to think about these days from - several perspectives. He was born into a Pagan family in the early years of the fourth century. His father was a military officer and it was expected that Martin himself would become a soldier.
When he was converted to Christianity he made a decision that he would not follow in the footsteps of his father as a soldier. This caused considerable consternation in his family and among those who knew him and fully expected that he would choose a military career.
In refusing military service, Martin became what we know today as a “conscious objector” because of his newly found faith in Jesus Christ. When the turmoil surrounding his decision subsided, he lived as a monk and, in the middle of the century he and his companions founded a monastery in France. The people of Tours called him out to be their Bishop and he spent the remainder of his life in that role until his death in 397. Martin of Tours is remembered in the world of art with a depiction of him on horseback giving his cloak to a poor man.
It strikes me especially now as the US seems to be heading into a war with Iraq that we need to consider all the options and attitudes that might lead us towards armed conflict in an extremely volatile part of our world, the Middle East. Even without knowing all the circumstances of the Christian decision of Martin nor of all the intricacies of a possible run against Iraq, we need to slow down and be reflective, I believe. Haste is not to our advantage in such troubled times.
In an October 19, 2002 letter to President Bush the ten Provincials of the Society of Jesus in the United States expressed their objection to the use of military force in Iraq. Their “strong moral reservations” are centered on what they view a violation of just-war standards and international law. In this sentiment they are aligned with the thought of Bishop Wilton Gregory, the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in his September letter to President Bush.
The Provincials and the Bishops are expressing their reservations from the perspective of Catholic moral principles. In this they are following the lead of St. Martin of Tours and other Christian women and men whose views and lives remind us of the seriousness of war and violence as the answer to national and international stresses.
Lord, help us to discern and to act with justice and equity.
Teach us the lesson we need to continually learn from the your Prophets:
to live humbly and justly.
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