Your pride and joy … lies dead on the hills! Oh, how the mighty heroes have fallen! 2 Samuel 1:19
Today, we remember those untold millions who have lost their lives in war. We mourn for the goodness and the wisdom, the life and laughter, the potential and the passion that perished with them.
This is also a day when we rededicate ourselves to build a world of peace. How can we do this? How can remembering our veterans be more than a wistful evaporation of hopes? Perhaps the life of Saint Martin of tours can encourage us.
In the early church, only those who had shed their blood for the faith were formally pronounced saints – until Martin of Tours. He, who gave up being a soldier in order to create the peace of the kingdom of heaven on earth, was the first non-martyr to be recognised as a saint. His feast day is in three days’ time.
His father, a senior Roman army officer, named him Martin, which means warrior, and trained him to become a soldier. While Martin was playing as a boy, in Italy, a thunderstorm struck. He ran for shelter and found himself in a church service. He listened to the stories of Jesus and was captivated. He accepted a new kind of training, to become a soldier of Christ. Before Martin had completed his instruction in the Christian faith and been baptized, however, his father presented him to the Emperor. Although he was only fifteen years old, he was tall and strong, and he was sent to begin military service in France.
On his arrival at Amiens, he meet a beggar. Moved with compassion, Martin took off his own fine cloak, cut it in half, and gave one half to the beggar. That night he had a dream, Jesus stood by his bed and said, “Martin, you have done a great act of love for me. I was cold and you gave me half your cloak.” Martin dressed, went to the nearest church, woke the priest, and asked to be baptized. After two more years in the army, Martin went to the Emperor, and braving the Emperor’s anger, persuaded him to release him from the army, so that he could serve God without any pay and begin a Christian community of peace.
Peace between victor and vanquished.
Peace between young and old.
Peace between rich and poor.
The peace of Christ above all peace