St Martin of Tours

Bishop (central France) (buried this day in 397)

Dear Terry,

It took me a long while to get through your last note.  Not only was it quite long (which is fine – I’ve plenty of free time on my hands), but also your thoughts were muddled and complicated and densely tangled – it would have been helpful if I had had a machete!  I daresay that you are unnecessarily tying yourself in knots, and those knots, unfortunately, are holding you back from the joys of true Christian discipleship.  If you want my humble, avuncular opinion (and I’m going to give it even if you don’t want it), I would say you need to get back to spiritual basics.  For the next week, simply meditate on and act out the unpretentious formula for holiness and peace of mind given to us by our Lord himself: love God with all your heart by loving your neighbor (e.g. dorm mates, classmates, roommates…) as yourself.  It will help clarify things if you contemplate the example of today’s saint.

Few (if any) of the great Church leaders from the fourth century had an impact as far-reaching and long-lasting as St Martin of Tours.  Not only was he elected to the bishopric of Tours, which became the center of his mind-bogglingly robust evangelizing activity, not only did he found the first (and second) monasteries in France, which thrived uninterruptedly until the Protest Reformation 1200 years later, not only did he topple innumerable pagan shrines and win the hearts of simple people through an unceasing flow of miraculous healings, but he also came to the defense of the true faith whenever it was threatened and put his own life in jeopardy again and again in order to further the cause of Christ.  How did he come to such greatness?  He practiced the Christian basics, my dear nephew, the basics.

Martin was the son of a Roman military officer from modern day Turkey.  They moved to Italy when his dad got promoted, and, in accordance with Roman law at the time, Martin, as a son of a military veteran, was forced to join the army when he was 15.  Even then, however, he had leanings towards a more religious lifestyle.  He was sent to Gaul (modern day France), where he began to receive instructions in the Christian faith, and sneaked off to spend time alone in prayer whenever he could.  It was during this period, before he was yet twenty (about your age, if I’m not mistaken), when he reached a turning point.  He was coming back into the city after hard day’s patrol near Amiens.  It was winter and bitter cold.  As he approached the city gate he saw a starved, half-naked man shivering with cold as he begged alms from the passers by.  Some of the people laughed at the poor man; some derided him; no one gave him anything.  Martin’s heart was moved, and he wanted to do something, but all he had was his great military cloak and his armor.  He stopped his warhorse and dismounted.  He removed his heavy cloak and, taking his sword, cut it in half.  He wrapped one half around the poor beggar and dangled the other half from his shoulders.  The passers by now laughed at him.  That night, in a dream, he saw our Lord wrapped in that half cloak he had given away, and heard him say, “Martin, yet a catechumen, has covered me with this garment.”  Soon thereafter he abandoned the Emperor’s service in order to serve a higher King, and history changed its course.

The basics, dear Terry; I implore you to get back to basics.  And I remain, gladly, your

Uncle Eddy

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